The federally funded Voice of America (VOA) radio network is supposed to send the good word about the USA into the ears of listeners around the world — but in Sri Lanka, the local VOA station has reportedly been sending out toxic waste that has leaked poisons into a local water supply. ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE reports that villagers in northwestern Sri Lanka are protesting waste disposal by a nearby VOA relay station, which they blame for a spate of mysterious deaths of domestic animals and cattle.
The waste in question was spawned by a fire in November 1996, while the relay station was still under construction. VOA hired an American company to get rid of the charred transmission equipment and other debris, which contracted with the area’s chief Buddhist priest to bury the junk in pits on the local temple grounds. Last month, dogs and cattle who drank from a nearby pond suddenly started dying. Understandably alarmed, village residents had samples from the pits tested; they were found to contain small quantities of half-a-dozen hazardous chemicals.
A VOA official insists that the buried detritus “is not harmful to people, animals or the environment.” The villagers’ dogs and cows had no comment.
Cynthia Wiggins, 17, was on her way to work in Buffalo’s Walden Galleria mall in December 1995, when the bus she was riding let her off on the side of a seven-lane highway. A dump truck hit her as she tried to run across, reports the BUFFALO NEWS. She died three weeks later.
It was a tragic accident, but the location of the bus stop was no mistake. The mall’s owners had forbidden her Route 6 bus from entering the parking lot. They didn’t want people from her inner-city, mostly black neighborhood hanging out at the tony Galleria. According to the owner of a shoe store in the Galleria mall at the time, the son of a top mall executive once said, “We don’t want black shoppers in this ‘Rodeo Drive’ … You’ll never see any inner-city bus near or on mall property.”
Wiggins’ family sued the mall in a wrongful-death lawsuit that began Monday. By all accounts, they have an uphill battle in the courtroom. The mall’s owners claim Cynthia’s death was her own fault, because, they claim, she should have left her house earlier and waited at a suburban transfer point to a bus that would have been allowed into the parking lot. Moreover, the jury in the Wiggins case has no African-American on it (Wiggins was black). The population of Buffalo itself is about a third African-American.
An investigation recently published in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION has reached the shocking conclusion that studies funded by drug manufacturers are nearly always full of good news. According to the article, which analyzed 20 studies funded by drug manufactures and 24 funded by non-profit groups, only 5 percent of the company-sponsored studies reached negative conclusions. In contrast, nearly 40 percent of the non-profit studies, which were analyzing the same six new cancer treatments, reached negative conclusions. Of the company researchers, 30 percent were found to put a positive spin on their own negative or neutral data.
While the investigation was unable to document specific instances of bias, it suggested some possible reasons for the wide disparity between studies funded by the manufacturer of a drug, and those conducted by independent, non-profit sponsored investigators. They found that companies tend to discontinue funding for studies which show disappointing results early on. An additional obstacle are medical journals, which were found to have a general bias toward publishing studies with positive results. “Regardless of funding source, studies with unfavorable preliminary evidence are less likely to be completed, less likely to be submitted for peer review, and, once submitted, less likely to be published.” Finally, the authors suggest that company researchers may have an “unconscious bias” due to their dependence on companies for funding and travel perks, as well as a personal financial stake (i.e. they own stock) in the success of a particular drug in the marketplace.
Facing an acute manpower shortage, the British army is trying just about everything to lure new recruits into service. Having already waged a campaign to sign up homeless people, the army is now turning to the prison system to try and recruit young criminal offenders.
The rationale behind admitting prisoners into the army? It seems that convicts are about the only people left in Britain who might find military service appealing. Thanks in large part to a healthy economy, and a general distaste for the unceasing nature of contemporary military operations, ordinary civilians just aren’t interested in putting their lives at risk in combat anymore.
“We have lost the appetitle for killing,” said Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics. “We have certainly lost a cause for which we would be prepared to die.”
Ahead in the voting in Guatemala’s presidential elections, Alfonso Portillo stands to become an appropriate, if frighteningly familiar figurehead for a political party which has a ignominous, genocidal history.
Portillo has admitted to a double murder (he says it was in self-defense) which occurred 17 years ago, and has stopped just short of bragging about the accomplishment in his campaign, according to the WASHINGTON POST. Portillo represents the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), the party which is headed by Efrain Rios Montt, who helped with the military crackdown which led 36 years of bloodshead. As many as 200,000 were killed or “disappeared” in the civil war which theoretically ended in 1996. The US government was complicit in that coup and the resulting brutality, according to recently declassified government documents.