In Arbitration, a ‘Privatization of the Justice System’ – By JESSICA NAUDZIUNAS and POH SI TENG on  November 1, 2015.


When she bought her car, Tinker Martin-Bowen signed a contract with an arbitration clause that took away her right to a jury trial. Only later did she realize just what she had given up.

Deborah L. Pierce, an emergency room doctor in Philadelphia, was optimistic when she brought a sex discrimination claim against the medical group that had dismissed her. Respected by colleagues, she said she had a stack of glowing evaluations and evidence that the practice had a pattern of denying women partnerships.

She began to worry, though, once she was blocked from court and forced into private arbitration.

Presiding over the case was not a judge but a corporate lawyer, Vasilios J. Kalogredis, who also handled arbitrations. When Dr. Pierce showed up one day for a hearing, she said she noticed Mr. Kalogredis having a friendly coffee with the head of the medical group she was suing.

During the proceedings, the practice withheld crucial evidence, including audiotapes it destroyed, according to interviews and documents. Dr. Pierce thought things could not get any worse until a doctor reversed testimony she had given in Dr. Pierce’s favor. The reason: Male colleagues had “clarified” her memory.

When Mr. Kalogredis ultimately ruled against Dr. Pierce, his decision contained passages pulled, verbatim, from legal briefs prepared by lawyers for the medical practice, according to documents.

“It took away my faith in a fair and honorable legal system,” said Dr. Pierce, who is still paying off $200,000 in legal costs seven years later.

If the case had been heard in civil court, Dr. Pierce would have been able to appeal, raising questions about testimony, destruction of evidence and potential conflicts of interest.

But arbitration, an investigation by The New York Times has found, often bears little resemblance to court.

Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.

Beware the Fine Print

This is the second installment in a three-part series examining how clauses buried in tens of millions of contracts have deprived Americans of one of their most fundamental constitutional rights: their day in court. Read Part I »

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

Removing the Ability to Sue

A New York Times study of the increasing use of arbitration clauses in contracts, which has effectively forced millions of people to sign away their right to go to court.

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Las Vegas Man Admits He Lied About How Harry Reid Injured His Eye – By Margaret Hartmann April 27, 2015 12:57 a.m.


Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is clearly hiding something. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is clearly hiding something. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The conservative blogosphere has been trying to figure out how Harry Reid injured his eye, since the 75-year-old Senate Majority Leader’s claim that he fell while exercising is clearly just a cover story. Earlier this month, blogger John Hinderaker reported that a source, Easton Elliott, told him that Reid’s brother Larry showed up drunk to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeeting on New Year’s Eve and admitted that he’d beaten up a relative. As the story spread online, Elliott appeared on Laura Ingraham’s radio show and chatted off-air with Rush Limbaugh, but now he tells the Las Vegas Sun that he made the whole thing up. His real name is Larry Pfeifer, and he just wanted to make a point about the lack of journalistic standards in certain partisan media outlets. “It was just so outrageous,” he said. “The fact that someone can say something completely false that can destroy somebody’s life, it’s just wrong. Where’s the moral compass?” He makes a great point – and more importantly, this basically confirms that Reid was smacked around for sassing some mobsters.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/04/las-vegas-lied-harry-reid-eye-injury.html

Don’t Be Surprised When Conspiracy Nuts Act Like Conspiracy Nuts – By Jesse Singal June 18, 2014 3:57 p.m.


The urge to ridicule all the conspiracy theorizing surrounding the capture of alleged Beghazi-attack mastermind Ahmed Abu Khattala is understandable.As Brian Beutler explains, some folks with relatively big megaphones appear to be publicly arguing that the U.S. government had Kkhattala in its sights forever, but only chose to pounce now, when doing so could give a boost to Hillary Clinton’s political ambitions. Makes perfect sense! But it is a useful example of how this stuff works.

It’s easy to fall into the head-slapping mind-set of “How the hell could anyone think that?” given how ridiculous a notion this is. But this is a misreading of how people process information that assumes there’s such a thing as an “objective” fact that everyone will receive the same way. Conspiracy theorists really do view the world differently, at least when it comes to their obsessions.

We all suffer from confirmation bias, from only heeding information that supports our preconceived ideas, but conspiracy theorists are plagued by a particularly virulent form of it. Whatever new information comes in is in effect melted down and poured into a mold shaped like the theory in question. If you’ve ever interacted with these folks, you’ll know what I mean. The sentence “I hadn’t thought of that — it sorta punches a hole in my theory, doesn’t it?” doesn’t really exist. Any new evidence they come across, no matter how debunking it may seem, will somehow, often through feats of mind-melting logical contortion, be put to use in service of the original conspiracy theory.

So, notwithstanding the separate conversation of the political opportunism on display during this “controversy,” that’s what’s going on here, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The psychology of conspiracy theorizing is a fascinating subject — and a frustrating one given how hard these theories are to dislodge —  so I’d recommend Jonathan Kay’s book Among the Truthers for a good rundown, Kurt Eichenwald’s recent Newsweek article for a summary of how conspiracy theories make it harder for our elected officials to do their jobs, and Joe Keohane’s 2010 Boston Globe article for an explanation of howfacts can backfire.

 

Article continues:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/06/conspiracy-nuts-often-act-like-conspiracy-nuts.html

Bribes, Favors, and a Billion-Dollar Yacht: Inside the Crazy World of the Men Who Do Oil Companies’ Dirty Work – —By Tim McDonnell | Wed May 14, 2014 6:00 AM EDT


Journalist Ken Silverstein gained unprecedented access to a hyper-reclusive cabal of powerful billionaires.

Men walk past an illegal oil refinery in Nigeria, one of the countries where US companies rely on fixers to arrange deals. 

When big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron set their sights on a prime new oil reserve in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, the first phone call they make usually isn’t to the government office putting it up for sale. Instead, they ring up one of their contacts in a small, elite group of so-called “fixers,” a shady cabal of a few dozen well-connected billionaires who hold the strings on the market for the world’s most valuable commodity. The fixer gets a fat fee and a straightforward assignment: Do whatever you need to do to get us those oil rights.

Unlike the US, where oil rights are held by individual property owners and leased to mining companies, in most developing nations oil rights are held by the government, and getting them means having a personal relationship with the right ministers—and knowing how to grease their palms. Since the mid-1900s, oil companies have relied on fixers to do their dirty work, crisscrossing the globe with a Rolodex stacked with the calling cards of corrupt heads of state. In the end, we get cheap oil, oil companies get plausible deniability, and the leaders of some of the world’s most oppressive regimes get astronomically rich.

Ken Silverstein is a veteran journalist who has spent the last several years finagling his way into the traditionally hyper-reclusive world of oil fixers, gaining unprecedented access to many key players and amassing a portfolio of outrageous tales of bribery, exploitation, and obscene wealth. His book, The Secret World of Oil, hit shelves yesterday, and I spoke to him about how US companies continue to skirt anti-bribery laws in the high-stakes pursuit of oil.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/exxon-chevron-oil-fixers-silverstein

13 Conservatives Who Think Benghazi Is Obama’s Watergate – —By Dana Liebelson| Tue May. 6, 2014 3:00 AM PDT


Appearing Sunday on CNN, Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who joined with Bob Woodward to break the Watergate story, said there’s no comparison: “This is not Watergate, or anything resembling Watergate. Watergate was a massive criminal conspiracy led by a criminal president of the United States for almost the whole of his administration. We’re talking total apples and oranges here.” He added, “This is about an ideological scorched-earth politics that prevails in Washington.”​

President Richard Nixon AP Photo

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about Benghazi, and House Speaker John Boehner created a select committee to mount yet another investigation of the 2012 attack on the US facility in Libya. It’s the latest effort by House Republicans to squeeze a scandal out of the tragedy. While the GOP’s relentless Benghazi crusade continues, there has been an outpouring of rhetorical excesses, with some conservatives going as far as likening the Obama administration’s response to the attack to the Nixon administration’s Watergate scandal.

Frank Rich at New York magazine wrote last year that Republicans are pushing the Watergate analogy because they believe Benghazi could be a “gateway both to the president’s impeachment and to a GOP victory over Hillary in 2016.” But they’re running into a problem, Rich noted, namely that “no one to the left of Sean Hannity seriously believes that the Obama White House was trying to cover up a terrorist attack.” The Huffington Post observes that Benghazi is hardly the first Obama administration affair that has driven Republicans to reference Watergate. They’ve wielded this analogy to decry Fast and Furious, the Solyndra controversy, the so-called IRS scandal, and the Department of Homeland Security’s handling of Freedom of Information Act requests. And Republicans have dredged up the Watergate metaphor repeatedly since 2012.

Here are 13 conservatives who have compared Benghazi to Watergate, in chronological order:

1. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): “I think this is an issue—Benghazi-gate is the right term for this. This is very, very serious, probably more serious than Watergate.” —Fox News, October 1, 2012​

2. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.):

3. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh: “What we’re watching here today is the equivalent of Woodward and Bernstein helping Nixon cover up Watergate. The mainstream media is Woodward and Bernstein. Watergate is Benghazi.​” The Rush Limbaugh Show, October 24, 2012

4. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “You know what, somebody the other day said to me that this is as bad as Watergate. Well, nobody died in Watergate. But this is either a massive cover-up or an incompetence that is not acceptable service to the American people.” —CBS’s Face the Nation, October 28, 2012​

5. Fox News contributor Bill O’Reilly: “Richard Nixon denied he had anything to do with a low-level political break-in. If the press had not been aggressive, Nixon would have gotten away with it. And certainly the break-in at the Watergate Hotel was not nearly as important as failing to define a terrorist attack that killed four Americans. President Obama…should have given us the facts weeks ago. He chose not to.” Fox News, November 15, 2012​

6. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa): “I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is.” —TheWashington Times, December 12, 2012​

7. Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee: “This is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover up what really happened in Watergate. But, I remind you—as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die.” —The Mike Huckabee Show, May 6, 2013

8. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “I want to keep pushing because the bond that has been broken between those who serve us in harm’s way and the government they serve is huge—and to me every bit as damaging as Watergate.” The Mike Huckabee Show, May 6, 2013

9. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas):

10. Former Nixon adviser Pat Buchanan: “The break in at Watergate was a stupid burglary, political burglary, nobody got killed. This is a horrible atrocity. Killing an American ambassador; killing another diplomat; two Navy SEALs; destroying and burning that compound. Driving us out of a part of a country we have liberated. But you are right, the real thing here is the cover-up.” —Fox News, May 9, 2013​

11. Rep. Louie Gohmert, (R-Texas): “This administration is engaged in a Watergate-style cover-up, and once we get to the bottom, people in this administration need to know once they’ve been part of doing this kind of cover-up, they just need to know that people went to prison for participating in the cover-up.” —WND Radio, August 3, 2013​

12. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.): “I will say this to my dying day, I know people don’t realize it now, but that’s going to go down in history as the greatest cover-up. And I’m talking about compared to the Pentagon Papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate, and the rest of them. This was a cover-up in order for people right before the election to think that there was no longer a problem with terrorism in the Middle East.” —KFAQ, February 3, 2014

13. Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer: “[The email is] to me the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes.” —Fox News, May 1, 2014

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/05/benghazi-watergate-republicans-obama

Who are the 55 bodies buried at the Dozier school? 15 April 2014 Last updated at 20:24 ET – By Kate Dailey BBC News Magazine, Marianna, Florida


VIDEO: Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle wants justice for the children who died at the Dozier school

Forensic anthropologists are disinterring the remains of children at a Florida reform school. Former students hope the dig will provide answers about alleged child abuse within the school’s walls.

Within the past year, anthropologists working for the University of South Florida (USF) have exhumed the remains of 55 children on the grounds of the now-shuttered Arthur G Dozier School for Boys.

The boys were buried in simple coffins in the Boot Hill cemetery section of the school. The remains were recovered along with items like belt buckles, buttons, and in one case, a marble.

From 1900-2011, the Dozier School in Marianna, Florida, was a state-run reform school for boys who found themselves in trouble – whether stealing cars, skipping school, or in the case of some children as young as one, needing an orphanage when none was available.

Young boys with administrators. Courtesty of State Archives of Florida/Florida Memory_Image DSB0310
Children at the School for Boys pose with administrators in this photo from the 1950s

In the past decade, hundreds of men have come forward alleging abuse and neglect on the part of the school – specifically, horrible beatings given out at a small white building on campus.

“There was blood on the walls, blood on the mattress I was on, blood on the pillow,” says Alan Sexton of his time in the building the boys called the White House.

“It smelled to high heaven. They turned on a great big industrial fan to keep people from passing by to hear the screams.”

Sexton was a student at the Dozier School in 1957. He was only taken to the White House once, and given 37 licks for making unapproved phone calls. But other men, like Jerry Cooper, the president of an advocacy group called White House Boys, reportly received over 100 lashes

It was the stories told by the White House Boys, who mainly attended the school during the 1950s and 1960s, that drew attention to Dozier and helped attract Erin Kimmerle, a USF forensic anthropologist, to the site.

Specifically, she was drawn to the stories of family members desperate to locate their loved ones’ remains.

Article continues:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26980611

Toyota to recall nearly 6.5 million vehicles for steering, other faults – BY CHANG-RAN KIM TOKYO Wed Apr 9, 2014 8:35am EDT


(Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp, in its second-largest recall announcement, said on Wednesday that it would call back 6.39 million vehicles globally after uncovering five different faults involving parts ranging from steering to seats.Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at Apr 9, 2014 6.39

The world’s biggest automaker said it was not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the glitches, which were found in 27 Toyota models including the RAV4 and Yaris subcompact.

Toyota said faults were also found in the Pontiac Vibe and the Subaru Trezia, two models the automaker built for General Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries.

The automaker did not say now much the recalls would cost, and it was not clear if the faults stemmed from Toyota’s suppliers or its manufacturing process.

The move by Toyota to announce five different recalls on a single day from Tokyo comes as major automakers face increasing scrutiny in the United States on how quickly they take preventive safety action and how quickly they share information with regulators and the public.

Toyota agreed last month to pay $1.2 billion to the U.S. government for withholding information related to unintended acceleration in its vehicles. That safety crisis had caused Toyota to recall more than 9 million vehicles.

In a high-profile case that has the potential to change U.S. safety regulation, Toyota rival General Motors is under investigation for failing to act on a known ignition switch defect linked to a dozen deaths. The company has recalled 1.6 million vehicles over the issue.

In the largest of the recalls announced on Wednesday, Toyota said some 3.5 million vehicles were being recalled to replace a spiral cable that could be damaged when the steering wheel is turned. That could cause the air bag to fail in the event of a crash, the automaker said.

In total, about 2.34 million of the vehicles to be recalled were sold in North America. Another 810,000 were sold in Europe.

In the second-largest of the Toyota recalls, some 2.32 million three-door models made between January 2005 and August 2010 are being recalled to check for a fault in the seat rails that could cause the seat to slide forward in a crash, risking injury for the driver or passengers.

The other recalls are for faulty steering column brackets, windshield wiper motors and engine starters.

The recall announcement, which came during late afternoon Tokyo trade, knocked an additional 2 percent off Toyota’s already sagging shares.

They quickly pared the extra losses, however, and ended down 3 percent at 5,450 yen, reflecting an overall weak tone in the market where the benchmark Nikkei average fell 2.1 percent.

Toyota’s 6.39 million vehicle recall is the largest announced on a single day for the company since October 2012, when it called back 7.43 million Yaris, Corolla and other models to fix faulty power window switches.

In the first two months of 2014, major automakers had announced 18 separate recalls in the United States, now the second-largest auto market behind China, according to the latest data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recent wave of large-scale recalls represents a source of revenue for auto dealers who are paid by manufacturers to service defective cars.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer in BERLIN, Laurence Frost in PARIS and Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Ryan Woo)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/09/us-toyota-motor-recall-idUSBREA380AR20140409

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – By Mariah Blake | March/April 2014 Issue


Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at Mar 4, 2014 2.39

Update (3/3/14): After this story went to press, the US Food and Drug Administration published a paper finding that BPA was safe in low doses. However, the underlying testing was done on a strain of lab rat known as the Charles River Sprague Dawley, which doesn’t readily respond to synthetic estrogens, such as BPA. And, due to laboratory contamination, all of the animals—including the control group—were exposed to this chemical. Academic scientists say this raises serious questions about the study’s credibility. Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on the shortcomings of the FDA’s most recent study.

Each night at dinnertime, a familiar ritual played out in Michael Green’s home: He’d slide a stainless steel sippy cup across the table to his two-year-old daughter, Juliette, and she’d howl for the pink plastic one. Often, Green gave in. But he had a nagging feeling. As an environmental-health advocate, he had fought to rid sippy cups and baby bottles of the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. Juliette’s sippy cup was made from a new generation of BPA-free plastics, but Green, who runs the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health, had come across research suggesting some of these contained synthetic estrogens, too.

 

Article continues:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

The Super Bowl of War: Three Decades of Failure in Afghanistan – Robert Scheer February 4, 2014


Chuck Nadd

Lieutenant Chuck Nadd rides in a wagon pulled by Budweiser-sponsored Clydesdale horses in the company’s “A Hero’s Welcome” Super Bowl ad. (Youtube).

This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).

A Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl, that annual celebration of violence as sport, featured a most joyous homecoming for a US veteran of the Afghan War. It was a fitting tribute to the fact that he survived, but you would have to be drunk on Bud not to notice that the three decades since the United States first meddled in Afghanistan have been an unequivocal disaster and that those who did not survive—NATO combatants and far larger number of Afghan natives—died in vain.

This was a point made clearly but largely unnoticed on that day of obligatory patriotic flag waving in an interview with Hamid Karzai, the US anointed leader of Afghanistan, who told The Sunday Times of London that “I saw no good” resulting from yet another American adventure in imperial democracy.

“This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people,” Karzai stated, continuing his denunciation of the terror of anti-terrorism exemplified by Bush’s orgy of torture followed by Obama’s drone attacks that traumatize the Afghan countryside. Karzai, no stranger to corruption and contradiction, has refused to sign a pact authorizing a continued and much reduced US presence in his country unless all such unilateral military attacks on his people are ended. As for the Taliban enemy that the US invasion had temporarily deposed, Karzai referred to them as “brothers” while he dismissed his erstwhile American sponsors as “rivals,” indicating that Obama now has his own “mission accomplished” embarrassment.

Maybe that dismal outcome of the Obama-ordered surge, comparable to the ultimate failure of Bush’s in Iraq, is why Karzai observed that he and Obama have not spoken directly since June. For the Democratic hawks, Afghanistan was going to be the good war, but Obama has learned, as did then-President Jimmy Carter more than thirty years ago, that the Afghans are not to be toyed with.

In Carter’s case back in the late 1970s, he was convinced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the president’s terminally confident national security adviser, that supporting Muslim extremists to overthrow a secular pro-Soviet government in power in Kabul would draw our main international adversary into its version of our Vietnam quagmire. What fun but the strategy failed, and the Soviets didn’t invade until the US imported sufficient foreign fighters to destabilize a country on their border.

When Obama, back in December 2009, launched a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, he argued that “we did not ask for this fight,” but of course we did. To know that, all he had to do was ask his then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had been an adviser to Carter and, in a 1996 memoir, exposed “Carter’s never-before-revealed covert support to Afghan mujahedeen six months before the Soviets invaded.”

After Gates’s admission, French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur asked Brzezinski whether he regretted “having given arms and advice to future terrorists,” and he replied: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some stirred up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

He said that in 1998, and three years later, “some stirred up Muslims” flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The eradication of their movement became our national obsession, one that justified raising US military expenditures back to the highest levels of the Cold War, even though there was no technologically significant enemy to justify this restoration of the power and the glory of the military-industrial complex.

In the process, we have come to sacrifice the basic rights of the individual enshrined in our Constitution in the name of finding what our last president, in his comic book lingo, termed the “evildoers,” without ever conceding that they were once, as President Reagan defined them, our “freedom fighters.” Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, a former top exec at defense contractor Halliburton, must have chuckled at that one, knowing full well that a primitive enemy holed up in mountain caves could not justify blowing trillions on the most sophisticated oceangoing aircraft carriers, stealth fighters and other relics of an era when we had a militarily significant enemy.

It seemed to make sense only when both Republican Bush and Democrat Obama, in Afghanistan and Iraq, invoked the imagery of democratic nation building but instead exploited sectarian and tribal differences. Those efforts succeeded only in upending what remained of the stabilizing social order in both countries and have unleashed a never-ending cycle of violence providing invaluable propaganda for the Al Qaeda elements we claimed to be eradicating.

“The money they should have paid to the police,” Karzai said, “they paid to private security firms and creating militias who caused lawlessness, corruption and highway robbery. What they did was create pockets of wealth and a vast countryside of deprivation and anger.”

Hey no problem, war is just another violent game we love to play. America, this Bud’s for you.

http://www.thenation.com/article/178223/super-bowl-war-three-decades-failure-afghanistan