It's our responsibility as journalists to let the public know who is paid by what corporation, or if they're representing the government. Otherwise, it's unforgivable. The media is our lens on the world. And it is absolutely critical we trust the media. Because, ultimately, when people are terrorized, when people are targeted, when people are marginalized, that does not make any of us safer.
- Amy Goodman, interview in "Programming the Nation?" documentary
Dr. Bruce Kinosian still makes house calls, and he's proud of it. In fact, he introduces himself as a physician who goes to see his patients in their homes rather than insisting that they come to see him at his office.
He's convinced that if more doctors did what he does, we could eliminate billions of dollars we currently spend in this country in an often-futile -- and almost always incredibly expensive -- effort to get people well.
Much of that savings, he says, would accrue to the Medicare program, making it unnecessary for Congress to even consider eliminating benefits or raising the eligibility age.
Kinosian, associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is a leading advocate of the Independence at Home (IAH) program, which quietly has been saving the Department of Veteran's Affairs (and taxpayers) lots of money -- and improving the quality of life for thousands of veterans -- for nearly three decades.
By Lisa Graves and Brendan Fischer (initially published by TruthOut.org).
"Model" bills voted on by corporations through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) touch almost every aspect of American life. The Center for Media and Democracy has analyzed and made available over 800 ALEC model bills to allow other reporters and the public to track corporate influence in state legislatures across the country (and in Congress) at ALECExposed.org. Here is a quick summary of six of the many "hot" topics on the ALEC corporate-politician agenda this year.
The American Legislative Exchange Council's Annual Meetings and Task Force Summits are held in some of the nation's top travel destinations, at swanky hotels where state legislators and corporate executives enjoy lavish accommodations and exclusive excursions.
Walid Shoebat is a Palestinian-American who converted from Islam to conservative Christianity. He was born in the West Bank to an American mother, claims he was a terrorist with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, that he helped fire-bomb an Israeli bank in Bethlehem as a youth and even served time in a jail in Israel for his crimes. A self-proclaimed expert on terrorism, Shoebat says he knows how potential terrorists think, because he was one. Since 2006, he has been interviewed as a terrorism expert on CNN, Fox News and HLN. In May, Shoebat was a featured speaker at a forum put on by South Dakota's Office of Homeland Security for police and sheriff's deputies, where he earned a $5,000 fee for his appearance. In his presentations, Shoebat warns that Islam and terrorism are one in the same, that mosques are hotbeds of potential terrorist organizing and tells his audiences to be wary of Muslim doctors, engineers and students. Shoebat operates several foundations, one of which earned over $500,000 in 2009 through sales of his books and videos, and speaking fees for talks he gives at churches, universities, military bases and counterterrorism trainings. But Shoebat may not be what he claims to be. CNN's Jerusalem bureau conducted an extensive investigation into his background and was unable to substantiate Shoebat's claims of past terrorist activity. The Tel Aviv headquarters of the bank that Shoebat claims to have fire-bombed has no record of a fire-bombing at its Bethlehem branch, and Israeli police have no record of it, either. The prison where Shoebat says he was incarcerated has no record of him being an inmate there, and his relatives describe him as a "regular kid" who eventually became a computer programmer in the U.S. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico first exposed in 2008 that portions of Shoebat's past were fabricated.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may appear on the surface to mimic the bipartisan educational archetype of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), but ALEC's corporate governance structure, near total reliance on corporate funding, and strong ties to legislators from predominantly one political party make it distinctly different.
Most nuclear reactors built in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s were explicitly designed to last for 40 years, but an Associated Press investigation shows that owners of aging nuclear plants and their government regulators are now claiming the aging reactors actually have no particular life span, and can even operate for up to 100 years. AP found the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) relicensing rules contain no requirements that operators compensate for wear and tear on their reactors, and that the relicensing process relies heavily on paperwork supplied by operators and very little actual visual inspection of plants. AP also found that the NRC has repeatedly made compromises in plant safety rules, emergency planning and regulations to keep older reactors operating. The NRC's relicensing audits for aging plants often contain "identical or nearly identical word-for-word repetition" of the language supplied by operators in their license renewal applications. Despite the fact that repeated equipment failures have occurred at U.S. nuclear plants, relicensing the plants has become little more than a rote, rubber-stamp procedure. Joe Hopenfeld, a former NRC engineer who worked on issues pertaining to plant aging prior to retiring in 2008, corroborates AP's findings. "Everything I've seen [in regard to relicensing] is rubber-stamped," Hopenfeld confirms.
The Center for Media and Democracy has joined a coalition of privacy, consumer and civil rights organizations in signing onto comments from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) (pdf) opposing a proposal by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) to expand "E-Verify," a national internet-based employment verification system that lets employers check citizenship status and verify employment eligibility of people applying for jobs. DHS plans to integrate records from state motor vehicle agencies' systems and change the verification process to include validation of a driver's license, driver's permit or ID card from a state or local jurisdiction. Groups signing onto EPIC's comments say the DHS proposal to integrate driver's license information into Homeland Security's database is unlawful and is very similar to the REAL ID Act of 2005, which established new federal standards for state-issued driver's licenses and other ID cards. Some states have declined participate in the REAL ID Act. EPIC and other groups oppose provisions in the DHS proposal that would, for example, allow DHS to distribute E-Verify records to public and private parties, and disclose E-Verify data "to the news media and the public" with just a vague exception for any "particular case [that] would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
On June 8, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski agreed to wipe the Fairness Doctrine completely off the agency's books, even though the rule has been officially dead since 1987. House Republicans have long pushed to get the Doctrine off the rule books for good, and they've finally gotten their way.
From the time it was put in place in 1949 until its demise in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required holders of broadcast licenses to provide the public with news and public affairs programming, and present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. Back then, the airwaves were dominated by the "big three" networks ABC, CBS and NBC -- which broadcast over publicly-owned airwaves under licenses issued by the government. The idea behind the Fairness Doctrine was to keep broadcasters from monopolizing the airwaves with a biased viewpoint, and assure that those entrusted with the public airwaves broadcast a diversity of viewpoints on important issues.
Under U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Rule 1330.09, U.S. military bases are supposed to sell tobacco products at no more than 5 percent less than the lowest price in surrounding civilian markets, but army and air force bases across the country are routinely violating this rule. An investigation revealed 15 military bases offer discounts on cartons of cigarettes that range from 10 to 40 percent. Those big discounts on cigarettes lead to big costs for taxpayers. Almost 40 percent of smokers in the military say they starting smoking after joining, and in 2008 alone the Veterans Administration spent over $5 billion treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a tobacco-related illness. Smoking also affects troop readiness by decreasing physical fitness, motor coordination, stamina and increasing the amount of time it takes for wounds to heal. The DOD claims service members use tobacco to relieve stress, but Dr. Benjamin Gonzales, who served in the Air Force and Army for 24 years as a trauma doctor, says nicotine addiction causes the stress and using tobacco just reduces withdrawal symptoms. He says the relationship between tobacco use and price is well documented. An investigation showed that, to set prices, military pricing coordinators look at cigarette prices at other military bases instead of basing prices on those at local stores. For those who comply with Rule 1330.09, some of those "local stores" are as much as five hours away, or on an Indian reservations. When these pricing coordinators were asked if they would stop doing that and set prices as defense policy dictates -- by just looking at prices in the local convenience stores, retailers and gas stations -- they wouldn't give a straight answer.