United States News Digest
Did Justice Department Sabotage Blackwater Case?
Jan. 1 (EIRNS)Citing prosecutorial misconduct, a Federal judge yesterday dismissed all criminal charges against five Blackwater contractors, growing out of the Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad in September 2007, in which Blackwater guards killed or wounded 35 Iraqi citizens in what was, reportedly, an unprovoked bloodbath. Blackwater has changed its name to Xe Services LLC.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said that Justice Department prosecutors had violated the Blackwater guards' constitutional right against self-incrimination, but utilizing statements that the guards had made, under compulsion, to State Department investigators. Urbina said that the prosecutors aggressively sought out these statements and used them in formulating the case and developing investigative leads, despite repeated warnings from senior prosecutors that this could jeopardize the prosecution.
The question thus arises, as to whether some Justice Department personnel deliberately sabotaged the case in order to protect Blackwater, or whether some other influence was brought to bear to protect this operation.
In a series of articles in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill has shown that Blackwater and its founder, Erik Prince, have been protected assets of both the CIA and, more importantly, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) of the U.S. military, carrying out assassinations and other classified covert operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Bypassing the conventional chain of command, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld exercised hands-on control over JSOC and Blackwater operations, working through Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008.
A few weeks ago, Vanity Fair published a profile of Prince, in which he disclosed information about sensitive and classified operations; the article was seen by some as "graymail," in which Prince was sending a message to the Justice Department that he would tell many more stories unless pending and threatened criminal charges were dropped. "The only reason Prince would do this is that he feels he is in serious jeopardy of criminal charges," attorney Scott Horton told The Nation, explaining that Prince was telling the DOJ: "You prosecute me and all this stuff will be out on the record."
It seems that someone got the message.
Montana Supreme Court Protects Physician-Assisted Suicide
Jan. 1 (EIRNS)By a 4-3 vote, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Dec. 31 that state law protects doctors in the state from prosecution for helping terminally ill patients die. But to the death lobby's dismay, the court sidestepped the larger question of whether physician-assisted suicide is a "right" guaranteed under the state's Constitution.
Even though Oregon and Washington have assisted-suicide laws that were approved by referendum, neither state's high court has ruled on the constitutional issue. The ghouls were hoping Montana would be the first.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it is not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Lawmakers Call for Probe of Fannie/Freddie Ripoff
Dec. 31 (EIRNS)Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) have called for an investigation of the Treasury's decision to lift the cap on support to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-run mortgage giants. Kucinich said his subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold hearings, while Garret and Bachus sought to have a hearing called by the head of the Financial Services Committee, Bailout Barney Frank.
In his announcement, Kucinich said he will seek to prevent the new bailout, which raises the ceiling of support from $400 billion to infinity, from being used to "purchase toxic assets at inflated prices, thus transferring the losses to the U.S. taxpayers and acting as a back-door TARP."
It's too lateit's already happened. But, it's never too soon to stop it.
Fannie and Freddie have already received $111 billion, and are integral parts of the government's efforts to save the banks by propping up real estate markets. These government and quasi-government operations are being used to convert mortgage debt and mortgage-related securities into government-guaranteed paper, thereby transferring huge losses from the holders of these worthless instruments to the Federal government, and, thus, the taxpayer. While the Obama Administration falsely claims it is turning a profit on the TARP, it is sweeping under the rug trillions of dollars of losses it knows are coming, through its mortgage operations. This is why it is giving Fannie and Freddie unlimited support.
Cardiologists Sue HHS To Stop Medicare Cuts
Dec. 29 (EIRNS)The American College of Cardiology (ACC) filed suit against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday, in an effort to stave off steep Medicare fee cuts for routine office procedures, such as nuclear stress tests and echocardiograms. While the lawsuit is not directly related to the health-reform legislation, the plight of the nation's cardiologistsone of the most technology-intensive specialties in the health-care professionis a harbinger of things to come.
USA Today reports that, according to the ACC, Medicare's new fee schedule would cut reimbursements for nuclear scans by about 40% as of Jan. 1. Reimbursements for echocardiograms and other tests will shrink by about a third, with the cuts being phased in over four years. In March, doctors also face an additional 21% cut due to "an adjustment in the formula that limits the growth of Medicare spending for doctors' fees."
"What they've done is basically killed the private practice of cardiology," College of Cardiology CEO Jack Lewin told the paper. Jonathan Blum, the director of the Center for Medicare Management, defended the cuts, saying that its survey confirmed that doctors could absorb them. The veracity of this survey is at the heart of the ACC's legal action. Stanford University "health economy" professor Victor Fuchs said the doctors essentially deserved what they were getting, because the system had too long awarded them for investing in expensive technology.
Nuremberg for the 'Terminal Sedationists'!
Dec. 28 (EIRNS)In its Sunday so-called "Health" section, the New York Times yesterday devoted extensive space propagandizing the benefits of "terminal sedation"or as some medical professionals term it, "slow euthanasia."
In attempt to bolster its contention of legal endorsement of the practice, the Times cited a portion of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion in the 1997 case Washington v. Glucksberg: "A patient who is suffering from a terminal illness and who is experiencing great pain has no legal barriers to obtaining medication, from qualified physicians, to alleviate that suffering, even to the point of causing unconsciousness and hastening death." However, the Times omitted her next, and final, sentence: "The difficulty in defining terminal illness and the risk that a dying patient's request for assistance in ending his or her life might not be truly voluntary justifies the prohibitions on assisted suicide we uphold here." Nor did the Times bother to mention that her opinion was part of a unanimous ruling that no constitutionally protected right to assisted-suicide exists.
Writes the Times, "There is little information about how many patients are terminally sedated, and under what circumstancesestimates have ranged from 2 percent of terminal patients to more than 50 percent." In effort to raise that percentage, the Nazi health bill passed by the House in November would pay doctors for so-called "end-of-life counseling." But the Times admits, "even the most forthright doctors and nurses [do] little more than hint at what the drugs could do. Afterward, some families said they were surprised their loved ones died so quickly, and wondered if the drugs had played a role."
Pressure to impose "terminal sedation" can be institutional, said Dr. Pauline Lesage, hospice medical director at Beth Israel in New York City. "You may be tempted to jump over because, 'oh well, I need the bed,' " she said.