Jim Hightower

High-Dollar Chips

For the past few years, a cabal of corporate and government officials has been pushing microchip devices that can be implanted in humans. VeriChip Corp. asserts that embedding one of its radio-frequency identification chips in your upper arm can be a medical boon. These electronic capsules transmit a unique code, says VeriChip, and if something happens to you, hospital staff can run a scanner over your chip, get your code, and activate a database containing your medical history.

VeriChip envisions at least 45 million Americans sporting their very own codes. But there’s one bit of information the corporation never mentioned to customers or federal regulators-several studies have found that the implants induce malignant tumors in lab mice and rats. After reviewing the studies, one eminent cancer expert said, “There’s no way in the world that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members.”

Where were our regulatory watchdogs? Too busy cheering on the chippers to ask tough questions about side effects. Tommy Thompson, the former secretary of Health and Human Services who oversaw approval of VeriChips for use in humans, has been a vigorous promoter of such electronic medical technologies. Five months after Thompson resigned his cabinet position in 2005, he joined the board of directors of both VeriChip and its parent corporation, Applied Digital Solutions Inc., where he was paid $40,000 a year and given about a million dollars worth of stock.

While Thompson once told an interviewer that he would “absolutely” be willing to have a VeriChip implanted in his own arm, he never did. Maybe he felt an injection of VeriChip cash would be better for his health.

Pray It’s Not So

Not only has George W attacked the wrong country in his surreal war, but his administration continues to shut down our constitutional liberties here at home. Federal officials have secretly seized library records and e-mails of innocent Americans, suppressed the right to peaceful assembly and free speech, suspended the core legal right of habeas corpus, and generally asserted autocratic authority by executive fiat.

Now comes a directive to suppress the right to free expression of religion. In the name of battling terrorism, the Bureau of Prisons has decreed that chaplains in every federal prison must systematically purge chapel libraries of all religious books, CDs, videos, and other materials that are not on an approved list. Calling this the “Standardized Chapel Library Project,” the bureau says it relied on “experts” to choose 150 books for each of 20 religions. It won’t say who the experts were.

The censorship is necessary, snapped a BOP official, to “assure reliable teachings.” Libraries that had thousands of religious texts have had their shelves decimated. This is government dictating religious teachings-a constitutional no-no.

Bureau officials say they’re protecting us from prisoners who might read inflammatory Muslim materials and be converted into terrorists. But the official list excludes such writings as Living Positively by Pastor Robert Schuller. Are they calling that a militant text?

Perhaps the strategy of the Bushites is to show terrorists that we can be nuttier than they are. That’s really scary.

Money Talks

While regular citizens won’t start voting on the presidential contenders until January, an intensive, closed-door primary is already taking place inside the confines of investment banks, hedge funds, and other financial institutions in Manhattan. Reporters are not allowed in, candidates don’t issue press releases about their appearances, and there is no disclosure about what the presidential wannabes pledge to these elite banking interests to gain their financial backing. It’s strictly a private campaign-albeit with enormous public impact.

Bear Stearns Cos., for example, has had its own presidential tour, summoning seven major candidates to its Midtown headquarters for exclusive presentations and Q&A sessions with its managing partners. If you’re just a plain ol’ voter, you’d be lucky to get a handshake with any of these aspirants, but this financial conglomerate can command its own little tête-à-tête with Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama, Fred Thompson, and others.

Business Week magazine reports that these Wall Street barons not only want commitments on issues like global trade and tax cuts. They also use the private sessions to measure the candidates’ ability to “make smart decisions in times of uncertainty, a trait bankers and traders prize in themselves.”

Aren’t these the same people who brought us Enron, NAFTA, offshoring, exorbitant credit card fees, dependency on oil, pension collapses, and other “smart decisions?” Indeed, isn’t Bear Stearns itself butt deep in the subprime mortgage disaster? Why should anyone listen to them?

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com.

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Published at 12:00 am CST