Friday, August 13, 2010

Poll: Americans not actually that worried about the deficit

(Right, we are worried about jobs, first and foremost. The deficit takes a backseat--as does everything else--to job creation. The private sector is doing everything they can to eliminate jobs or outsource them overseas, so the govt. better do something, or the Democrats will suffer heavy losses in the upcoming mid-terms.--jef)



Are you worried about the deficit? If you're a professional elite opinion-haver from New York or Washington, you almost certainly are. If you are some other American, you might know that you are supposed to be concerned about the deficit. But odds are, if you are not paid to ghostwrite Mort Zuckerman columns, you are more concerned with getting a job than making sure the debt-to-GDP ratio stays below some certain arbitrarily decided percentage. According to Gallup, 58% of Americans say the most important problem facing the country is either the economy or unemployment. 7% say the federal deficit.

Obviously that's just spend-happy liberals skewing the result, right? RealAmerican Independents -- the only Americans who truly matter -- must be super-worried about the deficit, because they read about how bad it is in Forbes, right? Nope. 7% of self-described independents think the deficit is the most important problem facing America, once again losing out to unemployment and the economy. A healthy 10% of Republicans put the deficit first, although 11% of Republicans are more worried about The Immigrants.

As Greg Sargent notes:
There's an interesting thing to be noted about polling on the deficit, by the way. When people are asked about the deficit in isolation, they signal real concern. But when they are asked about the deficit in the context of other priorities, attitudes shift.
Huh! It's almost as if people worry more about what tangibly affects their lives than they do about what keeps Larry Kudlow up at night.

New claims for unemployment aid reach 484K

New applications for jobless benefits rise to highest since February as layoffs continue
AP News | Aug 12, 2010 09:27 EDT

The employment picture is looking bleaker as applications for jobless benefits rose last week to the highest level in almost six months.

It's a sign that hiring is weak and employers are still cutting their staffs.

First-time claims for jobless benefits edged up by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 484,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Analysts had expected a drop. That's the highest total since February.

Initial claims have now risen in three of the last four weeks and are close to their high point for the year of 490,000, reached in late January. The four-week average, which smooths volatility, soared by 14,250 to 473,500, also the highest since late February.

Analysts said that the unexpected rise in claims suggests hiring in August won't be much better than July. The economy added a net 12,000 jobs last month after excluding the loss of temporary census positions.

The jobless claims report "represents a very adverse turn in the labor market, threatening income growth and consumer spending," Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

The prospect of more layoffs added to this week's grim outlook for the economy, which began Tuesday when the Federal Reserve lowered its assessment of the recovery.

Investors were bracing for another rocky day on Wall Street. Dow Jones industrial average futures, which were down about 50 points before the report came out, fell further. They were down nearly 90 points before the market opened.

Economists closely watch weekly claims, which are considered a gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of employers' willingness to hire.

The government's July jobs report, released Friday, showed that the economy lost a net total of 131,000 jobs last month. Excluding the impact of the elimination of 143,000 temporary census jobs, the economy added a meager 12,000 positions, as layoffs by state and local governments almost canceled out weak hiring by businesses.

Thursday's report on jobless claims indicates that trend may not change soon. Claims fell steadily last year from their peak of 651,000, reached in March 2009. But they have mostly leveled out this year at or above 450,000. In a healthy economy with rapid hiring, claims usually drop below 400,000.

The rise in claims could be a sign private employers are ramping up layoffs, which declined as recently as June, according to a separate government report released Wednesday.

Some economists speculate that many census workers whose jobs are finished are requesting unemployment benefits.

Claims could also be rising because of large job cuts by state and local governments, which are struggling with unprecedented budget gaps. State and local governments cut 48,000 jobs in July.

Another possibility is that small companies, facing tight credit, are still reducing their staffs, even as larger corporations slowly resume hiring.

The total number of people receiving benefits dropped 118,000 to 4.45 million, the department said. But that doesn't include another 5.3 million people receiving extended benefits paid for by the federal government, as of the week ending July 24, the latest data available.

During the recession, Congress added up to 73 extra weeks of unemployment benefits, on top of the 26 usually provided by states. That extended program lapsed in early June but was reinstated by Congress last month.

Some companies are still cutting workers. Medical products manufacturer CareFusion Corp. said Wednesday it plans to eliminate 700 jobs, saving the company up to $120 million a year.

Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a bedrock of modern medicine. But in the very near future, we're going to have to learn to live without them once again. And it's going to get nasty

Streptococcus pyrogens bacteria
Streptococcus pyrogens bacteria. Photograph: S Lowry/University of Ulster/Getty Images

Just 65 years ago, David Livermore's paternal grandmother died following an operation to remove her appendix. It didn't go well, but it was not the surgery that killed her. She succumbed to a series of infections that the pre-penicillin world had no drugs to treat. Welcome to the future.

The era of antibiotics is coming to a close. In just a couple of generations, what once appeared to be miracle medicines have been beaten into ineffectiveness by the bacteria they were designed to knock out. Once, scientists hailed the end of infectious diseases. Now, the post-antibiotic apocalypse is within sight.

Hyperbole? Unfortunately not. The highly serious journal Lancet Infectious Diseases yesterday posed the question itself over a paper revealing the rapid spread of multi-drug-resistant bacteria. "Is this the end of antibiotics?" it asked.

Doctors and scientists have not been complacent, but the paper by Professor Tim Walsh and colleagues takes the anxiety to a new level. Last September, Walsh published details of a gene he had discovered, called NDM 1, which passes easily between types of bacteria called enterobacteriaceae such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae and makes them resistant to almost all of the powerful, last-line group of antibiotics called carbapenems. Yesterday's paper revealed that NDM 1 is widespread in India and has arrived here as a result of global travel and medical tourism for, among other things, transplants, pregnancy care and cosmetic surgery.

"In many ways, this is it," Walsh tells me. "This is potentially the end. There are no antibiotics in the pipeline that have activity against NDM 1-producing enterobacteriaceae. We have a bleak window of maybe 10 years, where we are going to have to use the antibiotics we have very wisely, but also grapple with the reality that we have nothing to treat these infections with."

And this is the optimistic view – based on the assumption that drug companies can and will get moving on discovering new antibiotics to throw at the bacterial enemy. Since the 1990s, when pharma found itself twisting and turning down blind alleys, it has not shown a great deal of enthusiasm for difficult antibiotic research. And besides, because, unlike with heart medicines, people take the drugs for a week rather than life, and because resistance means the drugs become useless after a while, there is just not much money in it.

Dr Livermore, whose grandmother died for lack of infection-killing drugs in 1945, is director of the antibiotic resistance monitoring and reference laboratory of the Health Protection Agency. Last year, the HPA put out an alert to medical professionals about NDM 1, urging them to report all suspect cases. Livermore is far from sanguine about the future.

"A lot of modern medicine would become impossible if we lost our ability to treat infections," he says. He is talking about transplant surgery, for instance, where patients' immune systems have to be suppressed to stop them rejecting a new organ, leaving them prey to infections, and the use of immuno-suppressant cancer drugs.

But it is not just an issue in advanced medicine. Antibiotics are vital to abdominal surgery. "You safeguard the patient from bacteria leaking into the body cavity," he says. "If you lose the ability to treat these infections, far more people would die of peritonitis." Appendix operations would carry the same risk as they did before Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

It may not be over yet, he says, but "we are certainly scraping the bottom of the barrel to find antibiotics that are effective against some of the infections caused by bacteria."

Running out is not the only issue, he says. When somebody has a severe infection – say blood poisoning – causing a high fever, a hospital clinician will dispatch blood samples to the lab to find out exactly what he is dealing with. But that takes time. "He will start you on antibiotics because that will kill infection within 48 hours," says Livermore. "So during 48 hours, you are being treated blind. The more resistant your bacteria are, the less likely the antibiotic is going to work."

Studies have shown, he says, that the chances of dying from hospital pneumonia or septicaemia (blood poisoning) are twice as high if the bacteria are drug-resistant, rising in the case of pneumonia from 20-30% to 40-60%.

For a long time now, doctors have known they were in a race to stay a few steps ahead of the rapidly growing resistance of bacterial infections to antibiotics. Ten years ago, the so-called superbug MRSA caused front-page panic. Hospital patients were picking up Staphylococcus aureus infections that were resistant to the hitherto powerful antibiotic methicillin. All-out war, led by the government's former chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, against MRSA and also C. diff (Clostridium difficile) has reduced the threat of what are known as Gram-positive bacteria. Hospital hygiene has been massively stepped up and, in response in part to public anxiety, pharmaceutical companies have put money into finding new antibiotics for those infections.

Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria
Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. Photograph: Eye of Science/Science Photo Library

But it's like putting a finger in a hole in the dam, only to find the water surges out somewhere else. Bacteria are great survivors. The biggest threat now, experts believe, is from multi-drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, such as NDM 1-producing enterobacteriaceae and an enzyme called KPC which has spread in the US (and in Israel and Greece) which also gives bacteria resistance to the carbapenems, the most powerful group of antibiotics we (once) had.

"The emergence of antibiotic resistance is the most eloquent example of Darwin's principle of evolution that there ever was," says Livermore. "It is a war of attrition. It is naive to think we can win."

So the game now is to keep bacteria at bay. Hygiene is an obvious weapon. Better cleaning, hand gels and stern warnings to staff and public alike have helped reduce infection rates in hospitals. But Professor Richard James, director of the centre for healthcare associated infections at the University of Nottingham, warns that bugs don't stay in hospitals (indeed, the NDM 1- producing bacteria appear to be widespread in the community in India, passed on through contaminated water, in which people bathe, wash clothes and also defecate).

"The worry is once these organisms are out in the community," says James. "There probably is some need for public education about infection and, for instance, kitchen hygiene when you are cooking. People of my generation were taught a lot about washing your hands before every meal. It was automatic that it was done. A lot of that has gone." There are some innovative ideas about, he says, on ways of teaching children in school to wash their hands – in the hope that they will then go home and pester their parents to do the same.

Beyond that, there is a real need to conserve those antibiotics we have. "To me, it has many parallels with the problems of energy in economies around the world," he says. Carbon trading was dreamed up to try to conserve oil and reduce its pollutant effects. There have now been a couple of interesting papers suggesting a Pigouvian tax – which he defines as one levied on an agent causing an environmental problem as an incentive to mitigate that problem – for antibiotics.

Like oil, he points out, antibiotic usefulness is finite. And the cost of drug resistance is not reflected in the price of the drug. "If you consider antibiotic sensitivity as a resource like oil, you want to maintain that by introducing a tax," he says. It would be worldwide and the proceeds could fund new drug development.

But should you tax life-saving drugs, especially in poor countries? "If you don't do anything, there won't be any antibiotics anyway," says James starkly. "At least it is a suggestion of something that could be done."

If anybody had doubted it for a moment, Walsh's paper shows that neither the UK nor any other country can pull up the drawbridge. "This report shows that the battle to control the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs through appropriate use of antibiotics must be fought at an international level," says Kevin Kerr, consultant microbiologist at Harrogate district hospital. "It illustrates the importance of considering health issues as a world issue – how antibiotics are prescribed and controlled in one part of the world can very rapidly have consequences elsewhere," says Christopher Thomas, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham.

"Frankly, pharmaceutical companies as well as governments and the European Commission need to really get their act together," says Walsh, who has been urging co-ordinated efforts across the world to put in place good surveillance systems to find out what resistance is developing and where, and then look for interventions. He had Columbia, Mexico, Thailand and India all willingly on board for one surveillance scheme, but the European Commission would not fund it. "What we need is for somebody to give us something like €3m [£2.5m] a year. It's not a lot of money."

The fact is that many people have still got their heads in the sand. But soon we will start seeing patients in NHS hospitals whose infections won't clear up. In the battle for survival of the fittest between human beings and bacteria, just now it looks as though the best we are going to get is a draw – if we are lucky.

After antibiotics: what happens when the drugs don't work

• Transplant surgery becomes virtually impossible. Organ recipients have to take immune-suppressing drugs for life to stop rejection of a new heart or kidney. Their immune systems cannot fight off life-threatening infections without antibiotics.

• Removing a burst appendix becomes a dangerous operation once again. Patients are routinely given antibiotics after surgery to prevent the wound becoming infected by bacteria. If bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can cause life-threatening septicaemia.

• Pneumonia becomes once more "the old man's friend". Antibiotics have stopped it being the mass-killer it once was, particularly among the old and frail, who would lapse into unconsciousness and often slip away in their sleep. Other diseases of old age, such as cancer, have taken over.

• Gonorrhea becomes hard to treat. Resistant strains are already on the rise. Without treatment, the sexually transmitted disease causes pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancies.

• Tuberculosis becomes incurable – first we had TB, then multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and now there is XDR-TB (extremely drug resistant TB). TB requires very long courses (six months or more) of antibiotics. The very human tendency to stop taking or forget to take the drugs has contributed to the spread of resistance.

Fall in support for Afghan war worrisome to National Security Advisor

Published: Friday 13th of August 2010 | AFP

President Barack Obama's national security advisor has voiced concern about Americans growing weary of the war in Afghanistan, despite what he called apparent "elements of success."

Asked in an interview whether US engagement in Afghanistan risked the same loss of support that undermined the war in Vietnam, James Jones replied that such a prospect was "very worrisome."

"The biggest fear would be that we might get to a point where we decide that we can't turn this violence around," the retired US Marine Corps general told CNN on Thursday, adding that he doubted that would happen.

A USA Today/Gallup opinion poll released earlier this month indicated that 60 percent of Americans thought the situation for the United States in Afghanistan was "very or moderately bad."

Public support for Obama's management of the conflict meanwhile fell to 36 percent, from 48 percent in February.

On the progress of the war in Afghanistan, Jones said: "The elements of success are all present, and they are visible. We know what they are. We are working very hard with both sides, on both sides of the (Afghan-Pakistan) border."

"Specifically in Pakistan, we need to see more activity on the part of the Pakistani army to go after the insurgents in the safe havens that allow the transit between Afghanistan and Pakistan to go on," he added.

"This is fundamentally important."

Jones acknowledged that parts of the Pakistan military "have played both sides in years past, because of their uncertainty with regard to our long-term stay and long-term commitment."

"Hopefully," he said, those elements will become "increasingly part of the solution."

What the Google/Verizon Deal Means for Net Neutrality – and You

This agreement brings the prospect of a tiered internet closer, with fast premium services prioritised over the 'public internet'
by Mehan Jayasuriya | Friday, August 13, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

During the last decade, a battle has been brewing here in the United States. The outcome of this battle could decide who will ultimately control the internet – large corporations or internet users.

The internet was designed to respect the so-called "end-to-end" principle, which places control at the ends of the network with users and ensures that all traffic is treated equally. The upholding of this principle has come to be known as "net neutrality", which has been the status quo for as long as the internet has existed. But as the internet has grown to become the 21st century's most powerful engine for economic growth, internet service providers (ISPs), the middlemen of the internet, have begun greedily eyeing the web, hoping to wring additional fees out of users and content providers alike by instituting a tiered system similar to that of pay TV.

During the last three years, this fight has begun to come to a head. In 2007, the largest American ISP, Comcast, began to block its users from using the BitTorrent file transfer protocol. In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government body that is meant to oversee such matters, ordered the company to stop. In 2010, a court overturned that decision, contending that the FCC did not have the legal authority necessary to punish Comcast. In the wake of this decision and the FCC's subsequent existential crisis, large corporations have begun to devise their own rules. While there's nothing stopping the FCC from placing its authority on firm legal ground, the agency is under tremendous pressure from ISPs to not act.

This week's traffic prioritisation agreement between Google and Verizon (another one of the largest providers in the US) serves as a prime example of what will happen in the absence of clear rules of the road for ISPs. Two large companies have negotiated in private and have reached an agreement on how internet traffic should be managed.

On the surface, this agreement doesn't look too nefarious. Verizon has agreed to respect the end-to-end principle on its wired networks and Google has reiterated its commitment to net neutrality. However, the proposal specifically excludes wireless internet services. The agreement also proposes that so-called "managed services" on the wired network – essentially fast lanes carved out of the bandwidth currently used by the internet – be exempt from any rules that govern the web.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, Google and Verizon have suggested that industry-led advisery groups write the rules for what's left of the internet. In matters of consumer protection and nondiscrimination, the FCC's actions would be subject to approval by the very companies that the agency is meant to oversee.

It's clear why this proposal is attractive to Google and Verizon. With net neutrality out of the picture, Verizon would be free to extract additional fees from content providers and users in exchange for access to the fast lanes. Google is large enough that it could afford to pay these fees, thereby assuring speedy delivery of its content and a competitive advantage.

But what about the rest of us? What will the internet look like if Google and Verizon's vision of the future is allowed to come to pass?

First off, the experience of accessing the web via a mobile device could change dramatically. Content from the largest companies – Google, Microsoft, Sony, Disney – might load quickly while independently produced content would load slowly. For an additional fee, you might be granted access to special "services" such as streaming video, online gaming and VoIP, all of which work just fine on today's internet. However, if you could not afford to pay for access to these fast lanes, your ability to engage in high-bandwidth activities would suffer, as these new managed services would receive priority over the so-called "public internet". And what would happen if, say, you noticed that your ISP was blocking your BitTorrent traffic? You could file a complaint with the appropriate government agency, but given the new rules, it is unlikely that the authorities would take any action.

As it stands, the Google/Verizon agreement is little more than a deal between two large corporations. It is unenforceable, non-binding and at present has little bearing on the rest of the industry. However, Google and Verizon hope that Congress will look to their agreement as a model for net neutrality legislation. These companies are proposing a regime where they write and enforce the rules of the road for the web. Are we willing to trust that the middlemen of the internet will act in the public's interest? Or do we want a clear, enforceable set of rules that ensures the internet remains a level playing field for all?

Gulf Health Problems Blamed on Dispersed Oil

by Dahr Jamail | Friday, August 13, 2010 by Inter Press Service

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama - BP says it is no longer using toxic dispersants to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Gulf Coast residents claim otherwise, and say they have the sicknesses to prove it.

Orange colored chemical dispersant is seen in the water as it is used to help with the massive oil spill in May 2010, in Breton and Chandeleur sounds off the coast of Louisiana. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Joe Raedle) On Aug. 5, Donny Mastler, a commercial fisherman who also works on boats, was at the Dauphin Island Marina.

"I was with my friend Albert, and we were both slammed with exposure," Mastler, told IPS, referring to toxic chemicals he inhaled that he believes are associated with BP's Corexit dispersants. "We both saw the clumps of white bubbles on the surface that we know come from the dispersed oil."

Both of their eyes were watering and their throats were burning, so Albert went to sit in his air-conditioned truck, while Mastler headed home.

"I started to vomit brown, and my pee was brown also," Mastler said. "I kept that up all day. Then I had a night of sweating and non-stop diarrhea unlike anything I've ever experienced."

BP has been using two oil dispersants, Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, both of which are banned in Britain. More than 1.9 million gallons of dispersant has been used to date on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Pathways of exposure are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts include headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, dizziness, chest pains and tightness, irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs, difficulty breathing, respiratory system damage, skin irrigation and sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic damage and mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage, among several others.

Not along ago, at the same marina, WKRG News 5 took a water sample to test for dispersants. The sample literally exploded when it was mixed with an organic solvent separating the oil from the water.

Bob Naman, the chemist who analysed the sample, told the station, "We think that it most likely happened due to the presence of either methanol or methane gas or the presence of the dispersant Corexit."

As for Mastler's physical reaction to his exposure, Hugh Kaufman, an EPA whistleblower and analyst, has reported this of the effects of the toxic dispersants:

"We have dolphins that are hemorrhaging. People who work near it are hemorrhaging internally. And that's what dispersants are supposed to do&And, for example, in the Exxon Valdez case, people who worked with dispersants, most of them are dead now. The average death age is around 50. It's very dangerous, and it's an& economic protector of BP, not an environmental protector of the public."

By early July, the Alabama Department of Public Health said that 56 people in Mobile and Baldwin Counties had sought treatment for what they believed were oil disaster-related illnesses.

Mastler had a previous exposure when he was working on a boat for a BP contractor and brought aboard an oil-covered absorbent pad he found in the water. That exposure, too, found Mastler with rashes on his arms, a soar throat, and nausea. He told IPS he knows many island residents who stay inside to avoid toxic fumes that blow in from the Gulf.

BP claims to have conducted air monitoring of oil-effected areas. A written statement by the company says, "The monitoring data shows that few people, if any, are exposed to levels of oil or dispersants that have even the potential to cause any significant adverse health effects."

Many scientists and doctors disagree.

"The dispersants used in BP's draconian experiment contain solvents such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol," Dr. Riki Ott, toxicologist and marine biologist, told IPS.

"Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber. Spill responders have told me that the hard rubber impellors in their engines and the soft rubber bushings on their outboard motor pumps are falling apart and need frequent replacement&Divers have told me that they have had to replace the soft rubber o- rings on their gear after dives in the Gulf and that the oil-chemical stew eats its way into even the Hazmat dive suits," Ott said.

"Given this evidence, it should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known," Dr. Ott added. "In 'Generations at Risk', medical doctor Ted Schettler and others warn that solvents can rapidly enter the human body: They evaporate in air and are easily inhaled, they penetrate skin easily, and they cross the placenta into fetuses. For example, 2- butoxyethanol is a human health hazard substance: It is a fetal toxin and it breaks down blood cells, causing blood and kidney disorders."

Even the federal government has taken precautions for its employees. U.S. military officials decided to reroute training flights in the Gulf region in order to avoid oil and dispersant tainted-areas.

Public health agencies operating in the region have told their researchers who test the air quality to wear respirators when they are offshore, and in preparation for a long-term study of health effects from the BP disaster, the U.S. Labour Department has started gathering data from thousands of workers.

Meanwhile, physical evidence around the Gulf continues to mount daily. Ongoing reports of fish kills and wildlife deaths are a daily occurrence now.

On Aug. 5, in Port St. Joe, Florida, city officials closed a public boat ramp following an unexplained fish kill in St. Joseph's Bay that caused hundreds of dead fish and crabs to wash ashore. Witnesses sighted a brown, sludgy material roughly six miles offshore.

"My voice is gone," Mastler, speaking to IPS with a gravelly voice. "Another time I was at the marina and got exposed again, I could smell the oil. I've got a lot of burning in my mouth right now."

On Aug. 8 he said that his urine was still "brown", but said he was starting to feel "a little better". Given that Mastler already had a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he believes he is "like the canary in the coal mine" with dispersant exposure.

Over the last six weeks, IPS has spoken with several people along the Gulf Coast who have complained of skin rashes, respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, burning eyes, and other problems they believe to be associated with BP's toxic dispersants.

Mastler told IPS he chose not to work for BP because he never trusted them.

"That's why I never went to BP, and I'm not going to, and I don't appreciate the people they let die over this, and how they're making us sick, and we've already had some deaths around this island," he added, "They put untrained people out on the water, with faulty equipment, and with faulty respirators."

On Wednesday, Mastler was still suffering.

"I'm still feeling terrible. I'm about to go to the doctor again right now. I might end up in the hospital. I'm short of breath, the diarrhea has been real bad, I still have discolouration in my urine, and the day before yesterday I was coughing up white foam with brown spots in it."

Mastler plans to file a claim against BP for his medical expenses.

99ers Rally For Unemployment Extension

Advocates for the 1.5 Million Americans Who Have Exhausted Unemployment Insurance Benefits Press for Aid from Washington
by Annie Lowery | Friday, August 13, 2010 by The Washington Independent

After 99 weeks, or more, of unemployment, traveling to a political rally is a luxury. Across the country, thousands of 99ers, Americans who have exhausted the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits, have written letters or called Congress advocating for legislation extending benefits or creating jobs programs. But the first 99ers rally, held on Wall Street this Thursday, proved a more modest affair.

Normally, the unemployed suffer from political disenfranchisement, on top of the hardships of joblessness, including loss of income, poorer health outcomes and eroding skills. But a group of activists working online have founded list-servs and websites to connect hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers. And they have teamed up with major labor unions, like the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, to flex their political might. Up until now, their efforts have been virtual; at Thursday's rally, the unemployed took to the streets for the first time.

The rally came at a good time politically. Despite the very long odds of passage, Senate and House Democrats have originated two bills to aid the 99ers in the past 10 days. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) introduced a bill moving the maximum number of weeks of federal and state benefits to 119 last week. And this week, Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) and Shelley Berkley (Nv.) introduced similar legislation in the House.

But just two dozen or so 99ers and a few dozen more unemployed persons met on the steps of Federal Hall, across from the New York Stock Exchange. (Most of the 99ers or figures in the unemployment netroots I spoke with before the event said that they could not afford the gas or plane ticket to get to the rally.) Members of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 100 and the United Federation of Teachers joined them.

A few hiccups marred the event. The weather hardly cooperated, with spitting rain and punishing heat and humidity. Additionally, the organizers failed to register for a sound permit, so the New York City Policy officers keeping the peace ordered activists to put away the megaphone about 10 minutes into the event.

Organized by the fledgling Unemployed Workers Action Group, the rally called for an expansion of unemployment insurance and jobs programs for the long-term unemployed. There are an estimated 1.5 million 99ers across the country, and their plight results from a recession with not just an unusually high unemployment rate, but an unusually long average duration of unemployment. Indeed, a typical jobless worker - of whom there are 14.6 million - has been out of work for more than 34 weeks, about 8 months, a length unprecedented since the Great Depression.

Despite its small size, the 99ers' rally accomplished an important goal: It got the attention of the press, and advocates for the 99ers see the press as the key to creating pressure for legislation. "Two months ago, nobody knew who the 99ers were," LaDona King, a 99er and major figure in the 99er netroots told me. "Everybody thought it was some city's AAA baseball team."

But with growing awareness, they hope, will come political action. To that end, a volunteer at the rally took journalists' names and numbers, and ensured that any reporter wanting access to a 99er for her story got easy access to several. Late in the event, Ed Schultz - the MSNBC and radio host who has devoted countless programming minutes to the 99ers, and for that reason holds nearly beatific standing among them - stood in a pair of khaki shorts at the back, conducting interviews and shaking hands. (He planned to address the crowd, but could not because of the noise permit issue.)

And with the press there, the 99ers at the rally got their chance to speak, and tell their stories. Betty S. Cohen, of Brooklyn, worked as an administrative assistant at an investment bank - not a commercial bank, she notes - for two years before she was laid off in July 2008. "My skills are excellent," she sighs, "but I can't get a job anywhere." She has applied to hundreds of positions via and other online search engines, as well as contacting former employers and friends for leads. "I have gotten five calls, and no offers." she says. "They don't tell you why."

She has long since exhausted any savings, does not have any living family and is increasingly late on her rent and bills, though she says she was recently approved for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. "A friend loaned me $20," she says. "And I told her I didn't know when I would pay it back. I offered to pay her back in food. I can buy that now, at least."

Marion Glandorf formerly worked for Grenadier Realty Corp. on Roosevelt Island as an executive assistant. She managed contractor relationships for 1,100 apartments, assessed tenant needs and answered scores of calls per day. She came to the rally - she notes she is not a 99er, not yet - wearing a giant sign with her resume on it around her neck.

Joining her was Bob Kohler of Suffolk County, New York. He had worked as an IT project manager before the recession, and has focused on writing motivational works about the power of positive thinking and the need to accept hardship. (He said the angry tone of the rally, with speakers shouting at the nearby investment banks, would prove counterproductive.)

Kohler did not realize his unemployment insurance would run out shortly after Christmas. It just stopped. "It happened abruptly," he said, and his wife and he had not adequately prepared. "The American dream?" he says, softly. "It's decimated."

The rally attempted to capture that sense of decimation, with speakers sharing their stories of hardship - the loss of homes, the loss of respect, the trouble with health, the depression - on the Federal Hall steps, facing the New York Stock Exchange. Some rallied against the banks nearby, but most focused on the need for congressional jobs bills and a Tier V.

Dozens of tourists stopped to listen and to clap in support among the protesters and the camera crews. So did a few investment bankers. "Get a fucking job" shouted one young man dressed, stereotypically, in a dark suit, red tie and loafers, his hair sharply parted. He was booed.

Countdown to Collapse: The Recovery is Not Recovering

(We're screwed...--jef)


by Danny Schechter | Friday, August 13, 2010 by

Financial journalist Charles Gasparino whose career trajectory took him from Newsweek to CNBC to Fox News was on with Bill O' Reilly doing what the host of the factless Factor likes to do the most: promote Fox News. In the course of their self-promotional banter, Gasparino let sip an unverifiable story about a meeting of top CEOs speculating about whether President Obama really is a secret Socialist.

Stories like this, invented or not, freak a White House ever eager to reassure the business world of their loyalties. That is no doubt why Robert Gibbs, the President's Press Secretary took a whack at the "professional left," a statement he later said had been "inartful" but did not withdraw.

Writing on OpEd News, Kevin Gosztola was not surprised:
"While circumstantial, the best evidence for why Gibbs would feel like uttering the aforementioned remarks is the shift of money from Wall Street to Republicans ahead of the election... The Democrats earned 57 percent of campaign contributions from securities and investment industries.
The situation compels the Obama Administration, especially White House press secretary Gibbs, to whip the left and the sections that are most listened to by voters into line not only because money from business interests needs to swing back the other way but because disappointed and disillusioned voters will likely stay home, not donate to Democratic Party campaigns, not make phone calls, and refuse to go door-to-door canvassing prior to Election Day if they do not fall in line."
According to a preliminary analysis, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that "individuals and political action committees linked to the financial and real estate sectors swung hard to the Republicans with their giving since last year....

In March 2009, 70 percent of money from the sector went to the governing party, but by this summer, 68 percent was going to the opposition, as Democrats fought to pass some version of a financial overhaul."

The motivation for Gibbs' remarks may or may not be tied to signaling Wall Street but the deeper truth is that everyone, right and left alike, seem frustrated and at the same time powerless to check the continuing economic decline.

The private sector is not creating jobs. The GOP is blocking the government from doing more stimulus programs while the system seems to be unraveling. All the talk of cutting deficits by conservatives or ending tax cuts by liberals will not give the economy the boost it needs. There is a paralysis of analysis and a stalemate.

The markets were more freaked by the recent pessimism oozing from the Fed than any partisan punditry. The slowdown they are worried about has already doomed any heavily-hyped "recovery."

And the public knows it, according to the recent polls.

What's worse is the tea leaves offer few signs of a turnaround any time soon even if General Motors is selling more cars-many, may we be reminded, in China. (The GM CEO who last week took a nasty ingrate smack at GM being perceived as "Government Motors," demanding the government sell all of its shares, has just announced he is leaving! I wonder why?)

The Carlyle Group is taking over while the automaker launches a new program of subprime lending, the very predatory dealmaking that got them in trouble in the first place.

Does anyone ever learn from history, or care about how communities are being destroyed as a financial crisis becomes a social crisis at the grass roots level?

Check out what happened at that mall in Atlanta where thousands of people nearly rioted to get on a public housing waiting list. The Congress returned from its recess to pass new monies to keep teachers teaching and cops patrolling. They did so by slashing food stamps so the unemployed and poor -some 41 people who rely on them---will have to cut back further.

What a trade-off.

As for insuring the stability of an increasingly volatile system, will the new financial reforms make any difference? It doesn't look like it. The New York Times reported, "As Wall Street scrambles to find the best and most profitable way to operate under the new financial reform law, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. - the firm that was expected to suffer the most under the legislation - could emerge practically unscathed...

"...we think we are well positioned to be a market leader under the new rules," said Jack McCabe, co-head of Goldman's derivatives clearing service business.

Richard Bove, a bank analyst at Rochdale Securities, said he had changed his view of the law's effect on Goldman.

"I thought this company was going to be really harmed by this bill; now I've figured out that it's not going to happen," he said. "They should win big here."

That's Goldman's reason to celebrate its "big win" What about the others? The truth is we will not know for a awhile, for a long while, for many, many years. So much for any sense of urgency even after former Fed Head Paul Volcker said we are running out of time.

Bloomberg News explained why,
"Many of the measures ordered by Congress and global regulators, aimed at cushioning the financial system in future crises, are years away from being implemented. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision plans to give the world's banks until 2018 to comply with limits on how much they can borrow. Parts of the Volcker rule, a provision of the new Dodd-Frank Act that would force firms to cut stakes in in-house hedge funds and private-equity units, may not go into effect for a dozen years..."
"Based on our experience of government's ability to execute these things effectively and in a timely way, we are almost uncovered now from any future financial risk for at least another 8 or 10 years, and that's a little scary," said Roy Smith, finance professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and a former banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc

Economist Nouriel Roubini, one of the first to forecast our crisis, worries that major economies in Europe are at risk and could fall. At the same time I am reading articles that contend, "The US is more bankrupt than Greece." Another reports the IMF saying the US is bankrupt but most Americans don't know it.

What else don't we know?

At the same time, the folks who brought us this crisis are still riding high, making multi-million dollar "settlements' to cover up fraudulent practices. In recent weeks, Goldman Sachs, Countrywide and, now, Wells Fargo have just done that in part to avoid prosecutions.

Their CEOS are going on vacation to spend their ill-gotten gains, not to jail to pay for their crimes. And the "professional left"-whatever that is supposed to be---is more pissed at Robert Gibbs blathering at that podium than the banksters maneuvering behind the scenes.

Can anyone tell me what's wrong with this picture?

Just one footnote: In this week of growing economic despair, an 81-year old senior citizen named Bernard Stone stood outside the unemployment office in Harlem with a flyer of his own making calling on President Obama to issue an executive order closing all American-owned factories outsourcing jobs. If they don't do it, their executives should, he suggests, lose their citizenship and be deported to the countries to which they exported American jobs.

"The hundred or so people who read my leaflet liked that part," he told me.

CIA's Sick Experiments on Children Exposed: Drugging, Electroshocks & Brainwashing

A look back at America's most shameful period of human experimentation
By H.P. Albarelli Jr. and Jeffrey S. Kaye,
Posted on August 12, 2010

Bobby is seven years old, but this is not the first time he has been subjected to electroshock. It's his third time. In all, over the next year, Bobby will experience eight electroshock sessions. Placed on the examining table, he is held down by two male attendants while the physician places a solution on his temples. Bobby struggles with the two men holding him down, but his efforts are useless. He cries out and tries to pull away. One of the attendants tries to force a thick wedge of rubber into his mouth. He turns his head sharply away and cries out, "Let me go, please. I don't want to be here. Please, let me go." Bobby's physician looks irritated and she tells him, "Come on now, Bobby, try to act like a big boy and be still and relax." Bobby turns his head away from the woman and opens his mouth for the wedge that will prevent him from biting through his tongue. He begins to cry silently, his small shoulders shaking and he stiffens his body against what he knows is coming.

Mary is only five years old. She sits on a small, straight-backed chair, moving her legs back and forth, humming the same four notes over and over and over. Her head, framed in a tangled mass of golden curls, moves up and down with each note. For the first three years of her life, Mary was thought to be a mostly normal child. Then, after she began behaving oddly, she had been handed off to a foster family. Her father and mother didn't want her any longer. She had become too strange for her father, whose alcoholism clouded any awareness of his young daughter. Mary's mother had never wanted her anyway and was happy to have her placed in another home. When the LSD Mary has been given begins to have its effects, she stops moving her head and legs and sits staring at the wall. She doesn't move at all. After about ten minutes, she looks at the nearby physician observing her, and says, "God isn't coming back today. He's too busy. He won't be back here for weeks."

From early 1940 to 1953, Dr. Lauretta Bender, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist practicing at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, experimented extensively with electroshock therapy on children who had been diagnosed with "autistic schizophrenia." In all, it has been reported that Bender administered electroconvulsive therapy to at least 100 children ranging in age from three years old to 12 years, with some reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One source reports that, inclusive of Bender's work, electroconvulsive treatment was used on more than 500 children at Bellevue Hospital from 1942 to 1956, and then at Creedmoor State Hospital Children's Service from 1956 to 1969. Bender was a confident and dogmatic woman, who bristled at criticism, oftentimes refused to acknowledge reality even when it stood starkly before her.

Despite publicly claiming good results with electroshock treatment, privately Bender said she was seriously disappointed in the aftereffects and results shown by the subject children. Indeed, the condition of some of the children appeared to have only worsened. One six-year-old boy, after being shocked several times, went from being a shy, withdrawn child to acting increasingly aggressive and violent. Another child, a seven-year-old girl, following five electroshock sessions had become nearly catatonic.

Years later, another of Bender's young patients who became overly aggressive after about 20 treatments, now grown, was convicted in court as a "multiple murderer." Others, in adulthood, reportedly were in and of trouble and prison for a battery of petty and violent crimes. A 1954 scientific study of about 50 of Bender's young electroshock patients, conducted by two psychologists, found that nearly all were worse off after the "therapy" and that some had become suicidal after treatment. One of the children studied in 1954 was the son of well-known writer Jacqueline Susann, author of the bestselling novel "Valley of the Dolls." Susann's son, Guy, was diagnosed with autism shortly after birth and, when he was three years old, Dr. Bender convinced Susann and her husband that Guy could be successfully treated with electroshock therapy. Guy returned home from Bender's care a nearly lifeless child. Susann later told people that Bender had "destroyed" her son. Guy has been confined to institutions since his treatment.

To their credit, some of Dr. Bender's colleagues considered her use of electroshock on children "scandalous," but few colleagues spoke out against her, a situation still today common among those in the medical profession. Said Dr. Leon Eisenberg, a widely respected physician and true pioneer in the study of autistic children, "[Lauretta Bender] claimed that some of these children recovered [because of her use of shock treatment]. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to several studies by [Dr. E. R.] Clardy. He was at Rockwin State Hospital - the back up to Bellevue - and he described the arrival of these children. He considered them psychotic and perhaps worse off then before the treatment." (This writer could find no case where any of Bender's colleagues spoke out against her decidedly racist viewpoints. Bender made it quite clear that she felt that African-Americans were best characterized by their "capacity for laziness" and "ability to dance," both features, Bender claimed, of the "specific brain impulses" of African-Americans.)

About the same time Dr. Bender was conducting her electroshock experiments, she was also widely experimenting on autistic and schizophrenic children with what she termed other "treatment endeavors." These included use of a wide array of psycho-pharmaceutical agents, several provided to her by the Sandoz Chemical Co. in Basel, Switzerland, as well as Metrazol, sub-shock insulin therapy, amphetamines and anticonvulsants. Metrazol was a trade name for pentylenetetrazol, a drug used as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. High doses cause convulsions, as discovered in 1934 by the Hungarian-American neurologist and psychiatrist Ladislas J. Meduna.

Metrazol had been used in convulsive therapy, but was never considered to be effective, and side effects such as seizures were difficult to avoid. The medical records of several patients who were confined at Vermont State Hospital, a public mental facility, reveal that Metrazol was administered to them by CIA contractor Dr. Robert Hyde on numerous occasions in order "to address overly aggressive behavior." One of these patients, Karen Wetmore, received the drug on a number of occasions for no discernible medical reason. During the same ten-year period in which Metrazol was used by the Vermont State Hospital, patient deaths skyrocketed. In 1982, the FDA revoked its approval of Metrazol.

Here it should be noted that, during the cold war years, CIA and Army Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC) interrogators, working as part of projects Bluebird and Artichoke, sometimes injected large amounts of Metrazol into selected enemy or Communist agents for the purposes of severely frightening other suspected agents, by forcing them to observe the procedure. The almost immediate effects of Metrazol are shocking for many to witness: subjects will shake violently, twisting and turning. They typically arch, jerk and contort their bodies and grimace in pain. With Metrazol, as with electroshock, bone fractures - including broken necks and backs - and joint dislocations are not uncommon, unless strong sedatives are administered beforehand.

A November 1936 Time magazine article seriously questioned the benefits of Metrazol, citing "irreversible shock" as a "great danger." The article described a typical Metrazol injection as such: "A patient receives no food for four or five hours. Then about five cubic centimeters of the drug [Metrazol] are injected into his veins. In about half-a-minute he coughs, casts terrified glances around the room, twitches violently, utters a horse wail, freezes into rigidity with his mouth wide open, arms and legs stiff as boards. Then he goes into convulsions. In one or two minutes the convulsions are over and he gradually passes into a coma, which lasts about an hour. After a series of shocks, his mind may be swept clean of delusions.... A patient is seldom given more than 20 injections and if no improvement is noted after ten treatments, he is usually given up as hopeless."

The Army, the CIA and Metrazol

Army CIC interrogators working with the CIA at prisoner of war camps and safe house locations in post-war Germany on occasion used Metrazol, morphine, heroin and LSD on incarcerated subjects. According to former CIC officer Miles Hunt, several "safe houses and holding areas outside of Frankfurt near Oberursel" - a former Nazi interrogation center taken over by the US - were operated by a "special unit run by Capt. Malcolm S. Hilty, Maj. Mose Hart and Capt. Herbert Sensenig. The unit was especially notorious in its applications of interrogation methods [including the use of electroshock and Metrazol, mescaline, amphetamines and other drugs]." Said Hunt: "The unit took great pride in their nicknames, the 'Rough Boys' and the 'Kraut Gauntlet,' and didn't hold back with any drug or technique ... you name it, they used it." Added Hunt, "Sensenig was really disappointed when it was found that nothing had to be used on [former Reichsmarschall] Herman Goering, who was processed through the camp. Goering needed no inducement to talk."

Eventually, CIC interrogators working in Germany would be assisted in their use of interrogation drugs by several "former" Nazi scientists recruited by the CIA and US State Department as part of Project Paperclip. By early 1952, the CIC's Rough Boys would routinely use Metrazol during interrogations, as well as LSD, mescaline and conventional electroshock units.

Metrazol-like drugs are still used in interrogations today. According to reports from several former noncommissioned Army officers, who served on rendition-related security details in Turkey, Pakistan and Romania, drugs that produce effects quite similar to Metrazol are still used in 2010 by the Pentagon and CIA on enemy combatants and rendered subjects held at the many "black sites" maintained across the globe. Observed one former officer recently, "They would twist up like a pretzel, in unbelievable shapes and jerk and shake like crazy, their eyes nearly popping out of their heads."

In 2008, at the behest of US Sens. Carl Levin, Joe Biden and Chuck Hagel and in reaction to a March 2008 article in The Washington Post, the Pentagon initiated an Inspector General Report on the use of "mind-altering substances by DoD [Department of Defense] Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror." It is not known if the investigation has been completed. Among the more famous recent cases of the use of drugs upon prisoners concerns one-time alleged "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla, who had originally been accused of wanting to set off a "dirty bomb." The charge was later forced, but Padilla was held in solitary confinement for many months and forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The government has gone to great efforts to keep the public uninformed as regards use of drugs on prisoners. In an article by Carol Rosenberg for McClatchy News in July 2010, Rosenberg reported that, when covering the Guantanamo military commissions trials, when the question of "what psychotropic drugs were given another accused 9/11 conspirator, Ramzi bin al Shibh, the courtroom censor hits a white noise button so reporters viewing from a glass booth can't hear the names of the drugs. Under current Navy instructions for the use of human subjects in research, the undersecretary of the Navy is described as the authority in charge of research concerning "consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques," while at the same time is also responsible for "inherently controversial topics" that might attract media interest or "challenge by interest groups."

Dr. Bender Discovers LSD

In 1955 and1956, Dr. Bender began hearing glowing accounts about the potential of LSD for producing remarkable results in children suffering mental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Bender's earlier work with electroshock therapy had brought her into contact with several other prominent physicians who, at the time, were covert contractors with the CIA's MK/ULTRA and Artichoke projects. Primary among these physicians were Drs. Harold A. Abramson, Paul Hoch, James B. Cattell, Joel Elkes, Max Fink, Harris Isbell and Alfred Hubbard. Some of these names may be familiar to readers. Dr. Abramson, a noted allergist who surreptitiously worked for both the US Army and CIA since the late 1940s, was the physician Frank Olson was taken to see, shortly before his murder in New York City in November 1953. About a year earlier, Drs. Hoch and Cattell were responsible for injecting unwitting New York State Psychiatric Institute patient Harold Blauer with a massive dose of mescaline that killed him. Dr. Elkes was one of the earliest physicians in Europe to experiment with LSD, having requested samples of the drug from Sandoz Chemical Co. in 1949. Elkes was a close associate of Dr. Abraham Wikler, who worked closely with Dr. Harris Isbell at the now-closed Lexington, Kentucky, prison farm, where hundreds of already drug-addicted inmates were given heroin in exchange for their participation in LSD and mescaline experiments underwritten by the CIA and Pentagon. Elkes worked closely with the CIA, Pentagon and Britain's MI6 on drug experiments in England and the United States.

Dr. Fink, who was greatly admired by Bender, is considered the godfather of electroshock therapy in the United States. In the early 1950s and beyond, Fink was a fully cleared CIA Project Artichoke consultant. In 1951, CIA officials under the direction of Paul Gaynor and Morse Allen of the agency's Security Research Service (SRS) that oversaw Artichoke, worked closely with Fink in New York City in efforts to thoroughly explore the merits of electroshock techniques for interrogations. The CIA was especially interested in the use of standard electroshock machines in producing amnesia, inducing subjects to talk and making subjects more prone to hypnotic control. According to one CIA document, Fink told officials "an individual could gradually be reduced through the use to electroshock treatment to the vegetable level."

In addition to Fink, Bender also greatly admired the work of Dr. Lothar B. Kalinowsky, a psychiatrist who also consulted closely with the CIA on electroshock matters. Kalinowsky, who was part Jewish and had fled Germany in 1933, was Fink's close friend and, like Fink, was widely recognized as an expert on electroconvulsive therapy. Kalinowsky met with the CIA's Allen and Gaynor frequently and sometimes was accompanied by Dr. Fink at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he worked closely with Dr. Hoch.

While it is clear from Dr. Bender's papers that she also considered the early LSD work of "Dr." Alfred M. Hubbard in Vancouver, Canada, to be "very substantial and beneficial," it is important to state here that Hubbard was not a physician nor did he have any formal medical training. Hubbard, a jovial character who sometimes worked with the FBI and CIA, was a strong proponent of the use of LSD. Despite the fact that he had no medical credentials and once served time in prison for smuggling, he hoodwinked the Sandoz Chemical Co. into supplying him such ample amounts of LSD that he dispersed so widely and abundantly that he earned the title "The Johnny Appleseed of LSD." Hubbard's use of LSD in allegedly curing alcoholism is still cited today. How Hubbard so easily passed as a physician is unknown. Even a 1961 paper published by New York Medical College, Department of Psychiatry, and authored by Dr. A.M. Freedman, cited Hubbard's LSD work with "children, primarily delinquents" to have been 85% successful."

Other physicians whom Dr. Bender consulted about the effects of LSD on children were Drs. Ronald A. Sandison, Thomas M. Ling and John Buckman. These three worked in England at both the Chelsea Clinic in London and Potwick Hospital in Worcestershire, outside of London. Sandison is credited with having been the first person to bring LSD into England, this in 1952 after he met Albert Hofmann in Basle, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Chemical laboratories. Hofmann handed Sandison a box of around 600 ampules, each containing 100 micrograms of LSD. Back in England, Sandison shared his psychedelic bounty with associates Drs. Ling and Buckman. Before the year was out, Sandison also turned Hubbard on to LSD, guiding Hubbard through his first trip. Sandison also began a new treatment program at the Gothic-looking Potwick facility that he dubbed Psycholytic Therapy. His program's patients were mostly schizophrenics. In 1958, an LSD treatment unit was established at Potwick. Over the years, it has been reported that the CIA, MI6 and the Macy Foundation secretly helped finance the unit. Dr. Elkes helped by raising about $75,000 for the unit's operation. For the next ten years the unit administered over 15,000 doses of LSD to about 900 patients.

Drs. Buckman and Ling worked closely with Sandison in the Potwick unit. In 1963, Buckman and Ling wrote in a publication, describing "good examples" of the use of LSD in psycholytic psychotherapy: "The patients' experiences under LSD have not supported Marx's dictum that Religion is the opium of the people but rather that there is a deep basic belief in a Supreme Being, whether the religion background be Christian, Jewish or Hindu."

Dr. Buckman also worked at London's Chelsea Clinic, often times treating adults and sometimes children. Buckman believed strongly that "frigidity" in women could be treated successfully with LSD. In 1967, he said of LSD: "Many therapists believe that a transcendental experience - a feeling that it is a good world and one is a part of it - is a curative experience in itself." According to several informed sources in the London, for years MI6, the British intelligence service and the CIA closely monitored the LSD work conducted by Sandison, Ling and Buckman.

Two Sisters, LSD and Dr. Buckman

Marion McGill, today an attorney and college professor in the western United States and her sister, Trudy, were sent in 1960 by their parents to be interviewed by Drs. Ling and Buckman at the Chelsea Clinic in London. At the time, Marion was 13 years old and her sister was 15. Marion says that both her mother and father were "quite taken with the benefits of LSD and thought that we would also benefit from the drug." Both parents had undergone a series of ten LSD "treatments" at the Chelsea clinic. Marion goes on:

"As a 13-year old at the time, my decision-making capacity was very limited. I was, by nature, fairly compliant and docile, rather eager to please my parents. I understood nothing of what was being suggested for me and my 15 year-old sister - namely that we participate in some sort of 'research' that both our parents had also participated in. Whether the word 'experiment' was used, I don't recall. The term 'LSD' was vaguely familiar, however, because my parents were 'taking' this drug as a form of 'quick therapy' - their term for it - that had been recommended by my uncle, a psychiatrist at a well known east coast medical school. Both parents needed therapy, in my view. While highly successful professionally, my father was a tightly wound, rather angry and insecure man, an accomplished academic, but an 'industrial strength narcissist,' as I later called him. My mother was a submissive, obedient, Catholic woman without much identity of her own, other than being a doctor's wife.

"My sister and I, however, were about as 'normal' as any two teenagers could be. We were at the top of our classes in school; both of us had lots of friends, participated in extra curricular activities. We didn't need 'therapy.' We were told we would get a day off from school after each overnight stay at the clinic for this LSD. It was perhaps the prospect of a day off from Catholic girls' school that persuaded us to do it. I wasn't aware of making a 'decision.' The purpose of this program was never explained. There were to be 10 sessions - once a week for 10 weeks. I believe they started in January 1960.

"The experiences at the clinic where the LSD was administered were quite strange. There was a brief 'interview' by Dr. John Buckman, asking banal questions about health issues (none), but providing no information about what to expect from the LSD. There was no mention, for example, of hallucinations or perceptual distortions or anything frightening. I was not informed of any persistent effects, such as nightmares. Certainly the possibility of lasting damage was not mentioned. The word 'experiment' was not used. There was, in other words, no informed consent whatsoever. I was not told that I could refuse to participate, that I could quit at any time (as provided in the Nuremberg Code). Since I was below the age of consent, my parents would have been the ones to agree to this. Indeed, they were the ones to suggest that we be used in these experiments. It would not otherwise have happened. But my parents would never discuss this in later years and never explained why they did it.

"During the 10 sessions, each of which involved an injection, my sister and I were kept in separate bedrooms, darkened rooms, usually with someone present in the room, but I don't know who the person was. Occasionally, my mother was also present. At times, I was so frightened by the hallucinations that I screamed and tried to escape from the room. I remember once actually reaching the hallway and being forcibly put back into the bedroom by my mother. I saw a wild array of images - nightmarish visions, occasionally provoking hysterical laughter, followed immediately by wracking sobs. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was terrifying.

"There was no effort to counsel us during or after each of these sessions. There was no 'debriefing,' no explanation of what was happening or why this was being done to us. Why I did not refuse to participate after I first experienced it, I don't know. But as an adult and later as a professional medical ethicist, I recognized this lack of resistance as a function of childhood itself. Most children who are victims of parental abuse do not know how to resist. They fear rejection by parents more than they fear the abuse, it seems. The 'power differential' is huge between parents and children and the dependence on parents is virtually absolute. We were also, living in London at the time, away from our friends. My sister and I had been told not to talk about what we were doing. We were Catholics, obedient to parents, etc. Our father was a doctor, after all - it was hard to grasp that he would do harm to us or that our mother would. Children just don't think this way initially. A child's dependency usually means trusting one's parents or caregivers.

"Although each individual session was often terrifying, any lasting effects of the LSD unfolded gradually. In the weeks immediately following the final session, I experienced frequent nightmares - visions of crawling insects, horrible masks, etc. I couldn't sleep. I was afraid to shut my eyes. I became afraid of the dark. My parents were dismissive and unsympathetic. Their attitude was, in some ways, more disturbing to me than the experiments themselves because it meant that my parents had known full well that the experience would very likely be frightening - and hadn't cared.

"I discovered that my parents were dishonest and unfeeling in ways that I could not comprehend. They told my sister and me never to talk about the LSD experiences, never to disclose what had happened in London. This further ruptured our relationship with them, a relationship that was, by then, permanently damaged. I was still dependent on them, however and so was my sister.

"Two years after these experiments, during her freshman year in college, my sister suffered a nervous breakdown. I don't know the extent to which the LSD may have precipitated this. But my parents' response to what was probably a mild breakdown from which my sister could have recovered, was coercive and drastic. She had been asking questions about the LSD at this time. She was angry about it. We both were. We talked about it together, but I was afraid to confront our parents. My sister was not. The angrier she became, the more she was 'diagnosed' as a 'psychiatric' case and the more medication she was given. To this day, my sister is heavily medicated. She never fully recovered from that first episode.

"Our parents responded to my sister's anger in a way that frightened me further. I also felt tremendous guilt for not being able to prevent the horrors that my sister endured. Once she was 'classified' as a psychiatric patient, she was lost. Everything that was done to her in the name of 'treatment' seemed to me to be a form of ongoing abuse and torture.

"The fact that our father was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected physician - and his brother, who had introduced us to this LSD horror, was a prominent, internationally known and widely respected psychiatrist - made it impossible to expose them or go against them. Their reputations were more important to them than the health and well being of my sister.

"My own response was simply to leave home. I never trusted my parents again after the London LSD experience. I discovered many other ways in which my father and my uncle lied, covered up, dissembled and eventually threatened me, in order to keep this story from being told.

"On a positive note, the experience informed my career choices in both human rights and medical ethics, but it also made me alert to the ways in which academic medicine was - and is - corrupted by the drug industry itself and by the continuing abuse of human subjects to further the development of drugs as weapons - both for interrogation potential and also, more subtle behavior control on a massive scale. My own experience also sensitized me to the special vulnerability of children and teenagers in the medical environment.

"Even when I subsequently confronted my father with the evidence that LSD had been tested by the CIA for use as a military weapon in the 1950s and 1960s, he dismissed his participation by saying that it was an 'enlightening experience, like visiting an art gallery.' When I pointed out that this was not my experience as a child, he dismissed it, including the presumption that I must be a 'conspiracy theorist' to propose such a thing. At the age of 91, he finally admitted that it had perhaps not been a very good idea to subject my sister and me to LSD.

"Dr. Buckman and Ling were knowing participants in ongoing intelligence-based work with mind altering drugs. I 'met' Buckman in London when I was 13, but encountered him again years later at the university medical school in the United States where he was on the faculty.

"I went to see Dr. Buckman in his office. I asked him what he thought about the ethics of using children in an LSD experiment. At first, he didn't seem to realize who I was. I identified myself as one of his 'subjects' and gave him my business card as a Medical Ethicist and lawyer. He was clearly shocked, stood up, refused to talk to me and told me to leave his office. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from my father. His brother, the psychiatrist and colleague of Dr. Buckman, had been alerted to my impromptu visit. Subsequently, both my uncle and my father threatened me, saying they would make sure I lost my university faculty position if I disclosed anything publicly about the LSD experiments in London.

"'You will never work in bioethics again,' they said.

"The response of all these men to the threat of disclosure indicates their lack of ethical scruples, their lack of empathy, their own pathology. I don't know what the exact term would be, but I suspect there is a form of psychological 'doubling' at work - the sort of thing that was described in [Robert Jay] Lifton's book, The Nazi Doctors who were able to ignore their Hippocratic oath to 'first, do no harm,' and to inflict unimaginable horrors on their fellow human beings.

"The loss of my sister has been a life long source of sorrow for me. I attribute it to the LSD and its cover up, whether the chemicals themselves 'caused' her disintegration or not. In law this is called a 'contributing cause.' I learned that people cover up the most awful things, not just within a family but within communities, within universities, within 'polite society.' There is probably no absolute barrier that will prevent these things from being done, but they have to be exposed and called out for what they are, whenever they occur."

Dr. Bender's LSD Experiments on Children

Shortly after deciding to initiate her own LSD experiments on children, Bender attended a conference sponsored by a CIA front group, the Josiah Macy Foundation. The conference focused on LSD research and featured Dr. Harold A. Abramson as a presenter. In 1960, Abramson conducted his own LSD experiments on a group of six children ranging in age from five to 14 years of age. A few short months after the Macy Foundation conference, Dr. Bender was notified that her planned LSD experiments would be partially and surreptitiously funded by the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (SIHE), another CIA front group then located in Forest Hills, New York. The Society, headed by James L. Monroe, a former US Air Force officer who had worked on top-secret psychological warfare and propaganda projects, oversaw about 55 top-secret experiments underwritten by the CIA. These projects involved LSD, ESP, black magic, astrology, psychological warfare, media manipulation, and other subjects. Apparently, Bender's work with children and LSD raised some concerns at the CIA's Technical Services Division (TSD). A 1961 TSD memo written to Monroe questioned the "operational benefits of Dr. Bender's work as related to children and LSD," and requested to be kept "closely appraised of the possible links between Dr. Bender's project and those being conducted under separate MK/ULTRA funding at designated prisons in New York and elsewhere."

In 1960, Dr. Bender launched her first experiments with LSD and children. They were conducted within the Children's Unit, Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. The LSD she used was supplied by Dr. Rudolph P. Bircher of the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company. (Dr. Bircher also provided Bender with UML-491, also a Sandoz-produced product, very much like LSD but sometimes "dreamier" in effect and longer lasting.) Her initial group of young subjects consisted of 14 children diagnosed schizophrenic, all under the age of 11. (Because diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, autism, and other disorders have changed over the decades, one cannot assess what actual conditions these children really had.) There were 11 boys and three girls, ranging in age from six to ten years old.

Jean Marie is almost seven years old. She came here nearly a year ago after her parents abandoned her to the care of an aunt who had no interest in raising her. Marie, who prefers to be called Jean, is shy, withdrawn, and distrustful of most adults she encounters. There are reports she may have been sexually molested by her uncle ... Despite her withdrawn nature she smiles easily, and enjoys the company of other children. After receiving LSD on three occasions earlier this month, Marie ceased smiling at all and lost any interest in others her age ... In the past week, she seems to have become easily agitated and has lost any interest in reading, something she seemed to very much enjoy before treatment.

In a published report on her 196 LSD experiments with 14 "autistic schizophrenic" children, Bender states she initially gave each of the children 25 mcg. of LSD "intramuscularly while under continuous observation." She writes: "The two oldest boys, over ten years, near or in early puberty, reacted with disturbed anxious behavior. The oldest and most disturbed received Amytal sodium 150 mg. intramuscularly and returned to his usual behavior." Both boys were then excluded from the experiment.

The 12 remaining children were then given injections of 25 mcg. of LSD and then days later were each given 100 mcg. of LSD once a week. Bender's report states: "Then it was increased gradually to twice and three times a week as no untoward side-effects were noticed.... Finally, it was given daily and this continued for six weeks until the time of this report."

Bender's findings and conclusions concerning her LSD experiments indicated she found the use of the drug promising. Bender reported: "In general, they [the children] were happier; their mood was 'high' in the hours following the ingestion of the drug ... they have become more spontaneously playful with balls and balloons ... their color is rosy rather than blue or pale and they have gained weight." Bender concluded: "The use of these drugs [LSD, UML-401, UML-491] ... will give us more knowledge about both the basic schizophrenic process and the defensive autism in children and also about the reaction of these dilysergic acid derivatives as central and autonomic nervous system stimulants and serotonin antagonists. Hopefully these drugs will also contribute to our efforts to find better therapeutic agents for early childhood schizophrenia."

In an article published in 1970, Dr. Bender reported on the results of LSD dosing upon "two adolescent boys who were mildly schizophrenic." She reported that the boys experienced perceptual distortions. They thought the researchers were making faces at them, that their pencils were becoming "rubbery," and one boy reported the other boy's face had turned green. The boys began to complain that they were being experimented upon. Even so, Bender and her associate continued the two male adolescents on a regimen of 150 mcg. per day, in divided doses, of LSD. While one of the boys supposedly "benefited very much," Bender reported that he later returned to the hospital as "a disturbed adult schizophrenic." The other boy kept complaining that he was being experimented upon and they stopped giving him LSD, not because of the drug's effects itself, Bender explained, but "because of the boy's attitude towards it," which she attributed to "his own psychopathology."

Dr. Bender's LSD experiments continued into the late 1960s and, during that time, continued to include multiple experiments on children with UML-401, a little known LSD-type drug provided to her by the Sandoz Company, as well as UML-491, also a Sandoz product. Bender's reports on her LSD experiments give no indication of whether the parents or legal guardians of the subject children were aware of, or consented to, the experiments. Without doubt, parents or guardians were never informed that the CIA underwrote Bender's work. Over the years, there have been multiple reports that many of Bender's subject children were either "wards of the State" or orphans, but the available literature on the experiments reveals nothing on this. The same literature makes it obvious that the children had been confined to the Creedmoor State Hospital for long periods of time and that many, if discharged, needed "suitable homes or placements in the community." There is also no evidence that any follow-up studies were conducted on any of the children experimented upon by Dr. Bender. Today, Dr. Bender is best known and highly regarded in some circles as the creator of the Bender-Gestalt Test, which measures motor skills in children.

On Bender's use of LSD on children, Dr. Leon Eisenberg said years later: "She did all sorts of things. Lauretta Bender reached success in her career long before randomized controlled trials had even been heard of. She didn't see the need for trials of drugs because she was convinced she knew what worked." (See: "A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers" by Adam Feinstein, Wiley-Blanchard, 2010.) Many other physicians speaking privately were far less diplomatic in condemning Bender's LSD work, but, still today, many are reluctant to criticize her, and, remarkably, many of the aging stalwarts of the arguable "virtues" and "potential" of LSD continue to cite her work with children as groundbreaking science.

Today, nearly 60 years beyond the horrors of Dr. Bender's CIA-sponsored experiments on children, few people are aware that they were conducted. For most people, regardless of their awareness of the experiments, it is difficult to fathom how intelligent, highly educated physicians and scientists could partake in such brutal, uncaring, unethical and illegal experiments on children. What was the basis of their motivation? Was it the quest for some sort of elusive medical grail? Was it for economic gain? Or was it simply the result of a misguided search for knowledge that appeared so infinitely important that any sense of compassion and respect for human rights and dignity was cast aside in the name of a higher goal or good - a search at times so exhilarating with the sense that one is at the precipice of a momentous discovery that any semblance of respect for humankind was thrown aside?

One can easily come to any and all these conclusions simply by reading the professional papers of such scientists and researchers. Not once do any of these papers express concern for the subjects at hand or denote any pangs of conscience at violating any oaths, codes and statutes regarding patient rights, human rights or human dignity. That America's most shameful period of human experimentation, the years 1950 through to about 1979, came on the heels of the making and adoption of the Nuremberg Codes only adds to the shame and hypocrisy. Today, human experimentation is still aggressively conducted by US government-sponsored and employed physicians and scientists regardless of those codes, which came directly out of the shocking madness of the Nazi era. That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok - and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged.

(The names Marion McGill and that of her sister Trudy, are pseudonyms. Marion is a highly respected attorney and college professor, who asked that her real name not be used in this article. All other names in this article are real.)

Evangelicals' Stealth Mission to Sneak Jesus into Public Schools

Fundamentalist evangelists are hiding their religious agenda to sneak into public schools and preach to a captive audience of students.
By Rob Boston, Church and State
Posted on August 13, 2010

United Methodist minister David Jenkins was meeting with fellow clergy last year in the small Kansas community of Sharon Springs when one of the pastors made what sounded like a routine request.

The clergyman noted that the Todd Becker Foundation was coming to town, and the evangelical Christian organization, which purports to warn youngsters about the dangers of drunk driving, wanted to line up local religious leaders to help with its presentation.

What struck Jenkins as odd was the venue: It was to take place at Wallace County High School.

Furthermore, the Becker Foundation had a very specific set of duties in mind for the ministers. They would swing into action after students had been offered a chance to become “born again.”

“Our task was to go forward when students came down to make their decision, and we would give them a Bible and some Christian material and talk with them about Christ,” Jenkins said.

He noted that one of the attendees at the meeting was the town’s former school superintendent, a man who never had much use for the separation of church and state.

“His comment was that they’d have to fly under the radar so they were not barred from giving a gospel presentation in school,” Jenkins said. “It was clear to me they were using this drunk-driving lecture as a vehicle to give an evangelizing presentation.”

Jenkins wanted no part of the scheme. In fact, he vowed to put a stop to it since he believed the Becker Foundation’s activities were legally dubious. He alerted Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“For me, it’s not appropriate for several reasons,” Jenkins told Church & State. “This is a public school. There are students in that school who are Catholic, and that is not their form of evangelism.

“These kids are forced to attend this program because it is a school function,” continued Jenkins. “If they don’t attend, they could be disciplined. They have a forced audience of people who are under age, whose parents in many cases would not be very happy to see their kids being exposed to this type of event.”

Americans United’s Legal Department investigated and took action, sending a letter to school officials warning them that allowing Becker Foundation representatives to proselytize students would violate church-state separation.

But AU didn’t stop there. Later, AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Staff Attorney Ian Smith drafted a letter to officials at the foundation itself, warning them that their activities were constitutionally problematic.

AU’s intervention in the issue is not new. In fact, AU attorneys have periodically done battle with groups just like the Becker Foundation – fundamentalist-oriented ministries that have proven adept at slipping into public schools under the cover of stealth, where they preach to students outright or pressure them to attend a revival later that evening.

It has been a long-running fight. More than 20 years ago, Americans United sounded the alarm about a group called Sports World Ministries, which sent former professional athletes into public schools to deliver speeches on “character” – lectures that often took on the air of revival meetings.

In one case, school officials in Williamsburg, Va., said they were “caught flat-footed” by the group, which offered an anti-drug assembly that ended with an appeal to accept Jesus.

The organization, currently headquartered in Indiana, now operates under the name “Sports World.” And these days it has plenty of company. Several similar fundamentalist proselytizers roam the country, seeking entree into public schools.

These groups share common tactics: They approach school officials with an offer of an engaging assembly on a topic that looks secular, such as suicide prevention, drug awareness or anti-bullying strategies.

Speakers may have scant credentials to address these topics. That’s not surprising, because they are really just fundamentalist evangelists looking for a way to preach to a captive public school audience.

The Becker Foundation is a good case in point. The group was founded by Keith Becker, whose younger brother was killed in a drunk-driving accident in 2005. Todd Becker, a high school senior at the time, was a passenger in car driven by another student, who was legally intoxicated when the wreck occurred.

Todd Becker’s fate is undeniably tragic, and Keith Becker, who converted to Christianity after his brother’s death, uses the tale for maximum emotional impact. But that’s not all the group does.

In a letter sent to Pastor Jenkins, the Becker Foundation was upfront about its desire to convert students to fundamentalism. The missive reads in part, “Following the actual assembly, students who are particularly impacted and in need of help or counsel are then, one-on-one shown the truth of scriptures and presented the truth of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. We then provide the student with a Bible and other Christian reading materials.”

AU’s Legal Department promptly sent a letter to Wallace County school officials and followed up with a phone call to Superintendent Robert Young, who assured Americans United that he would tell the group not to preach to the students or attempt to lure them to an evangelistic service later in the day.

Young apparently followed through, but not all references to the evening revival were scrubbed. Jenkins noted that fliers promoting the religious service were posted all over the school.

AU attorneys considered the Wallace County matter closed – but they were aware that the flap in Sharon Springs was just a skirmish. Reports continued to filter in from the Midwest about Becker Foundation staff members preaching in public schools.

In its letter to the Becker Foundation, AU’s Khan and Smith warned Keith Becker that the organization must stop its improper evangelistic activities in public schools. Failure to do so, they cautioned, could result in legal action against the foundation as well as the schools.

The AU legal team cited a long line of court decisions that hold private entities liable when they knowingly join with government to bring about constitutional violations. Thus the Becker Foundation’s religious presentations in public schools violate church-state separation and could put the organization at legal risk.

“[We wish] to put you on notice,” said the AU letter, “that private, non-governmental entities such as the Todd Becker Foundation may be held legally liable for violating parents’ and students’ constitutional rights when acting jointly with a public school to present an assembly containing religious content.”

Attorneys for the Becker Foundation replied, insisting the group has done nothing wrong. Students do not have to attend its assemblies, attorney Jefferson Downing insisted, and the events that take place during the school day are free of religious content.

In response, AU noted that the Becker Foundation’s claim is belied by its own Web site. The site quotes the principal of a high school in Dawes County, Neb., who expressed discomfort over religious content in the presentation.

“The part that I thought was not in keeping with public education was the apparent religious ties,” wrote the principal. “I would have liked for that portion to be brought in at the evening meeting and not have it been at the complete student meeting during the school day. I felt uncomfortable with it and I know there were several other teachers who felt the same way.”

In addition, the Hitchcock County (Neb.) News ran a photo of a foundation staffer giving a presentation while standing in front of a video screen covered with Bible verses.

The Becker Foundation’s Web site also states that after its assemblies, students are offered an opportunity to meet with staff members and that these conversations often result in “sharing with the student the gospel of Jesus Christ and pointing them to a new life found in Christ.”

Americans United pointed out that the foundation’s Web site strongly suggests that these meetings are offered after presentations that take place during the school day.

AU’s dust-up with the Becker Foundation is not unique. Speakers from a range of organizations launch into evangelistic sermons in school. Others are more subtle, inviting students to what is described as a party that evening.

Young people may be lured with the promise of free food, games and even drawings for prizes. They may get those things – after they’ve sat through a fundamentalist sermon.

Sometimes dubbed “pizza evangelists” because of their predilection for offering free snacks to students, representatives from these ministries roam the nation, hitting public schools in one community and quickly moving on to the next.

Many of these organizations are adept at crafting messages that appeal to young people through the use of props, costumes and stunts.

One ministry, Commandos! USA based in Katy, Texas, purports to offer a program on the dangers of substance abuse led by performers dressed in quasi-military garb. But the emphasis is really on preaching. The group’s Web site brags that it seeks to “impart effectively the true meaning of God’s word” and quotes a passage from the Book of Psalms.

AU tangled with the Commandos! in February of 2008, advising a public school in Laredo to either cancel the presentation or make sure it remained free of religious content and pitches for after-school religious events. Officials chose to cancel the presentation.

Three other ministries – the Power Team, the Strength Team and Team Impact – use athletes who perform feats of strength such as ripping phone books in half and bending steel bars while lecturing on drug awareness and other topics.

The Power Team boasts that it practices “Family-Focused Evangelism” and says, “We bring the message of Christ in an energizing way to your community…. [W]e create a revival meeting atmosphere resulting in an awe-inspiring response. Hundreds, even thousands, give their lives to Christ during a typical crusade.”

Likewise, the Strength Team boasts that it offers “evangelism with a purpose” while Team Impact promises pastors, “With a Team Impact event, your church has the ability to impact your schools with this powerful message.”

Evangelist Rick Gage, based in Duluth, Ga., runs Go Tell Ministries, which purports to offer an anti-drug message in public schools. A former assistant football coach at Liberty University, Gage boasts on his Web site that he has spoken to more than two million public school students.

Gage is clear about his goals. His site reads, “He has led thousands of people – young and old, rich and poor of all ethnic backgrounds – to make personal decisions to live for Christ.”

There’s even a Minnesota-based ministry that uses hard rock music to reach teens. Called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, the group frequently sends its band Junkyard Prophet into public schools.

One of its leaders recently said, “We are speaking to kids in our schools about the Constitution, suicide prevention and our own testimony of how Christ turned our lives around…so we can get the light into kids’ hands in public schools.”

You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, based in Annandale, Minn., has ties to the Republican Party in that state. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has twice helped the group raise money. In addition, ministry members attended the Minnesota GOP convention in April, and the Minnesota Independent reported that the band’s front man, Bradlee Dean, visited gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in his home.

Some moderates in the Minnesota GOP are alarmed. As the Independent reported, Dean holds extreme views. In May, he even seemed to praise hard-line Muslim nations for executing gays.

“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America,” Dean said on a ministry radio show May 15. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

While most of the school evangelists aren’t this extreme, they don’t exactly try to hide what they’re up to. Their Web sites are rife with fundamentalist Christian testimony and appeals to sympathetic donors to help them proselytize. On a form filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Dallas-based Power Team lists it purpose in just one word: evangelism.

The Becker Foundation’s Web site states it upfront: “Our desire is to impact students for eternity, not just for a few Friday nights,” it reads. “Thus, our sole purpose is to draw young people into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Elsewhere on the site, Keith Becker writes, “As we travel around this state, our desire is that our efforts would result in this one thing: that young and old alike would turn their lives over, fully over, to Jesus Christ.”

The group also has some friends in high places. In February, it hosted a banquet in Kearney featuring Gigi Graham, daughter of famous evangelist Billy Graham, as its special guest speaker.

Despite this clear evangelistic intent, the foundation claims to have done presentations in nearly 150 Nebraska schools, all but a handful of them public schools. The group says its goal is to reach every school in the state.

Amazingly, some of these groups are able to persuade school officials to pay them. The Power Team, for example, instructs school officials to contact them “for pricing for your area.” A letter released by the Becker Foundation reads, “We do not charge the high school an actual fee; rather, they determine the expenses they are able to pay. We then raise the remaining expenses unpaid by the school. We rely on individuals and local churches to fund the message in their community.”

In Sharon Springs, a rural Kansas hamlet of about 800 near the Colorado border, the Becker Foundation’s foray has had lasting effects on Jenkins. The minister had been at odds with a faction of his congregation aligned with the Religious Right prior to the foundation’s appearance in town. His refusal to support the crusade pushed things to the breaking point, and they engineered his ouster.

Jenkins, 50, is currently living in Kansas City and plans to join the United Church of Christ. He hopes to find work serving as pastor of a UCC congregation. His run-in with the Todd Becker Foundation, Jenkins said, has been a learning experience for him – and he hopes it will be for the town as well.

“If that community had a Muslim group come in and wanted to do that type of presentation, they would have been up in arms,” observed Jenkins. “As long as it’s what some hold to strongly, they think it’s OK in the schools.

“If they’re really going to focus on evangelism, why not do it in a church?” he asks. “In a church there would be no problem. The fact that they do it in a school shows they are trying to reach a captive audience of kids who are compelled to attend.”

Despite the upheaval in his professional life, Jenkins has no regrets.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would,” Jenkins said. “I think this issue is important enough that it needs to be addressed.”

AU Legal Director Khan called on public school officials to exercise diligence when private organizations offer to put on assemblies. The Web sites of many of these groups, she said, make it clear that they are interested chiefly in evangelism. A little research, she said, can stave off possible legal action.

“When a group that openly proclaims to be a Christian ministry approaches a public school and offers to put on a program,” Khan said, “a little warning bell should go off in a principal’s head. It’s likely this group has ulterior motives.”