Missed In Mainstream Media (MSM):  The “Hidden Stories”

 

By Bernard Levy

 

A tiny news wire blurb, published in early July, noted that the CIA unit focused on catching Osama bin Laden had been disbanded.  The credit goes to The New York Times in reporting that “the unit, known as ‘Alec Station’ was shut down late last year.”  Unnamed intelligence officials reasoned the closure was made because the “al-Quaida’s hierarchy has changed, and terrorists attacks inspired by the group were now being carried out independently of bin Laden.”  Well, la-te-da-te-da.  Many of us believe that has been true for some time, but the real hidden story is what about Osama bin Laden, especially since President Bush, in a major terrorism/Iraq speech on September 7th, stated that capturing bin Laden was one of his major goals?  Should we continue to attempt to capture him, or let him sit and stew wherever he is?  And, if we do capture him, how important will that capture really be?  And, if it isn’t important, how much money, time, effort and human resources are we going to devote to bring him to justice?  Yes, he is the icon of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but shouldn’t we know more?

 

This “hidden story” took another turn just prior to publication.  A small September 9th wire news item noted that our Senate voted unanimously, 96-0, September 8th to earmark $200 million “to revive the CIA unit (known as the Alec Station) dedicated to hunting down Osama bin Laden and other top al-Quaida leaders.”  The timing of this legislative action is most suspect because it occurs more than 9 months after Alec Station was shut down by the CIA.  Could it have been prompted by President Bush’s recent speeches, as well as necessity to include the legislation in the “huge Pentagon budget bill” to be voted on soon?  And, how much of the $200 million is redundant expense?  Haven’t we been diligently attempting to find Osama and bring him to justice these many years?  Stay tuned.

 

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In early July of this year, there was a small article by Juliet Eilperin of The L.A. Times – Washington Post which noted that, although the U.S. Army estimated in 1987 that it would cost $2 billion to dispose of 27,768 metric tons of stockpiled chemical weapons, the price has ballooned to $28 billion today.  Further, the military is only one-third of the way through the job, and the Army announced in May that it “will unable to destroy all the weapons by 2012…a five-year extension to the current deadline.”

 

The Army admitted that it underestimated the job and is continuing to incinerate weapons in Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon and Utah, although it has completed work on the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific.  Of course, the Army has been thwarted in some of its activities by activists who claim that the incineration is dangerous to humans and the environment.  It appears that the Pentagon believes that incineration is the best and most efficient method of destruction, but, as the article pointed  out, “Craig Williams, Director of the Chemical Weapons Group working in Berea, Ky, said that emissions could have lasting effects on communities such as his.” 

 

Now, there are several hidden stories here, including why the increase in cost from $2 to $28 billion – a heck of an increase – and what incineration operations are really being conducted in those four states mentioned.  I know that the incineration activities in Oregon have started and stopped and started and stopped several times because of safety and technical problems.

 

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I am always amazed at the traditions and customs that some professionals have to endure in their training.  The well-acknowledged sleep deprivation of medical interns is one that I could never understand.  We all have seen evidence of this in some of our favorite medical TV dramas, perhaps overdramatized but probably accurate.  The medical profession is not alone.  The air traffic controllers carry this sleep-deprivation “custom” even further.  In recent news coverage, the air traffic controller responsible for guiding the ill-fated Comair Flight 5191 from a Lexington, Kentucky airfield had only two hours of sleep before he started his overnight shift.  True, he was off for a full nine hours between shifts, but he had two hours of sleep.  This “sleepless in the control tower” condition appears to be rather prevalent.  Why in tarnation would such an important activity, involving the safety of millions of lives, be subjected to this kind of conduct?  Yes, it could be because there is a shortage of air traffic controllers, but, as I understand, they are reasonably well paid.  What’s happening and how widespread is the practice?

 

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In mid June, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke said that high fuel costs could drive inflation.  He said, “The cumulative increases in energy and commodity prices have been large enough that they could account for some of the recent pick up in core inflation.”  Duh, and double Duh!  “Could account for some…?”  This is our country’s main economic guru; he should have the data to ascertain whether it will or will not drive inflation.  And, of course, it can, should and does drive inflation, particularly as measured by the Consumer Price Index.  Transportation and fuel costs are two of the items considered in determining the CPI.  Again, what’s the real scoop here?  Is Bernanke a political hack tolling a line that enables the administration and Wall Street to report positive economic activities and gains, or is he an honest, truth-telling governmental official who is responsible for measuring and helping to control our economy for all citizens?  I’ll leave you to ponder that question, because, in the words of my beloved, departed friend Tom Turney, “Ain’t that a pip!”