Below are one-paragraph excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided.
The healing power of placebos
May 2006, Ode Magazine (one of the best inspirational magazines available)
A sugar pill, a salt solution, a doctor in a white jacket—these all have the power to cure as long as the patient believes in their healing qualities. That seems impossible. So what does science say about the elusive placebo effect? Very little research has been done in this area of medicine. The pharmaceutical industry can’t profit; after all, they can’t make money from sugar pills. It is often forgotten that the effect could help people and shave billions off spiralling health-care costs. If researchers could gain more insight into how the effect works, it would stand as one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in history. Some people are convinced that the effect proves that strength of mind is sufficient to heal the body. Placebos have…proven successful in treating depression, anxiety, stress, warts and ulcers—sometimes in as many as 60 to 70 percent of the cases. There are…objective effects everyone can measure. Placebo treatments have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as improve reaction speeds, pulse rates and immune-system activity. Ultimately, the placebo phenomenon points to a strange paradox in modern medical science. As soon as an alternative-health treatment proves successful, it is dismissed as the placebo effect. It works only because people believe in it. Yet this explanation appears to contradict one of the foundations of medical science, which stresses that the mind and body are separate, therefore ruling out the possibility of healing through belief.
Note: For ideas on why the placebo effect has rarely been studied, see our two-page health cover-up summary at https://www.WantToKnow.info/healthcoverup
Top oil firms expected to report huge earnings
April 25, 2006, MSNBC/Associated Press
The country’s three largest oil and gas companies are expected to report combined first-quarter profits this week in excess of $16 billion, a 19 percent surge from last year. Elected officials are scrambling for ways to assuage angry consumers and businesses. President Bush on Tuesday gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to temporarily waive regional clean-fuel regulations to promote greater gasoline-supply flexibility, but members of Congress have other ideas. Some are renewing calls for a windfall profits tax and some want federal regulators to investigate industry consolidation. Still others are threatening hearings and expressing outrage at how the industry invests cautiously in new refining capacity yet rewards its executives lavishly. The combined earnings expected from ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. will be 14 times greater than the combined first-quarter profits of Google Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and Oracle Corp. Analysts say full-year profits for the oil majors are likely to surpass the record-setting earnings of 2005, when Exxon reported a $36.13 billion profit — the highest ever for a U.S. company.
World Bank accused over malaria
April 24, 2006, BBC News
The World Bank has been accused of publishing false accounts and wasting money on ineffective medicines in its malaria treatment programme. A Lancet paper claims the bank faked figures, boosting the success of its malaria projects, and reneged on a pledge to invest $300-500m in Africa. It also claims the bank funded obsolete treatments – against expert advice. The claims against the bank [were] made by 13 international public health experts headed by Amir Attaran, of Canada’s University of Ottawa. They quote the bank saying that it reduced deaths from malaria in the Indian states of Gujarat by 58%, Maharashtra by 98% and Rajasthan by 79%. According to India’s Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, deaths from malaria rose in all three states in the 2002-3 period in question. “Our investigations suggest that the bank wasted money and lives on ineffective medicines.” It accuses the bank of supplying India with an anti-malarial drug, called chloroquine, at a cost of $1.8m, which it says is unsuitable for the type of malaria seen there and against World Health Organisation guidelines.
Experts Defining Mental Disorders Are Linked to Drug Firms
April 20, 2006, Washington Post
Every psychiatric expert involved in writing the standard diagnostic criteria for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia has had financial ties to drug companies that sell medications for those illnesses, a new analysis has found. Of the 170 experts in all who contributed to the manual that defines disorders from personality problems to drug addiction, more than half had such ties, including 100 percent of the experts who served on work groups on mood disorders and psychotic disorders. “I don’t think the public is aware of how egregious the financial ties are in the field of psychiatry,” said Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The analysis comes at a time of growing debate over the rising use of medication as the primary or sole treatment for many psychiatric disorders, a trend driven in part by definitions of mental disorders in the psychiatric manual. Cosgrove said she began her research after discovering that five of six panel members studying whether certain premenstrual problems are a psychiatric disorder had ties to Eli Lilly & Co., which was seeking to market its drug Prozac to treat those symptoms. The process of defining such disorders is far from scientific, Cosgrove added: “You would be dismayed at how political the process can be.”
Robbery, not reconstruction, in Iraq
April 18, 2006, Boston Globe
We have heard various individual cases of overcharging and fraud by American firms in the reconstruction of Iraq. A year ago, an audit by the inspector general found no evidence of work done or goods delivered on 154 of 198 contracts. Sixty cases of potential swindles are under investigation. Halliburton and its hundreds of millions of dollars of overcharges or baseless costs are well known. But millions more were taken by companies that promised to build or restore libraries or police facilities, or deliver trucks and construction equipment. US government investigators can account for only a third of the $1.5 billion given by the CPA to the interim government and it appears that a substantial portion of the $8 billion given to Iraqi ministries went to ”ghost employees.” Because of the way the United States set things up after the invasion, contractors are immune from prosecution by Iraqis. This is robbery, not reconstruction. It has been three years and all Iraq has become is a ”free-fraud zone,” according to one of the attorneys for whistleblowers in Iraqi swindles. Recently, the Army found that Halliburton had $263 million of exaggerated or unexplainable costs on a $2.4 billion no-bid contract, yet still paid Halliburton $253 million of the $263 million.
National Archives Pact Let C.I.A. Withdraw Public Documents
April 17, 2006, New York Times
The National Archives signed a secret agreement in 2001 with the Central Intelligence Agency permitting the spy agency to withdraw from public access records it considered to have been improperly declassified, the head of the archives, Allen Weinstein, disclosed on Monday. Mr. Weinstein, who began work as archivist of the United States last year, said he learned of the agreement with the C.I.A. on Thursday and was putting a stop to such secret reclassification arrangements, which he described as incompatible with the mission of the archives. The disclosure of the secret agreements provides at least a partial explanation for the removal since 1999 of more than 55,000 pages of historical documents from access to researchers at the archives. The removal of documents, including many dating to the 1950’s, was discovered by a group of historians this year and reported by The New York Times in February. In a brief interview, Mr. Weinstein said he was particularly disturbed that the archives had agreed not to tell researchers why documents were unavailable. The C.I.A. agreement said archives employees would “not attribute to C.I.A. any part of the review or the withholding of documents.”
CIA CYA: Intelligence agencies classified their reclassifying
April 17, 2006, Salt Lake Tribune
We learned last week that a dubious program in which thousands of pages of once-classified historical documents were removed from public view was protected by an agreement in which the National Archives and Records Administration covertly helped the Air Force, the CIA and other agencies to pull the documents and cover up the reclassification effort. That the keepers of the nation’s archival history would secretly collude with military and spy agencies to lock away selected parts of that history is, by itself, cause for concern. But the program, which began in 1999 and was dramatically accelerated after 9/11, went far beyond reversing genuine mistakes in declassification. The program apparently…morphed into a license for spies and diplomats to whitewash some of the agencies’ most dubious and embarrassing acts. Historical CYA, in short. Cover Your Asininities. How else to explain the sheer volume of the vacuuming – more than 55,000 pages within 10,000 documents, mostly from the 1940s and ’50s?
Taxes Flatten but Deep Pockets Still Bulge
April 17, 2006, Los Angeles Times
Millionaires and middle-class Americans now pay taxes at almost the same rates. Lower tax rates have contributed to huge increases in the wealth of the wealthy, but so far most people haven’t seen significant economic improvement. [The] latest three-year examination of family finances found that average family income fell by 2% between 2001 and 2004. In the previous three-year period, average family income grew by 17%. Thanks to more credit card debt and borrowing against their homes, the 25% of Americans at the bottom of the wealth scale had negative net worth in 2004. The first federal tax code specified a maximum rate of 7%, but after the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Congress boosted the top rate to 77%. The 1986 tax overhaul brought the top rate to 28% in 1988, its lowest level since 1931. President Bush has achieved something close to the flat-rate structure by cutting tax rates on earned income and particularly on dividends and investment profits. Although the top tax rate is 35%, nobody pays that percentage. People with income between $500,000 and $1 million owed the same share of their income… — 22% — as did taxpayers reporting at least $1 million in income. Taxpayers in the $100,000 to $200,000 range paid nearly the same rate, 20.6%. Those in the $50,000 to $75,000 range paid 17.4%; taxpayers in the $40,000 to $50,000 range paid 15.8%. During the previous seven economic expansions before the current one, employee compensation rose four times faster than corporate profits. In the current expansion, profits have risen three times faster than compensation.
First Mushroom Cloud in Decades Will Rise Over Nevada
March 30, 2006, ABC News
A Pentagon test at a Nevada site this June will likely create the first mushroom cloud seen in the state since the United States ceased above-ground nuclear testing in 1963. Mushroom clouds are commonly associated with nuclear blasts, but this cloud will come from the detonation of a 700-ton explosive charge designed to test new bunker-busting technologies. Most Nevada residents, however, will never see the cloud because the test will take place in the desert — far away from population centers. The closest city, Las Vegas, is about 90 miles away from test site. Regardless, the military will put out the word to Las Vegas residents that they shouldn’t be alarmed in the unlikely chance that they see a mushroom cloud on the horizon. Mountains surround the flat Nevada site where the test will be conducted. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency hopes the test — called Divine Strake — will help with the effort to develop weapons that can destroy deep underground bunkers storing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The yet-to-be built Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator has raised opposition from some members of Congress who worry the technology will open the door to a new generation of nuclear weapons.