News briefs:August 3, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : A suicide bomber kills five Afghan children; California Representative Maxine Waters is charged with violating ethics rules; the FBI asks the Wikimedia Foundation to remove its seal from our websites and, in history, the Church Committee begins hearings on a secret US government program that involved giving unsuspecting citizens LSD.
Today is Tuesday, August 03, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
Five children were killed by a suicide car bomb in the Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on Monday. Officials say the suicide bomber was trying to attack the governor of the Dand district, Ahmadullah Nazak.
Nazak, who was unharmed, later recalled "I dropped down. Then I heard a second explosion. It hit our car, but it didn't injure me".
There have not been any claims of responsibility for this bombing. Assassinations and attempts have become more common this year in Kandahar, and between January and April, at least 27 government officials or foreign contractors have been killed.
In other areas of Afghanistan there have been similar incidents. A blast in Nangarhar province hit the car of a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai. Six people, including Wahidullah Sabawoon, the adviser, were injured in the blast. Sabawoon's injuries were "not critical", according to spokesperson Ahmad Zia Abdulzai.
A United States House of Representatives ethics panel has charged Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) with violating unspecified ethics rules, making her the second Democrat in a week to be charged with ethical violations.
Since 2008, the Office of Congressional Ethics has investigated Waters for requesting a meeting with former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Although the meeting was supposed to be about minority-owned banks, the actual conversation focused on one bank, OneUnited. Water's husband, Sidney Williams, had been a stock-holder and board member in the bank at the time.
OneUnited later received US$12 million in bailout funds, and an unnamed member of Congress said that Waters had been unsure how to deal with OneUnited, which had been near collapse, "because Sidney's been on the board."
A statement from the panel does not disclose when it will state the charges or say how many there are.
Waters released a statement stating "I have not violated any House rules. Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing."
She also vowed to take the case to a public trial, and also said "The record will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone."
Waters has represented her district in South Central Los Angeles, California for 20 years.
This incident comes just five days after another House Democrat, Charlie Rangel of New York was charged with thirteen ethics violations. Rangel's charges range from tax evasion to donations he solicited for an education center bearing his name.
Another politican with ethics troubles awaits his fate as
jurors in the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial began their fifth day of deliberations Tuesday morning, having sent no notes to the judge at all yesterday. Notes they sent out last week, however, suggest that the discussions could take much longer.
The jury has sent two notes to US District Judge James B. Zagel since deliberations began last Wednesday. The first came on Thursday, when the jury requested a transcript of one of the prosecution's closing arguments. Zagel refused, saying that closing arguments are not evidence.
The second note came on Friday, when the foreman wrote "Is it permissible to obtain the transcript of the testimony? It would be helpful." Zagel interpreted the request as saying that the jury wanted transcripts of the testimony of every single witness in the trial. Zagel again declined the request because it was not practical to do so; about 30 witnesses testified in this case, and the transcripts have not yet been prepared. Zagel instead offered to consider requests for transcripts of testimony from "specific identified witnesses", but said that he would warn the jury that such requests could take some time to fulfill.
Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky objected to this plan, saying that "the government will have the benefit of presenting its case a whole second time." Zagel said in reply that he would still consider each of the jury's requests individually.
Such a request, however, suggests that the jury intends to conduct a lengthy review of the case. The six male and six female jurors continued their deliberations on Monday without sending any further notes to the judge.
Blagojevich is charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that had been vacated by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election, among other crimes. Robert Blagojevich, Rod's brother and co-defendant in the case, testified that Rod was trying to manipulate the political situation to his advantage, but emphasized that he engaged in nothing illegal. According to some sources, Blagojevich was interested in leading the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Audio credit "The Long Goodbye" by John Pazdan
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has asked the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), host of Wikinews and its sister projects, to take down its image of the FBI seal from its websites. However, the WMF declined, saying that FBI lawyers had misinterpreted the relevant federal law.
In a letter dated July 22, 2010, David C. Larson, Deputy General Counsel of the FBI demanded that the WMF remove the seal from its websites within fourteen days, claiming that "it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting violations of these restrictions by Wikipedia users."
Larson quoted a section of US law detailing the proper use of the seal and went on to say that use of the FBI seal may be authorized only by the director of the FBI; the FBI director has not given such permission to WMF.
The WMF, represented by General Counsel Mike Godwin, responded, saying in a letter dated July 30, that Larson's interpretation "is both idiosyncratic (made especially so by your strategic redaction of important language) and, more importantly, incorrect."
Godwin said that "while we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version" Larson provided. According to the relevant case law, it "was intended to protect the public against the use of a recognizable assertion of authority with intent to deceive."
Godwin asserted that the use of the FBI seal by the WMF and its projects do not fall under the purview of that law.
The websites of the Wikimedia Foundation are filled with user-generated text, pictures, and other materials, uploaded and curated by independent, often anonymous, volunteers, who change the websites minute by minute. The most well-known sites are the Wikipedias, encyclopedias with over 13 million articles in hundreds of languages. However, the foundation also hosts an image and media library, dictionaries, the Wikinews news websites, book websites and many other educational collaborations.
Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (where Godwin was once staff counsel), said that the WMF's constitutional right to free expression allows it to use the FBI seal. "I have to believe the FBI has better things to do than this," she said. The reason for the FBI's request is unknown, as the FBI seal is published on many other websites, including Encyclopedia Britannica.
In a bit of trivia, Mike Godwin is also well known for the famous internet discussion rule known as Godwin's Law which states "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Godwin believes the ubiquity of such comparisons trivializes the Holocaust.
NASA is scrambling to solidify plans to fix the broken down cooling systems on the International Space Station during two spacewalks, currently planned for Friday and Monday. The systems broke down late Saturday July 31, triggering alarms that woke the six astronauts (three Russian and three American) currently on board the station. NASA's flight controller said the astronauts are not in any danger, but that science experiments are on hold until the problem can be fixed.
Michael Suffredini, a manager for the International Space Station Program, had this to say about the incident:
- Audio credit NASA
The first spacewalk is set to begin Friday at 6:55 a.m. EDT, NASA officials said. The two planned spacewalks will be conducted by astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson. They will replace an ammonia pump module, which shut down Saturday. The pump's failure prompted the astronauts to shut down several other systems as well. The spare pump had been delivered to the station in July 2006, during STS-121.
Normally, major repair spacewalks take weeks of preparation. Fortunately an unrelated spacewalk had already been planned for this Thursday, which would have been conducted by Wheelock and Dyson, so the space suits and equipment are ready to go. NASA decided late Monday evening that the spacewalk would be postponed to Friday to allow for more preparation.
In October 2010 the space station is expected to break the record for the longest continuously inhabited space station, a record currently held by Mir.
In other space related news,
forecasters predict that the northern lights could be visible to the naked eye late tonight and early tomorrow morning across Canada, northern parts of the U.S., and possibly the United Kingdom.
Solar storms caused a large ejection of plasma from the Sun's surface on Sunday, and the plasma is heading directly towards Earth. The plasma, a cloud of rapidly moving hydrogen gas atoms and subatomic particles, is expected to reach us late Tuesday. The plasma will interact with the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, which will cause northern lights, or aurora borealis, to be visible much further south than is usual. Northern lights usually appear as green or red rivers of lights across the sky.
"It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time" said astronomer Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The eruption was detected by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which was launched in February 2010, and is currently orbiting the Earth.
The Sun goes through approximately eleven-year long activity cycles, with the last maximum occurring in 2001. Sunday's eruption is a sign that the many years of inactivity is over, and the Sun is heading towards another maximum.
Two games of round 16 of the Gippsland Football League split the round over the weekend. On Saturday, Sale defeated Moe by 75 points, while on Sunday, Warragul lost to Drouin.
The split round will be completed next weekend with Leongatha traveling to Maffra and Morwell traveling to Wonthaggi. Traralgon has the bye.
The preliminary ladder has, in order, Maffra on top followed by Traralgon, Morwell, Drouin and Leongatha in the the top five. Moe and Sale need to win both of their remaining games and have other results go their way to make the finals. Wonthaggi and Warragul cannot make the finals.
On this day in history (13:12)
- Music credit Long Note One
Though the project is still shrouded in mystery, on this day in history in 1977 the Church Committee began its hearing on the illegal US Central Intelligence Agencies human research program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence and known by its codename MKULTRA.
This official U.S. government program began in the early 1950s and continued through the late 1960s. The program used U.S. and Canadian citizens as its test subjects to study the use of many types of drugs, as well as other methods, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.
The project actually began in 1945 when the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency was established and given direct responsibility for Operation Paperclip. Operation Paperclip was a program to recruit former Nazi scientists, some of whom had studied torture and brainwashing, and several had just been identified and prosecuted as war criminals during the Nuremberg Trials.
Several secret U.S. government projects grew out of Operation Paperclip and their purpose was to study mind-control, interrogation, behavior modification and related topics.
Headed by Sidney Gottlieb, the MKULTRA project was started on the order of CIA director Allen Dulles on April 13, 1953, largely in response to Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean use of mind-control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war in Korea. The CIA wanted to use similar methods on their own captives and was also interested in being able to manipulate foreign leaders with such techniques, and would later invent several schemes to drug Fidel Castro.
Experiments were often conducted without the subjects' knowledge or consent. In some cases, academic researchers being funded through grants from CIA front organizations were unaware that their work was being used for these purposes. To fund the project, a secretive arrangement granted the MKULTRA program a percentage of the CIA budget. The MKULTRA director was granted six percent of the CIA operating budget in 1953, without oversight or accounting and an estimated $10 million or more was spent.
- Music credit Digital Bark
Yet because most MKULTRA records were deliberately destroyed in 1973 by order of then CIA Director Richard Helms, it has been difficult, if not impossible, for investigators to gain a complete understanding of the more than 150 individually funded research sub-projects sponsored by MKULTRA and related CIA programs.
- Music credit Aliengoatcult (Feat. VX)
The few remaining CIA documents suggest that "chemical, biological and radiological" means were investigated for the purpose of mind control as part of MKULTRA. These means included the testing of hypnotic drugs such as temazepam, heroin, mescaline, and in one technique investigated, a patient was connected to a barbiturate IV in one arm and an amphetamine IV into the other. The barbiturates were released into the person first, and as soon as the person began to fall asleep, the amphetamines were released. The person would then begin babbling incoherently, and it was sometimes possible to ask questions and get useful answers.
However, the use of LSD came to dominate many of MKULTRA's programs. Experiments included administering LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, prostitutes, mentally ill patients, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions. LSD and other drugs were usually administered without the subject's knowledge or informed consent, a violation of the Nuremberg Code that the U.S. agreed to follow after World War II.
Efforts to "recruit" subjects were often illegal, even though actual use of LSD was legal in the United States until October 6, 1966. In Operation Midnight Climax, the CIA set up several brothels in San Francisco, CA to obtain a selection of men who would be too embarrassed to talk about the events. The men were dosed with LSD, the brothels were equipped with two-way mirrors, and the sessions were filmed for later viewing and study.
- Music credit Tet
In Canada, when the CIA recruited Scottish psychiatrist and former member of the Nuremberg medical tribunals of 1946–47, Donald Ewen Cameron, the program experimented with various paralytic drugs as well as electroconvulsive therapy at thirty to forty times the normal power as well as putting subjects into a drug-induced coma for weeks at a time (up to three months in one case) while playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements. The experiments were typically carried out on patients who were being treated for minor problems such as anxiety disorders and postpartum depression, yet many of them suffered permanently from his actions.
Given the CIA's purposeful destruction of most records, its failure to follow informed consent protocols with thousands of participants, the uncontrolled nature of the experiments, and the lack of follow-up data, the full impact of MKULTRA experiments, including deaths, will never be known. However, several known deaths have been associated with Project MKULTRA, most notably that of Frank Olson.
- Music credit Long Note Two
Olson, a United States Army biochemist and biological weapons researcher, was given LSD without his knowledge or consent in November, 1953 and died under suspicious circumstances a week later when Olson exited a hotel window and fell thirteen stories to his death.
Olson's death was described as a suicide that occurred during a severe psychotic episode, possibly exacerbated by the LSD due to his already-diagnosed suicidal tendencies. The Olson family, however, disputed the official version of events. They maintained that Frank Olson was murdered because, especially in the aftermath of his LSD experience, he had become a security risk who might divulge state secrets associated with highly-classified CIA programs, many of which he had direct personal knowledge.
In 1975, Olson's family received a $750,000 settlement from the U.S. government and formal apologies from President Gerald Ford and CIA Director William Colby and later forensic evidence supported the family when Olson's body was exhumed in 1994. A medical examiner termed Olson's death a "homicide" due to cranial injuries indicating Olson had been knocked unconscious before he exited the window.
A considerable amount of credible circumstantial evidence suggests that Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, participated in CIA-sponsored MKULTRA experiments conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962. Beginning at the age of sixteen, Kaczynski participated along with twenty-one other undergraduate students in the Harvard experiments, which have been described as "disturbing" and "ethically indefensible."
In all, forty-four American colleges or universities, 15 research foundations or chemical or pharmaceutical companies and the like including Sandoz (currently Novartis) and Eli Lilly & Co., 12 hospitals or clinics (in addition to those associated with universities), and three prisons are known to have participated in project MKULTRA.
The project also plays a part in many conspiracy theories given its nature and the destruction of most records. Some believe the Jonestown mass suicide was thought to be a test site for MKULTRA experiments and others believe Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Robert Kennedy, was under the influence of CIA directed hypnotic mind conrtol when he fired his weapon.
- Music credit Waltz (Tschikovsky Op. 40)
Although the CIA insists that MKULTRA-type experiments have been abandoned, 14-year CIA veteran Victor Marchetti has stated in various interviews that the CIA routinely conducts disinformation campaigns and that CIA mind control research continued. In a 1977 interview, Marchetti specifically called the CIA claim that MKULTRA was abandoned a "cover story" even though President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued an Executive Order on Intelligence Activities which, among other things, prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with informed consent." Subsequent orders by Presidents Carter and Reagan expanded the directive to apply to any human experimentation.
And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, August 03, 2010
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