After US President Barack Obama entered office in 2009 pledging transparency and open government, it was a refreshing wind of change from the locked-down Bush years. The reality, however, has fallen dramatically short of the promise.
10. White House seizes phone records of Associated Press reporters
During a two-month period in 2012, the US Justice Department seized telephone records from some 100 journalists at AP offices in New York, Washington and Connecticut without providing any explanation. The government waited until May 2013 to inform the global news agency of the unprecedented surveillance, which naturally sparked a wave of consternation and not a little apprehension throughout the media world. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a letter addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder.
AFP Photo / Jean AyissiAFP Photo / Jean Ayissi
9. Emmy-award winning reporter accuses government of bugging her laptop
In her book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” former CBS anchor Sharyl Attkisson says she was informed that one of the US government’s intelligence agencies “discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.” Further inspection of the laptop revealed classified US documents that were “buried deep” in her computer. The reason for the “plant,” according to her unidentified source, “was probably to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”
8. News correspondent’s emails monitored
In May 2013, Fox News correspondent James Rosen was accused under the Espionage Act of possibly being a “co-conspirator” in the 2009 release of classified information on North Korea’s nuclear plans based on interviews with his Washington source. It was revealed that the US government monitored Rosen’s emails, a clandestine activity that would seem to have little in common with the spirit of a free press. The charges came at a very peculiar time. Republican Senator Marco Rubio reminded that Rosen had been aggressively reporting on the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, which saw the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens killed during a massive protest. “The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi.” Was not-so-subtle pressure being exerted on Rosen to back off on Benghazi?
7. Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’
Following a wave of whistleblowing activities inside government agencies, an “Insider Threat Program” is being organized inside government agencies that “require all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In this atmosphere, instead of treating the disease of rampant intrusiveness of the sort revealed last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government hopes to merely hide the symptoms of its abusive powers. Since 2009, seven government employees, including Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the media. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said some government employees have allegedly been told they could lose their jobs for talking to reporters, adding, “day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling.”
6. Obama, the stage-managed president
Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s latest novelty in the field of photojournalism of handing out press release-style pictures taken by his own staff photographers. These official photographs do little to capture history and are “little more than propaganda,” according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Past presidential administrations were less restrictive about taking photographs, putting into doubt once again Obama’s claim that he aims for “the most transparent administration” in White House history.
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)
In July, 40 news organizations reminded President Obama in a letter that any attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear is a form of “censorship.” The candid communication provided a picture of the increasingly repressive atmosphere US journalists must contend with when attempting to provide coverage on stories connected to the government: “Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely: Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in September that members of the White House press-pool have complained that Obama media officials demand changes to their stories before they are disseminated to the public, allowing the White House to put a positive spin on stories.
AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb
4. Bye-bye military embeds
As the Obama administration has opened its latest military offensive, this time against the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, only a few photographs are trickling out of the war zone. Gone are the days when journalists were embedded in the military, documenting conflicts side-by-side soldiers as the action was happening. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from,” complained AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.
Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)
3. Guantanamo Bay information blackout
Despite early campaign promises to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center, the facility is not only still open but the Obama administration is keeping the public in the dark as the military tribunal against some 175 alleged terrorists enters its closing stages. Photo and video coverage is outright forbidden. This is strange considering that even the Nuremburg hearings against Nazi leaders – who killed far more people than Al-Qaeda – permitted the media a front-row seat at the international hearings. It is also a very unfortunate and telling footnote to the American claim that it wants to spread democracy around the world.
Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)
2. Investigation against NYT’s reporter James Risen
Following the publication of James Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was hit with felony charges for allegedly revealing classified information involving Iran’s nuclear program. Department of Justice lawyer Robert A. Parker, arguing that the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist should be forced to testify in the trial of Sterling, said there’s “no [reporter’s] privilege in the first place.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen, who now faces imprisonment for refusing to identify his source. “We can only hope now that the government will not seek to have him held in contempt for doing nothing more than reporting the news and keeping his promises,” his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, told the New York Times.
AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb
1. Hunting season for whistleblowers
The Obama administration has filed seven cases under the Espionage Act, the latest one against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this June. Before Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009, there had been only three cases of the government using the Espionage Act to prosecute government officials for blowing the whistle on questionable activities. “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect,” Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security issues for the New York Times, told the Washington Post. “People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now.”
By Barbara Boland
Over 214,000 doctors won’t participate in the new plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) analysis of a new survey by Medical Group Management Association shows. That number of 214,524, estimated by American Action Forum, is through May 2014, but appears to be growing due to plans that force doctors to take on burdensome costs. It’s also about a quarter of the total number of 893,851 active professional physicians reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In January, an estimated 70% of California’s physicians were not participating in Covered California plans.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Reimbursements under Obamacare are at bottom-dollar – they are even lower than Medicare reimbursements, which are already significantly below market rates. “It is estimated that where private plans pay $1.00 for a service, Medicare pays $0.80, and ACA exchange plans are now paying about $0.60,” a study by the think-tank American Action Forum finds. “For example, Covered California plans are setting their plan fee schedules in line with that of Medi-Cal-California’s Medicaid Program-which means exchange plans are cutting provider reimbursement by up to 40 percent.”
2. Doctors are expected to take on more patients to make up for the lost revenue, but that’s not happening, because primary care doctors already have more patients than they can handle. “Furthermore, physicians are worried that exchange plan patients will be sicker than the average patient because they may have been without insurance for extended periods of time, and therefore will require more of the PCPs time at lower pay,” says the study.
The study also points to two reasons that doctors might not get paid at all:
3. An MGMA study indicates that 75% of ACA patients that had seen doctors had chosen plans with high deductibles. Given that most of the patients are low-income, doctors are concerned that the patients cannot meet the deductibles and they will get stuck with the bill.
4. HHS requires that insurers cover customers for an additional 90 days after they have stopped paying their premiums: the insurer covers the first 30 – but, it’s up to the doctor to recoup payment for the last 60 days. This is the number one reason providers are opting to not participate in the exchange plans. Currently, about a million people have failed to pay their premiums and had their plans canceled.
So, Obamacare is asking doctors to take on sicker patients for less money, with the risk of not getting paid at all? No wonder doctors are running from these plans!
Coughing, sneezing spread of Ebola, flu nearly identical, according to CDC documents
Ebola spreads through coughing and sneezing much like influenza, which most experts agree is spread “mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to documents by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A new CDC flyer describing the “droplet spread” of Ebola, which “happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person,” is nearly identical to the CDC’s description of influenza which states “most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.”
“Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person,” the CDC Ebola flyer states, which was released on Monday. “Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet (1 meter) from one person to another. A person might also get infected by touching a surface or object that has germs on it and then touching their mouth or nose.”
“Droplet spread diseases include: plague, Ebola.”
This flyer superseded a previous document on Ebola transmission by the CDC, dated Oct. 16, which said nothing about the droplet spread of Ebola, instead claiming that “Ebola is not spread through the air.”
It appears the CDC is backtracking from its prior statement and is now slowing admitting that Ebola can spread through coughing and sneezing.
Similarly, in another document entitled “How Flu Spreads,” the CDC reveals the droplet spread of the flu is very similar to that of Ebola.
“Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” the CDC states. “These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
“Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.”
So, in summary, the droplet spread of Ebola is almost identical to that of influenza, according to the CDC, which also released new guidelines on Monday stating that people are at risk for contracting Ebola if they are “in the same room for a brief period of time” with an Ebola patient.
“The new guidelines also list ‘fatigue’ as a potential Ebola symptom, while individuals who had direct contact (such as a hand shake) with an Ebola victim prior to symptom onset in the victim are also now considered a risk, suggesting that the CDC is entertaining the possibility that the virus can be transmitted even from victims who have yet to display symptoms,” Paul Joseph Watson wrote.
And it’s interesting to note the CDC’s “How Flu Spreads” web page also states “you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick.”
U.S. Army scientists demonstrated that the airborne transmission of Ebola was possible “at lower temperature and humidity than that normally present in sub-Saharan Africa” in a 1995 study, and they said the high temperatures and humidity present in Africa “may have been a factor limiting aerosol transmission of Ebola virus in the African epidemics.”