Have certain parts of the Constitution become irrelevant, as a former Republican leader once told me at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing? At the time, I was told that demanding a Congressional declaration of war before invading Iraq, as Article I Section 8 of the Constitution requires, was unnecessary and anachronistic. Congress and the president then proceeded without a Constitutional declaration and the disastrous Iraq invasion was the result.
Last week, Obama administration officials made it clear that even the fig leaf of Congressional participation provided by the 2003 “authorization” to use force in Iraq was to be ignored as well. In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated clearly and repeatedly that the administration felt it was legally justified to use military force against Syria solely with “international permission”. Such “international permission” could come by way of the United Nations, NATO, or some other international body. Secretary Panetta then told Senator Sessions that depending on the situation, the administration would consider informing Congress of its decision and might even seek authorization after the fact.
While Senator Sessions expressed surprise at the casual audacity of Panetta in making this statement, in reality his was just a bluntly stated explanation of what has been, de facto, the case for many years. When President Obama committed the US military to a pre-emptive war against Libya last year, for example, Congress was kept completely out of the process. Likewise, military action in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and so on, proceed without a Congressional declaration. In fact, we haven’t had a proper, constitutional declaration of war since 1942, yet the US military has been engaged in Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, Bosnia, Liberia, Haiti, and Libya with only UN resolutions as the authority. Congress’s only role has been authorizing funds, which it always does without question, because one must “support the troops”.
Of course we should reserve our harshest criticism for Congress rather than the Administration. If the people’s branch of government abrogates its Constitutional authority to the Executive branch, who is to blame? Who is to blame that Congress as a body will not stand up and demand that the president treat the Constitution as more than an anachronistic piece of paper, or merely a set of aspirations and guidelines? The Constitution is the law of the land and for Congress to allow it to be flouted speaks as badly about Congress as it does about a president who seeks to do the flouting.
Just last week the administration announced that it would begin providing material support to the rebels who seek to overthrow the Syrian government. Was Congress involved in this decision to take sides in what may develop into a full-fledged civil war? And what of reports that US special forces may already be operating inside Syria? Still, Congress sits silently as its authority is undermined. Does anybody really wonder why approval numbers for Congress are so low?
Many of my colleagues who stood by as then-President Bush used the military as a kind of king’s army are now calling for Congress to act against this president for openly admitting that is his intent. I agree it is time for Congressional action in response to these attacks on our Constitution, but the solution is simple and Constitutional. The solution is simply voting to withhold funds, since Congress has the power of the purse. No money for undeclared wars!
- ‘Impeach Obama’ Bill: Use of military without Congress approval ‘high crime’ (rt.com)
- Obama Impeachment Bill Already in Congress (VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Coup D’etat: Pentagon & Obama Declare Congress Ceremonial (wrc559.com)
- Leon Panetta: Toady Of Tyranny (thecampofthesaints.org)
Israeli talk show personality and socialite wife of Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom has called for escalated bombing of Gaza and for the “passive residents” to be made to “suffer.”
Judy Nir Mozes Shalom, wrote on her Facebook page in Hebrew on Saturday:
I hope that at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting a decision will be accepted to enter Gaza and kill all those responsible for the nightmare that is happening in the south. It’s time even for the passive residents of Gaza to suffer the way the residents of the south are suffering.
Since Friday, Israeli bombing has killed more than 20 people in Gaza and injured dozens more, following an Israeli extrajudicial execution on Friday that set off retaliatory rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups. No Israelis have been. Today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on “both sides – all sides – to make every effort to restore calm.”
Nir Mozes Shalom’s Facebook post is followed by dozens of other comments by users, many of which support her violent sentiments. [... Hebrew]
Inbal Shalit, for example, responded, “We don’t need to attack Gaza, we need to spray and destroy Gaza!!!! The sooner the better.”
Shalit did not specify with what substance she wanted Gaza to be “sprayed.”
Judy Nir Mozes Shalom frequently takes part in hasbara efforts, including a recent meeting with a delegation from Zionist campaign group One Voice that included former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander.
- 5 killed, 46 injured in fourth day of Gaza airstrikes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Forces Open Fire at Gaza Funeral, Injure Five (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli attacks kill 12 Palestinians, wound 21 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
After three years of marriage Amani and Hussein Batran wanted a house of their own, somewhere to raise their two children, 4 year old Khalil and 3 year old Layali. They took out two loans from the bank and construction began. Now, three years later, the house is still unfinished and no new work has been done for over a year. One year ago, shortly after the Batran family moved into their nearly finished house, they received an order from the Israeli military forbidding further construction, followed seven months later by a demolition order. The reason given is that their house blocks the view of a camera mounted on the illegal segregation wall Israel has constructed inside of the West Bank.
The sight of glass-less windows and wires protruding from half-sanded walls speaks of dreams put on hold, a family living in limbo. The Batrani family has endured the bitter cold of this Palestinian winter with only plastic sheets covering their windows. The Israeli government considers installing glass a violation of the order to halt construction. Violating the order means risking imminent demolition of their home, so the family must make do with the inadequate plastic sheets.
They know their fate will likely be the same as Ahmed Jeyowi and his family, whether or not they obey the order to halt construction. Jeyowi’s home was demolished last month when around 50 Israeli soldiers stormed the house at 6 AM whilst Ahmed was drinking tea and preparing to work his land. The soldiers forced Ahmed’s wife and six children from their beds and gave the family no time to salvage their possessions before they demolished their home.
Ahmed has since been forced to send his wife and children to live with other family members whilst he lives on the ruined site which once was his home, now replaced by a tent provided by the Red Cross. Ahmed is left with no heating or lighting, no gas, no toilet, and insufficient bedding.
Idna has suffered considerably since the Israeli occupation, particularly due to the construction of the segregation wall and the theft of some 3,000 dunums of land since the second Intifada. Idhna is surrounded by the Israeli settlements of Adora and Telem to the northeast, a bypass road that runs through the northern parts of the town, and the segregation wall that borders Idna to the north and the west. There are currently 40 homes in Idna with demolition orders.
- Israeli demolition ‘displaces 120′ in Hebron village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Homes Destroyed, Lives Shattered: Criminal Displacement in Occupied Palestine (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- How about an Israeli destruction freeze? (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- UN Committee Demands Israel Stops House Demolitions Forthwith (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Syria’s information minister has blamed “terrorist gangs” for the massacre in the central city of Homs, describing the killings as part of plans to increase international pressure on the Damascus government.
Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said on Monday that terrorist groups carried out the massacre in the Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs to tarnish the image of the Syrian government.
“Terrorist gangs carried out the most horrible massacre in the Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs … in order to incite international reaction against Syria,” Adnan Mahmoud told AFP news agency.
The Syrian minister also accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting “armed terrorist gangs” operating in Syria and hold them responsible for the killings in the country.
“Some of the countries backing armed terrorist gangs, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are accomplices to the terrorism targeting the Syrian people… and bear responsibility for the bloodletting,” Mahmoud said.
At least 45 people, including women and children, were tortured and killed in Karm el-Zaytoun on Sunday night.
Relatives of a number of victims have announced that they were kidnapped by armed groups several months ago.
Opposition activists, however, have blamed the pro-government forces for the killings.
It is no consolation to the roughly one out of 600 families who lost their homes in the U.S. but Wall Street made a lot of money slicing and dicing mortgages it knew would implode, while hiding risks. Financial giants, like AIG, are still buzzing along and neither penalties or new laws will prevent a future crash, say financial analysts, because the risky business models have not really changed.
A similar Big Pharma bubble, leavened with risky blockbuster drugs that also blew up, is now bursting. Like Wall Street’s bundled high risk loans, the “tide” created by Big Pharma’s high risk drugs raised many ships during the 2000s from advertising, public relations and medical communication agencies to TV and radio stations, medical journals and doctor/pitchmen who shoveled in its marketing budgets. But now the joy ride is over and Pharma is shedding jobs and settling billions in claims without changing its risky business model, like Wall Street.
In Europe, governments are no longer willing to pay the high prices for drugs that they once did say published reports and some countries are drafting laws making drug makers “prove their drugs are effective or risk having them dropped from the coverage list, or covered at a lower rate.” Imagine!
Germany has already saved 1.9 billion euros in 2011 by refusing to pay higher prices for drugs unless they are clearly superior to existing medicines, and Pharma worries that other countries will also get tough and want scientific proof for drug effectiveness instead of marketing and spin. In the U.S. and elsewhere, a drug only needs to be superior to no drug (placebo) to be approved by regulators — yet “new” is conveyed as “better than any drug to date” in advertising. Some clinicians say Haldol, an inexpensive antipsychotic, and lithium, a similar affordable bipolar drug are better than blockbuster antipyschotics and bipolar drugs that created Pharma’s 2000 bubble.
Before the Vioxx scandal and major settlements over blockbuster drugs like Zyprexa, Bextra, Celebrex, Geodon and Seroquel, being a Pharma rep was probably the next best thing to working on Wall Street. Direct-to-consumer advertising did your pre-sell for you, and all you had to do was show up with your snappy Vytorin tote bag and samples case. Some Pharma reps had their own reception room with ice water, swivel chairs, and laptop ports at medical offices, and most waltzed in to see the doctor right in front of waiting and sick patients. (It didn’t hurt that reps were usually “hotties,” both men or women).
But, by 2011, the bloom had fallen off Pharma reps’ roses. The number of prescribers willing to see most reps fell almost 20 percent, the number refusing to see all reps increased by half, and eight million sales calls were “nearly impossible to complete,” reported ZS Associates. Blockbuster drugs that were found to be unsafe after their big sales push or even withdrawn altogether, did not help the reps’ credibility with doctors. After the aggressively marketed hormone therapy was linked to high incidences of cancer, stroke and heart attack, Wyeth (now Pfizer) announced it was eliminating 1,200 jobs and closing its Rouses Point, New York plant where Prempro products were manufactured.
As government and private insurers increasingly say, “You want us to cover what?” about expensive, dangerous drugs that are not even proven effective, Pharma bubble jobs are evaporating. Almost 20,000 jobs have vanished at AstraZeneca, Novartis and Pfizer in the last 12 months alone. (AstraZeneca scrapped 21,600 more since 2007). Meanwhile, Pharma is outsourcing more of its operations to poor countries.
Workers and people willing to be trial subjects are both a bargain in poor countries where many can’t understand drug risks or refuse them if they did (and most can’t afford the very drugs they help sell). In January the Argentinian Federation of Health Professionals accused drug maker GlaxoSmithKline of misleading participants and pressuring poor families into joining a trial for the Synflorix vaccine, which the company says protects against bacterial pneumonia and meningitis, reported CNN. In 2010, 10 deaths occurred during Pfizer and AstraZeneca drug trials at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre which was ironically built for survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, reports MSNBC. 3,878 workers perished in Bhopal when chemicals leaked at a Union Carbide pesticide plant.
Outsourcing drug manufacturing to cheap venues also contributes to Pharma’s cascade of “quality control” problems in which drugs are mislabeled, contaminated or otherwise made dangerous. It is speculated that Johnson & Johnson’s CEO William Weldon “was pushed to retire because of all of the quality issues at McNeil as well as with the company’s hip implant products, which have resulted in a raft of litigation,” reports FiercePharma.
Like the Wall Street bubble, the Pharma bubble was built on products that industry, but not the public, knew were risky, sold for quick profits. Now regulators are examining some of these “assets” more closely and with disturbing findings. The FDA now warns that bestselling statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor, even approved for children, are linked to memory loss and diabetes associated with. The equally well selling proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec for acid reflux disease (GERD) are now believed to increase the risk of bone fractures by 30 percent.
In March, the FDA even rejected a Merck drug that combines the active drug in Lipitor with the active drug in Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that Forbes calls Son of Vytorin. Vytorin (the father) was advertised to treat both food and family “sources of cholesterol” until results from a study that Merck and Schering-Plough appeared to withhold from regulators showed the drug had no effect on the buildup of plaque in the arteries (believed to correlate with heart attack and stroke). There was such a gap between marketing and science, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the General Accounting Office to investigate why the FDA was approving “drugs that appear to have little to no effect in protecting lives and increasing health.”
Yet even as clouds develop over Pharma’s top-selling drugs, some say the FDA is too hard on new drugs, not too easy. “The FDA is impeding useful innovations in the U.S.,” says former FDA deputy commissioner Scott Gottlieb in the a Wall Street Journal oped and lagging behind other countries. Former FDA commissioner Andrew Von Eschenbach, also writing in the WSJ, agrees. The FDA should improve U.S. drug competitiveness by allowing drugs “to be approved based on safety, with efficacy to be proven in later trials,” while the public is already taking the drugs. Isn’t that what’s happening now?
Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published in April 2012 by Amherst, New York-based Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: email@example.com.
- The drugs don’t work for AstraZeneca (independent.co.uk)
- AstraZeneca to axe 7,000 jobs as revenues slump (independent.co.uk)
- AstraZeneca appoints new chairman for troubled times (independent.co.uk)
- Shorting Candidate AstraZeneca – Seekingalpha.com (seekingalpha.com)
A rights group and a law firm are set to take legal action against British Foreign Secretary William Hague over his alleged the contribution of intelligence in assisting US assassination drone strikes in Pakistan.
The London-based charity Reprieve and the law firm Leigh Day & Co. confirmed on Monday that they will issue formal proceedings at the High Court on behalf of Noor Khan, a Pakistani man whose father was killed by a US strike.
The law firm says it has credible evidence that Hague oversaw a policy of passing British intelligence to American forces planning attacks in Pakistan.
Lawyers claim that civilian staff at Britain’s electronic listening agency (GCHQ) could be liable as “secondary parties to murder” as they provided “locational intelligence” to the CIA in directing its drone attacks.
Malik Daud Khan was killed by a drone strike in northwest Pakistan in March 2011 while attending a gathering of elders. More than 40 other people were also killed in the attack.
“What has the government got to hide? If they’re not supplying information as part of the CIA’s illegal drone war, why not tell us?” Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said.
The British Foreign Office and GCHQ have refused to comment on the case, saying they could not speak about ongoing legal proceedings or intelligence matters.
The US regularly carries out attacks by unmanned aircraft on Pakistan’s tribal regions, claiming the airstrikes target militants allegedly affiliated to the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist groups.
This is while locals say civilians are the main victims of the strikes. Pakistanis say drone attacks violate their sovereignty.
GAZA CITY – Israeli airstrikes killed two Islamic Jihad militants and three civilians on Monday, bringing the death toll since Friday to 23 people, medics and Ma’an’s correspondent said.
An airstrike on Monday afternoon in Beit Lahiya killed Muhammad al-Hasoumi, 65, and his daughter, 30, medical spokesperson in Gaza Abu Salmiya said.
Earlier, hospital officials said a 15-year-old schoolboy was killed in a separate air strike during the day on Monday. Nayif Shaaban Qarmout was killed in Beit Lahiya, north Gaza, Ma’an’s correspondent said.
Witnesses said that the 15-year-old was playing with friends in a play ground near his school when an Israeli missile hit the area.
Five others were injured and taken to Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
Early Monday, two Islamic Jihad militants, Raafat Abu Eid, 24, and Hamadah Salman Abu Mutlaq, 24, were killed in Khan Younis, Ma’an’s correspondent said. Abu Eid was killed when an airstrike targeted a vehicle he was traveling in.
Two other militants sustained injuries and a female passerby was also injured in the attack.
Abu Mutlaq, 24, was killed near a mosque in a village east of Khan Younis after warplanes fired at him. Three others were injured and taken to hospital for treatment.
Earlier, Israeli airstrikes had hit two homes in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring 33 civilians, most of whom were women and children, Abu Salmiya said.
Most sustained moderate injuries, with one critically injured, and were transferred to hospital.
A 17-year-old girl and another man were also injured as Israeli missiles struck a home in Gaza City, Abu Salmiya said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said aircraft had carried out six strikes on Monday. At least 20 rockets have been fired at Israel on Monday, she said.
The army targeted “a weapons storage facility and four rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as a rocket launching site in the southern Gaza Strip,” a statement said.
Israel’s army denied, however, that there had been any military activity in the northern Gaza Strip at the time of 15-year-old Nayif Shaaban Qarmout’s death.
Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said late Sunday that neighboring Egypt was working to stop the violence and was consulting with militant factions but added that Israel would have to first stop its air strikes.
The latest round of violence flared on Friday when an Israeli airstrike killed two militant leaders in Gaza.
Israel accused them of planning a cross-border attack via Egypt, although an Egyptian official said Sunday that the Sinai is “fully under control.”
“This is an attempt by Israel to give justification for the offensive against Gaza,” he said.
On Sunday, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi strongly condemned Israel’s latest military escalation.
“The Israeli government has acted with impunity for its unilateral violations for far too long. The illegal, cruel siege of the Gaza Strip, along with all other violations of international law must come to an end.”
The PLO official called on the international community to take serious measures to halt Israel’s policy of extrajudicial executions and the continued killing of innocent civilians.
Reuters contributed to this report
- Israeli attacks kill 12 Palestinians, wound 21 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Forces Open Fire at Gaza Funeral, Injure Five (alethonews.wordpress.com)