Political follies, corporate misdeeds, and more

Time for another roundup, but this one’s not about the plight of the economy.

George Orwell would’ve loved this one

Australia’s federal government has censored a report on plans to monitor the nation’s web browsing habits, citing grounds which are both Kafkaesque and Orwellian: Releasing the plan could cause “premature unnecessary debate.”


Here’s the gist from the Sydney Morning Herald:

The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians’ web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear the document could cause “premature unnecessary debate”.

The government has been consulting with the internet industry over the proposal, which would require ISPs to store certain internet activities of all Australians – regardless of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing – for law-enforcement agencies to access.

All parties to the consultations have been sworn to secrecy.

Industry sources have claimed that the controversial regime could go as far as collecting the individual web browsing history of every Australian internet user, a claim denied by the spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

The exact details of the web browsing data the government wants ISPs to collect are contained in the document released to this website under FoI.

Expect to see a lot of smiling veterans

The contributor who forwarded this to esnl is one of that company, as are a lot of Vietnam War vets.

While the Obama Administration has sent decidedly mixed signals on the issue of marijuana legalization, they got this one right. Dan Frosch covered it for the New York Times.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will formally allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans have sought for several years.

A department directive, expected to take effect next week, resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the 14 states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states.

The policy will not permit department doctors to prescribe

marijuana. But it will address the concern of many patients who use the drug that they could lose access to their prescription pain medication if caught.

Under department rules, veterans can be denied pain medications if they are found to be using illegal drugs. Until now, the department had no written exception for medical marijuana.

This has led many patients to distrust their doctors, veterans say. With doctors and patients pressing the veterans department for formal guidance, agency officials began drafting a policy last fall.


The new, written policy applies only to veterans using medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

Andrew Breitbart: Malice in Blunderland

Media Matters for America has compiled a compendium of the lies promulgated by Andrew Breitbart, the dime store Goebbels who seems intent on fomenting race war in the United States.

He’s the fellow who maliciously edited a compassionate speech by Shirley Sherrod into what he and the other Neocon hacks and useful idiots portrayed as “reverse racism.”

He’s also the promoter-in-chief of the fraudulent tapes that destroyed ACORN, the one organization in this country which had been genuinely effective in mobilizing the minority vote.

The list of pseudo-scandals is here.

Did the corporocrats know they were selling death?

And to diabetics, whose health is always precarious?

There’s evidence indicating that one major pharmaceutical did just that, peddling a questionable drug to diabetics, a group whose health is always precarious.

Lea Yu reports for FairWarning:

In 1999, a study by the drugmaker SmithKline Beecham strongly suggested that its diabetes drug Avandia increased the risk of heart problems.

But rather than reporting its findings to federal regulators or publishing them, the company, now known as GlaxoSmithKline, spent the next 11 years covering up any trace of the study, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

“This was done for the U.S. business, way under the radar,” SmithKline executive Dr. Martin I. Freed said  in a March 29, 2001 email message. “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK.”

The new documents raise questions about whether experts at the Food and Drug Administration are missing out on critical information as they decide on Tuesday and Wednesday if Avandia is safe enough to stay on the market.

Meanwhile, word came Tuesday that Glaxo has agreed to a $460 million settlement with about 10,000 plaintiffs who claim that the company hid the drug’s increased chance for heart attack and stroke, Bloomberg reported. In May, Glaxo settled about 700 other cases for $60 million. At least 3,000 Avandia cases are still pending, and Glaxo will face its first trial in a federal court in Pennsylvania this October.

After Avandia’s heart risks became public in 2007, Glaxo officials admitted that they had known of the issue since 2005 and reported their findings to the FDA. The new documents, however, suggest that the company was aware of the problem as soon as it introduced the drug.

Australia tackles those ectomorphic models

Social Psychology Eye is a website that looks at phenomena through the lens of the social psychologist, looking at ways we’re manipulated by folks who know just which buttons to push, even if the consumer is harmed in the process.

In a culture where folks are bombarded with clever messages, created by very intelligent people using all the tools academia and corporate research can provide, our young are simultaneously urged to consume mass quantities of fattening food and to pare their bodies to the bone.

Australia is tackling half of this deadly duo, as the website notes:

Designers will no longer be able to hire models with a body mass index that is deemed dangerously low because the Australian fashion industry is preparing to ban skinny models from catwalks and magazines. The new body-image standards will not only influence fashion industry but might also play a significant role in changing the way ordinary people see themselves, especially for teenage girls.

There is now growing empirical support for the proposition that idealized portrayals of women in the Western media have a negative impact upon how adolescent girls and adult women see themselves. In one major American survey of over 500 adolescent girls aged 9–16, nearly 70% believed magazine pictures influenced their idea of the ideal body shape, and 47% of the same sample wished to lose weight as a result. Body image is central to adolescent girls’ self-definition, because they have been socialized to believe that appearance is an important basis for self-evaluation and for evaluation by others. However, the media—magazines, TV, films, advertising, music videos—not only emphasize that female self-worth should be based on appearance, but present a powerful cultural ideal of female beauty that is becoming increasingly unattainable. For example, the body size of women in the media is often more than 20% underweight—exceeding a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa of 15% underweight (DSM-IV-TR: American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Using an experimental method, Clay et al (2005) tested the impact of viewing ultra-thin and average-size female magazine models on body image and self-esteem among adolescent girls aged 11–16. They found that viewing ultra-thin or average-size models led to decreases in both body satisfaction and self-esteem in adolescent girls, with changes in self-esteem fully mediated by changes in body satisfaction. These findings demonstrate a causal effect of media images on body satisfaction, apparently spreading to global self-esteem, among girls in the age range over which these variables typically fall most markedly in Western cultures.

Now, about that fast, fattening “convenience” food. . .


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