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One of the subplots behind the negotiations over the just passed stimulus bill is that, as Steven Pearlstein points outin the Huffington Post, the drug and medical equipment manufacturers joined forces with the disease advocacy groups ("like Easter Seals and the American Cancer Society") to attempt to gut the stimulus bill's money for research on the comparative effectiveness of treatments. Those groups don't want us to know whether some expensive treatments are worse or no better than cheaper treatments. They united to attempt to remove money for "comparative effectiveness research" from the stimulus package, and almost succeeded.

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Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 12:48 PM PST

Excellent FAQ on gaza conflict

by stephen soldz

Stephen Shalom has an indispensable Question and Answer on Gaza over at ZNet. It is too long to post here (it prints out at 36 pages), so make sure to go and read it. As with anything written by Stephen, it is impeccably documented with 138 references.

The Q & A provides detailed discussion of most issues raised by the conflict. It could be titled Everything You Want To Know But Were Afraid To Ask.  It will constitute an essential contribution for future discussion. It would be nice if those who disagree would respond in kind, so that future discussion could be fact-based.

Read it here. You can also download it as a pdf here..

Two excerpts after the fold:

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Bioethicist Steven Miles -- author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror  -- sends us this extremely moving talk he gave to St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. Miles deals here with the moral challenges posed by torture and the ways in which torture affects all of us by destroying community.

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Recent revelations raise questions about the role of health providers at US detention facilities. Thus, the Washington Post reported that detainees are being involuntarily drugged. Almerindo Ojeda provides additional evidence that health providers at Guantánamo aided interrogators to the detriment of detainees.

More after the break.

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The Sunday New York Times brings new revelations of the Bush administration's ever-evolving legal rationale for torture. Like the hydra, lopping off one legal argument only leads to another. The only thing that remains constant is that the administration can do whatever it wants to those in CIA custody.

Today's revelation is of a set of letters between Senator Wyden and the Department of "Justice" on the legal basis for the CIA's "enhanced interrogation," aka torture, program. The letters seek to clarify the reasoning and impact of President Bush's executive order last summer that reauthorized CIA torture.

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As we contemplate the fifth anniversary of the unleashing of this horror which has cost so many their lives, let us also remember the considerable psychic toll of this act of aggression and destruction. Millions of Iraqis suffer the agonies of loss of loved ones. Uncounted numbers suffer the loss of their homes and communities which, more even than lodging, provide anchors of stability in life. And virtually all Iraqis have lost that sense of progress and hope that makes life’s pains and agonies bearable. Long after the brutal contests for power between rival factions have been resolved through dialog or wound down through exhaustion, Iraqis will be struggling to put together their lives, to create a world in which daily life is not unimaginable, and in which hope for the future exists.

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The Swedish Journal of Psychology has covered the role of psychologists, and the American Psychological Association  in Bush administration interrogations. It includes an overview article by the Journal's editor, Eva Brita Järnefors and answered to question posed by her to APA and myself. The APA questions were answered by Rhea Farberman. I also answered a set of questions. With permission, I posted all three articles in English here. My original response was too long and was cut by the editor. I thus posted my original response after my published response. The original of all three articles is available as a pdf here.

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On Monday I wrote about the unprecedented attempt by Bank Julius Baer to censor the Wikileak.org web site by  having a San Francisco judge issue a restraining order telling the web site's domain name registrar to stop Wikileak.org from pointing to its actual IP address, 88.80.13.160. This was the first known instance of a court shutting down an entire web site. One Kafkaesque feature of this omnibus order is that the court order and other materials were ordered to be emailed to Wikileaks. But with the domain name Wikileaks.org abolished, no mail sent to them could get to anyone. I'll update some of the developments since then.

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One of the most important web sites in recent months has been Wikileaks.org.  Wikileaks has upset the Chinese government enough that they are attempting to censor it, as is the Thai military junta. Wikileaks is now under attack from a censorship effort by a California court.

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Wikileaks has obtained the long kept secret Rules of Engagement  (ROE) for U.S. troops in Iraq. This document sets out the rules guiding authorized U.S. troop actions in that occupation. While the Wikileaks document dates  from 2005, as these ROEs generally change slowly the rules for today are likely similar, though we can't be sure, of course, to what extent more recent ROE's differ.

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A major battle is shaping up in California where a coalition is working to remove health providers from participating in military and CIA interrogations. I have written recently about efforts in the California legislature to get health professionals, psychologists included, out of interrogation of enemy combatants. Senator Ridley-Thomas has introduced a resolution, SJR 19, that would request the military and CIA to remove all California licenses health providers from involvement in interrogations.  [For arguments in favor of the Resolution, see the Physicians for Human Rights letterto the Senate committee.]

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Last night we had news that the CIA, in 2005, destroyed videotapes of the "interrogation", aka, torture, of two  al Qaeda detainees.  One of these detainees  has been identified as  Abu Zubaydah. Of special relevance is that, according to Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair last summer, Zubaydah was tortured by psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

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