May 222015

Healthcare providers can be sued for enabling addicts who abuse prescription drugs, according to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The ruling stemmed from the case of Mingo County’s Mountain Medical Center, which was raided by federal agents and later shut down for improperly prescribing painkillers. Nearly 30 patients of the facility sued Mountain Medical claiming doctors there helped feed their addictions with prescribed medicines.

One clinic physician, Dr. Katherine Hoover, was charged with illegally issuing hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for pain medications. She now lives in the Bahamas. A judge upheld the forfeiture of $88,000 of Hoover’s, ruling it was the product of clinic proceeds.

Dr. William Ryckman and Diane Shafer and office manager Myra Miller of Mountain Medical each were sentenced to six months in federal prison for their guilty pleas to conspiring to misuse aDrug Enforcement Administration registration number, according to the Associated Press.

In a 3-2 decision, Chief Justice Margaret Workman said the plaintiffs were entitled to seek damages even though they themselves behaved illegally or immorally. Interestingly, “the majority noted that most, if not all, of the plaintiffs admitted their abuse of controlled substances occurred before they sought help at Mountain Medical Center,” according to the AP.

Justice Allen Loughry, who dissented along with Justice Menis Ketchum, wrote: “There are no even remotely innocent victims here.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

West Virginia Supreme Court Rules Addicts Can Sue Pharmacies, Doctors (by John Raby, Associated Press)

Court Paves a Way for Suits by ‘Pill Mill’ Users (by Amanda Loviza-Vickery, Courthouse News Service)

Supreme Court to Decide if Addicts Can Sue (by Linda Harris, WOWK-TV)

Pharmacists’ Duty to Warn (National Association of Chain Drug Stores) (pdf)

FDA Panel Advises Limiting Prescription Refills for Addictive Painkillers (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Prescription Drugs Cause More Deaths than Illegal Drugs
 (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

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May 222015

Doug Hughes, the 61-year-old Florida postal worker who flew his gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last month to protest money in politics, on Thursday pleaded “not guilty” to six federal charges, two of them felonies.

Hughes, who is a grandfather, faces up to nine-and-a-half years in prison for what he calls his “freedom flight.” Since his initial arrest, his movements have been restricted and he wears an electronic monitoring bracelet.

The charges against him include violation of national defense air space and flying without necessary certification.

Speaking to the press immediately following his hearing, Hughes reportedly said, “I would never do anything like this again, but I would do it exactly the way I did.”

Hughes has captured significant attention for his mid-April flight on his gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania bearing 535 letters for members of Congress. He has also attracted considerable praise, including from prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who argued that his “desperate message” is worth paying attention to.

“My flight was a call to action, to spotlight corruption in DC and more importantly, to present solutions to the institutional graft,” Hughes told CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin in an interview published last week on Common Dreams. “As I had informed the authorities, I had no violent inclinations or intent. An ultralight aircraft like a gyrocopter poses no major physical threat.”

The grandfather faces steep charged despite the fact that he publicly announced his planned flight well in advance, including to the Tampa Bay Times.

Hughes, who runs The Democracy Club website, told Democracy Now! in late April he was motivated by his concern that the U.S. political system is sliding into a “plutocracy.”

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May 222015

While admitting that reaching agreement between the two countries will be difficult to achieve, George Soros – speaking at The World Bank’s Bretton Woods conference this week – warned that unless the U.S. makes ‘major concessions’ and allows China’s currency to join the IMF’s basket of currencies, “there is a real danger China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of world war becomes real.”

Much in global geopolitics depends on the health and trajectory of the Chinese economy, was the undertone of George Soros’ comments as he spoke this week, but as MarketWatch reports,

Billionaire investor George Soros said flatly that he’s concerned about the possibility of another world war.

If China’s efforts to transition to a domestic-demand led economy from an export engine falter, there is a “likelihood” that China’s rulers would foster an external conflict to keep the country together and hold on to power.

To avoid this scenario, Soros called on the U.S. to make a “major concession” and allow China’s currency to join the International Monetary Fund’s basket of currencies. This would make the yuan a potential rival to the dollar as a global reserve currency.

In return, China would have to make similar major concessions to reform its economy, such as accepting the rule of law, Soros said.

Allowing China’s yuan to be a market currency would create “a binding connection” between the two systems.

An agreement along these lines will be difficult to achieve, Soros said, but the alternative is so unpleasant.

“Without it, there is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real, so it is worth trying.”

And while on the topic, Soros also spoke recently, as ValueWalk notes, on the situation in Europe…

“The European Union was a very inspiring idea to people like me,” he commented, reflecting back to when EU economies were more balanced. “It was the embodiment of the idea of an open society, like minded countries getting together and sacrificing part of their sovereignty for the common good.  It was meant to be a voluntary association of equals.”

Soros continued to say: “Because of the Euro crisis, [the E.U.] has been transformed into something radically different.” He also emphasized that over time two different classes of countries have evolved: creditors and debtors. “The debtors had difficulty meeting their obligations and this put the creditors in charge. They (the creditors) set the rules and made it very difficult for the debtors to exit their inferior status. A voluntary association of equals turned into an involuntary association of un-equals.”

While avoiding making predictions, on Greece Soros noted: “Greece is a poisonous situation. All sides have made a lot of mistakes, and there is a lot of hostility, a lot of negative sentiments…Both sides are willing to hurt the other side even if it hurts them.”

*  *  *

The billionaire investor concluded by pointing out that military spending is currently on the rise in both Russia and China, warning ominously…

“If there is conflict between China and a military ally of the United States, like Japan, then it is not an exaggeration to say that we are on the threshold of a third world war.” 

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May 222015

Rumors of a deterioration in US-Israel relations are very much exaggerated. (Pete Souza/Official White House photo).

The Obama administration approved a $1.9 billion arms sale to Israel in recent days as “compensation” for the US nuclear deal with Iran, which the Israeli regime staunchly opposes. 

Among the tens of thousands of bombs included in the weapons package are 3,000 Hellfire missiles, 12,000 general purpose bombs and 750 bunker buster bombs that can penetrate up to twenty feet, or six meters, of reinforced concrete.

This generous weapons gift comes in the wake of Israel’s most ferocious attack on the Gaza Strip to date, in which the Israeli army deliberately targeted civilians, includingchildren, as a matter of policy.

The degree of firepower Israel unleashed on Gaza was so extreme that senior US military officials who participated in the illegal invasion and criminal destruction of Iraq were left stunned

Even the Pentagon and State Department were forced to acknowledge that Israel didnot do enough to avoid civilian deaths. But this did not prevent the Obama administration from rushing to provide Israel with the means to carry out more atrocities. 

Bunker busters

Sadistically nicknamed the “Saddamizer,” the bunker buster bomb was originally developed by the US military during the first Gulf war to penetrate Iraqi command centers buried deep underground. 

In recent years, these earth-shattering explosives have been repeatedly deployed against besieged and largely defenseless Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip.

Israel pounded Gaza with US-supplied bunker buster bombs during Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault in the winter of 2008-2009 that killed 1,400 Palestinians, including nearly 400 children. 

Obama quietly transferred dozens more bunker buster bombs to Israel in 2009 in an effort to prevent it from obstructing negotiations with Iran.  

The Obama administration replenished that stockpile after yet another Israeli attack on Gaza in 2012 with a $647 million arms package that included thousands of bunker buster bombs. 

Israel used those bunker buster munitions to pummel Gaza’s high rise towers and wipe out entire families as they sheltered in their homes during Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israeli assault that ultimately killed over 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including over 500 children.

If the past is any indication, Obama’s weapons package will enable Israel to intensify its unspeakable atrocities against civilians in Gaza, and possibly Lebanon if Israel’ssaber-rattling about Hizballah is to be believed. 

Asked whether the Pentagon is concerned that its weapons might be used to harm innocent people, a spokesperson, Roger Cabiness II, offered the following vague statement: “As with any security cooperation activity, the United States assesses requests from its partners on a case-by-case basis, taking into account political, military, economic, arms control and human rights conditions in making decisions on the provision of military equipment and the licensing of direct commercial sales to any country, in accordance with the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Arms Export Control Act and relevant international agreements.”

Rewarding hate

Ever since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation by the Republican opposition to trash Obama’s diplomatic maneuvering on Iran in a speech to Congress, analysts have warned of a growing rift in US-Israel relations, insisting that the so-called special relationship has reached its lowest point in recent memory. 

Relations apparently deteriorated further following Netanyahu’s election day campaigning, when, in a last ditch appeal to the worst inclinations of his rightwing base, he summoned the spirit of George Wallace, warning, “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”

In an interview with former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama insultingly equated the creation of a Jewish settler state in historic Palestine with the African American civil rights movement, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of “preserving” Israel’s Jewish majority. He went on to criticize Netanyahu’s anti-Arab electioneering, claiming to have enacted “foreign policy consequences” against Israel as a result.

Nevertheless, the pundits’ handwringing over cracks in the special relationship has been largely unfounded. 

In reality, the only penalty Obama has imposed on Israel is tepid disapproval of Netanyahu’s overt racism, which is rendered meaningless by Obama’s ongoing material support for Israel’s crimes.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has assembled the most racist government in Israel’s history, with unabashed genocide enthusiasts occupying the most senior level positions. 

Israel’s new education minister is Naftali Bennett, leader of the religious ultra-nationalistHabeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life — and there’s no problem with that.” In response to international outrage at the Israeli massacre of four children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza last summer, Bennett accused Palestinian resistance fighters of “conducting massive self-genocide” to make Israel look bad. 

Israel’s new justice minister is Ayelet Shaked, the lawmaker who last June endorsed acall to genocide, which declared “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and demanded the slaughter of Palestinian mothers to prevent them from birthing “little snakes.” 

Israel’s new culture minister is Miri Regev, who in 2012 helped incite a violent anti-African riot when she stood before a racist mob and labeled non-Jewish African asylum seekers a “cancer”, a statement that 52 percent of Israeli Jews agreed with. Regev laterapologized, not to Africans but to cancer survivors for likening them to Black people. 

Israel’s new deputy defense minister is Eli Ben-Dahan, who proudly proclaimed, “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human,” and, “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”

Citing a combination of religious text and the writings of far rightwing Israeli figures, Israel’s new deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely asserted Jewish ownership over all of historic Palestine, declaring, “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that.” 

Earlier this month, Moshe Yaalon, who will continue to serve as Israel’s defense minister in Netanyahu’s new governing coalition, threatened to nuke Iran and promised to kill civilians, including children, in any future conflict with Lebanon or Gaza. 

Unlike Obama’s hollow threats, this is not empty rhetoric. We saw this incitement play out last summer, from the burning of Muhammad Abu Khudair by Jewish extremists and “death to Arabs” mobs hunting Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem, to the sadistic conduct and eliminationist chauvinism exhibited by Israel’s military in Gaza.

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May 212015

Source: The Hill

The National Security Agency planned to infiltrate the Google and Samsung app stores to plant spying software on smartphones, according to new documents published from files leaked by Edward Snowden.

The Intercept and CBC News jointly published the documents Thursday, which outline the snooping efforts designed by the U.S. and its “Five Eyes” alliance — Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

The intelligence agencies came up with the strategy as a potential way to hack smartphones. The pilot project was codenamed “IRRITANT HORN.”

Essentially, the agents sussed out smartphone Internet traffic by browsing through its Web traffic database created under the XKeyscore program. They would then track down those phones’ connections to an app marketplace. Once identified, agents could hijack that connection to the app store and use it as a delivery system to plant spyware on the device.

Full article here

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May 212015

Source: ZDNET

screen-shot-2015-05-21-at-08-39-16.pngGoogle Fiber is allegedly acting as a conduit for automatic demands for money in relation to piracy and copyright infringement.


Google Fiber, the high-speed broadband service, is quickly expanding across the United States. Touting speeds which leave current Internet offerings in the dust — allowing consumers to enjoy up to 1 GB/ps — the service has moved from its original pilot grounds in Kansas City and is expected to appear in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, NC along with Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA later this year.

Consumers are clamouring for broadband speeds up to 100 times faster than the national average, but may have a nasty shock if they plan to use the service in order to download content from file-sharing websites and torrent search engines which infringe upon intellectual copyright.

As reported by TorrentFreak on Wednesday, the rollout of Google Fiber has potentially become a catalyst for an increase in targeted piracy notices.According to the publication, piracy notices are being automatically forwarded to users of Google Fiber, and not only include regular cease-and-desist warnings but controversial demands from companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK.

Rightscorp, for example, recently filed a lawsuit against two Comcast customers who both ignored multiple notices — 11 and 288 demands respectively — which may result in damage settlements and attorney fees if the firm can prove its case.

Demands for payment, often settled online, can range from $20 to several hundred dollars.

Read More…

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May 212015

Source: RT

The US Defense Department’s watchdog knowingly turned a blind eye to financial irregularities, leading to the Pentagon signing off on an audit. This has led to questions regarding just how transparent the government auditing process actually is.

A special investigation by Reuters revealed that a senior member of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Inspector General team had colluded with an independent auditing company, Grant Thornton LLP, to falsely keep the US Marine Corps books clean.

The DoD remained the only federal organization that had not abided with a 1992 law passed by Congress to undergo an audit. This was despite the DoD receiving in excess of $500 billion a year, which is by far the largest appropriation of any department.

The Pentagon remains unaudited because of disarray in its bookkeeping

— Special Reports (@specialreports) May 20, 2015

The audit only included the Marine Corps section of the DoD and to make things even simpler, it only included records for the financial year that ended on September 30, 2012. The audit would look to try and account for $29.4 billion spent by the organization.

The independent accounting firm Grant Thornton was chosen to undertake the work. It had already been fulfilling contracts for the Marine Corps after winning a competitive bidding process in 2009. This was despite the inspector general having found on previous occasions that Grant Thornton had been responsible for serious flaws in a series of smaller, unrelated audits.


A quality control review in February 2013 of Grant Thornton’s audit of defense funds, which had been paid to the Center for Naval Analyses Corp, found that the audit “was not adequately planned, executed, and documented.”

However, as the audit took place a rift began to emerge between the inspector general’s team, who were carrying out the audit, and the deputy inspector general for auditing, Daniel Blair. The team members were not impressed by the Marine Corps books, which had multiple receipts missing and the numbers simply did not add up. Nevertheless, they were coming under pressure from Blair to support the work done by Grant Thornton.

In fact, Reuters found, the inspector general team that oversaw the audit had come to the conclusion months before the books were submitted in December 2013 that they were in fact not clean.

They knew that the Marine Corps books were in such a state that it would not pass the audit and they recommended that the inspector general should issue a “qualified” opinion – which would be the equivalent to a failing grade, meaning the inspector general could not vouch for the accuracy of the financial statement.


Celia Ball, who was in charge of carrying out the audit, had become so frustrated with the work produced by Grant Thornton that she believed the auditing company’s contract should not have been renewed. However, the partner from Grant Thornton who was overseeing the audit was Tracy Greene, who happened to be an old professional friend of Daniel Blair, who had been pushing the DoD’s office inspector general team to toe the line with the auditing company.

In an email to Daniel Blair, Edward Blair (a person unrelated to his namesake), who was Ball’s supervisor, said the work produced by Grant Thornton was not up to standard.

“The bottom line is GT did not adequately document or support their conclusion about the reliability of the Marine Corps’ record-keeping,” he wrote. “The firm had not made sure that financial data in the Marine Corps’ computer systems was accurate,” and the inspector general’s team had to do”compensating work” as a result.

The failure of the Marine Corps to provide an audit could make it even more difficult for other areas of the military to take the steps necessary to receive a clean audit by the 2017 deadline set by Congress in 2009.

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May 212015

Source: Defense One

Parts of the Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.The Pentagon has released video, taken high above the South China Sea, of Chinese construction crews expanding reefs and building an airbase in the contested Spratly Islands.

The video shows dozens of ships surrounding the reefs, which are being enlarged as part of China’s efforts to declare sovereignty over the disputed region. One of the islands has the clear outline of a runway under construction.

The Pentagon characterizes the flight as a “maritime domain awareness” mission, said spokesman Col. Steven Warren.

“We have for some time, and will continue to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea,” Warren said.

The Pentagon says flights like this are routine and that the U.S. Navy planes flying them stay in international airspace, never passing directly over the islands.

Read More…

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