October 29, 2014

White House hacked and you will be too

Gizmodo.  Report: The White House Got Hacked by Russians

The Washington Post reports that computers at the White House were hacked recently by people possibly working for the Russian government.

According to the report, which is based on information from unnamed sources, security officials were able to contain the breaches relatively quickly, and that no classified networks were compromised. The NSA and FBI are investigating the attack, which we only found out about thanks to information from an "ally."

"How does an ally figure that out?"  Ben FitzGerald, with the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C. said. "What were they monitoring that we weren't?"

Scott Johnson at PowerLine reports

the computer network within the Executive Office of the President has been down for close to a week, and staff throughout the various components still lack basic access to their files (though many are now able to access e-mail and the Internet). He advises that EOP staff have been told not to say anything about the situation to anyone.

He updates

Our source Describing the problem as a “major data loss,” he believes that repair is expected to take weeks.  From what he understands, this is a serious problem. He asserts: “We are potentially talking OMB, USTR, ONDCP, OPM, and the White House itself(!). Top-line executive deliberations. Gone. Stolen? No idea.”

In his most recent message, our source reports:  EOP employees told to think very carefully about what personal information might have been located on their computers – still “weeks away” from a fix.

Officials warn 500 million financial records hacked

Federal officials warned companies Monday that hackers have stolen more than 500 million financial records over the past 12 months, essentially breaking into banks without ever entering a building.

"We're in a day when a person can commit about 15,000 bank robberies sitting in their basement," said Robert Anderson, executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Cyber Response and Services Branch.

The U.S. financial sector is one of the most targeted in the world, FBI and Secret Service officials told business leaders at a cybersecurity event organized by the Financial Services Roundtable. The event came in the wake of mass hacking attacks against Target, Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions.

"You're going to be hacked," Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI's cyberdivision, told the business leaders. "Have a plan."

His advice was directed to the banks, but it's just as applicable to you.  What are you doing to protect yourself?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:16 PM | Permalink

Flu Shots Not Effective for the Elderly

Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All  Sharyl Attkinson

An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.

So the NIH launched an effort to do “the” definitive study that would actually prove, for the first time, once and for all, that flu shots were beneficial to the elderly. The government would gather some of the brightest scientific minds for the research, and adjust for all kinds of factors that could be masking that presumed benefit.

But when they finished, no matter how they crunched the numbers, the data kept telling the same story: flu shots were of no benefit to the elderly. Quite the opposite. The death rate had increased markedly since widespread flu vaccination among older Americans. The scientists finally had to acknowledge that decades of public health thought had been mistaken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:13 PM | Permalink

A glass of win, a cup of cocoa will help your memory

Daily glass of wine aids memory (if you're over 60)

Older people who consume between one and six alcoholic drinks a week have a 'significantly' better ability to recall memories    Moderate alcohol consumption - up to two alcohol beverages a day – amongst the over 60s was found to preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.

Cocoa could be the secret to good memory in old age

Scientists find that elderly people who had consumed higher volumes of cocoa bean flavanols performed better in a cognitive task
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Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in the United States, who conducted the new study, said it provided the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.

Scott A. Small, one of the paper’s authors, said: "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30 or 40-year-old."

The findings still needed to be replicated in a larger study, he added. Dementia charities offered a cautious welcome to the results, which were published in Nature Neuroscience, but agreed more research was needed.

Scientists discover blood test that may predict Alzheimer's 20 YEARS before the disease starts

A blood test being developed by a group of Australian scientists could predict Alzheimer's disease two decades before patients show signs of the illness.  University of Melbourne researchers, who discovered the test, previously helped identify changes in the brain happened 20 years before people started presenting symptoms of the disease, which can be detected by performing brain-imaging procedures.

The blood test would have a 91 per cent rate of accuracy in predicting Alzheimer's and could be available within five years as further testing is yet to be carried out.

Initial research carried out on a trial group resulted in one of five participants positive for the disease despite having no memory loss.  Further tests carried out using brain-imaging procedures showed these patients had signs of degeneration associated with Alzheimer's.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2014

There's more political discrimination than racial discrimination

David Brooks has an excellent column on Why Partyism Is Wrong

The best recent research suggests that there’s more political discrimination than there is racial discrimination.  ….Polling data captured the same phenomenon.  In 1960, roughly 5 percent of Republicans and Democrats said they’d be “displeased” if their child married someone from the other party. By 2010, 49 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats said they would mind.

…..these studies are measuring something different. People’s essential worth is being measured by a political label: whether they should be hired, married, trusted or discriminated against.

The broad social phenomenon is that as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized. People are less judgmental about different lifestyles, but they are more judgmental about policy labels.

The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.

Politics becomes a marker for basic decency. Those who are not members of the right party are deemed to lack basic compassion, or basic loyalty to country.
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The problem is that hyper-moralization destroys politics. Most of the time, politics is a battle between competing interests or an attempt to balance partial truths. But in this fervent state, it turns into a Manichaean struggle of light and darkness. To compromise is to betray your very identity. When schools, community groups and workplaces get defined by political membership, when speakers get disinvited from campus because they are beyond the pale, then every community gets dumber because they can’t reap the benefits of diverging viewpoints and competing thought.

This mentality also ruins human interaction. There is a tremendous variety of human beings within each political party. To judge human beings on political labels is to deny and ignore what is most important about them. It is to profoundly devalue them. That is the core sin of prejudice, whether it is racism or partyism.

The personal is not political. If you’re judging a potential daughter-in-law on political grounds, your values are out of whack.

A current example:  Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep Debbie Wasserman confirmed that the Democratic campaign message for the midterms is that Republicans are scarier than Ebola and ISIS.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2014

Americans deserve better than this Americans deserve better than this

Obama's plans to order 34 MILLION green cards for illegal immigration 'amnesty'

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a draft proposal this month, seeking a vendor to produce the paperwork that authorizes illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States. The White House is preparing to issue an immigration-related executive order after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

According to that online solicitation, the agency will look for a company that can produce a minimum 4 million cards per year for five years, and 9 million in the early stages.

70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments.

Some of the illegal immigrants who have been granted President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status have registered to vote according to a recent computer check in North Carolina

Administrative Amnesty: Unjust, Costly, and an Incentive for More Illegal Immigration

The United States currently admits about 1 million legal permanent immigrants every year,[more than any other nation in the world.

Illegal immigrant murderers, drug traffickers and sex attackers among 2,200 released from holding centers despite Obama administration’s claim they were ‘low-risk offenders’ The inspector general report noted that at least 600 of the immigrants who were released were criminals,

Is CDC Hiding Enterovirus Link To Illegal Alien Kids?

Public Health: A disease that was once rare in the U.S. is killing Americans, and its rise coincides with the tidal wave of unaccompanied minor children arriving from Latin America under our de facto open-border policy.
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In 36 years only 26 cases of enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) were reported. 
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The CDC website reports that from mid-August to Oct. 10, the CDC itself or state authorities confirmed that 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia had come down with some sort of respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. Five children, including Eli, died from their infections.

More than a few observers have noticed that the sudden increase in EV-D68 cases coincides with the rapid rise of unaccompanied minors crossing our porous border. These children, often without proper health screenings, have been distributed throughout the U.S.
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"Most of the border minors are being kept in overcrowded facilities ridden with poor hygiene," Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a preventive medicine specialist, told Breitbart News this summer, as the border flood escalated. "This is the ideal condition for a viral outbreak."
The dispersal of illegal aliens, including unaccompanied minors, throughout the U.S. without proper medical screening is an appalling dereliction of duty by a president and an administration sworn to protect the health and safety of American citizens.

CDC admits 97 percent of the measles found in United States this year could be attributed to “importations from at least 18 countries.”

Measles, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases continue as a prime concern for the millions of Americans conflicted about the perpetual arrivals of illegal immigrants pouring into the country.
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Hospitals throughout America are reporting record breaking numbers as their emergency rooms are overwhelmed beyond capacity. Figures as of October 20, 2014 show the largest reported cases of these mystery illnesses included over 4,300 children at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In just one day 540 children visited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and 340 cases were reported by a Mobile, Alabama children’s hospital. Many hospitals have ceased admitting children temporarily as they determine ways to deal with the outbreaks.
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Thousands of these illegal children have been placed into public schools, seen in hospitals, and are receiving medical care, without meeting normal immunization requirements that American children are expected to have.

At the link is a state by state report

Peggy Noonan Who Do They Think We Are? The administration’s Ebola evasions reveal its disdain for the American people.

TThe administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis continues to be marked by double talk, runaround and gobbledygook. And its logic is worse than its language. In many of its actions, especially its public pronouncements, the government is functioning not as a soother of public anxiety but the cause of it.
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But again, who do they think we are? You gather they see us as poor, panic-stricken people who want a travel ban because we’re beside ourselves with fear and loathing. Instead of practical, realistic people who are way ahead of our government.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 24, 2014

Fast and Furious: Recap and Revealations

Federal agency sold guns to Mexican drug cartels in  Operation Fast and Furious - When the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) purposely allowed licensed firearm dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers who bought about 2000. presumably to track the guns to Mexican drug cartels notwithstanding strong objections by the firearms dealers and ATF field agents who were not allowed to arrest the straw buyers.  Only 700 have been recovered; the rest are in the hands of the drug cartels.  At least one and possibly two U.S. border agents were murdered and more than 200 Mexicans were killed with the guns that walked. 

AG Holder testified to Congress that he knew nothing about the gun-walking, but the Department of Justice refused to hand over any documents. 

On June 28, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over records explaining why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gun running operation.  It marked the first time in U.S. history that a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress.

Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012 for a list of the documents withheld under claim of executive privilege.  After 2 years of delay, Judge john Bates of the federal district court issued a "smack-down order" on September 23rd to the Department of Justice to produce the "Vaughn index" by October 23rd.  Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation two days later on September 25.

Obama Asserts Fast and Furious Executive Privilege Claim for Holder’s Wife

With only 3 hours and 26 minutes left to comply with the court order the Department of Justice finally released the 1,307 page “Vaughn index” which is being used to hide 15,662 pages of Fast and Furious documents ……

The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal. Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act.  The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 AM | Permalink

Bringing House Calls Back with UberHEALTH

From AEI ideas, a recurring feature called Markets in Everything

Now there’s an Uber for flu shots. Today the ride-sharing service announced a one-day UberHEALTH pilot program in partnership with Harvard Medical School to deliver free flu shots on-demand. From 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. today Uber drivers delivered a registered nurse to customers anywhere within the three test cities of New York, Boston, and Washington.

This is one more reason Big Taxi is doomed — Uber is running circles around them with cutting-edge innovation and the constant introduction of new services – services that Big Taxi, which has been around for more than half a century, would never in a million years think of offering!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2014

"Of all the questions in the liberal west, none is more forbidden to ask than why you are alive." "

Richard Fernandez in The Strong Hearse on why young teenage girls and boys are joining ISIS.

The liberal ideology is a very old and empty idea that is continuously undergoing cosmetic surgery to look young. Liberalism isn’t Western culture, but its corpse.  Our institutions without the animating spirit are but a coffin containing the expiring remains of a once great civilization. The box is painted in bright colors, but the young have looked inside it and seen what it contains: a demographically dying, self-hating and ultimately amoral culture that’s ready for its ghastly closeup.

And for want of an alternative to this corpse they go to the only flag permitted to fly by the corpse itself: ISIS. Too many people are looking at the offerings of  decadence and theocracy and tossing the coin .  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  The left believed it would be safe from rivals.  It feared Judaism and Christianity, but did not fear Islam, thinking it too hideous to compete.  Maybe it should reconsider.

Alduous Huxley understood that not everyone would buy into the Brave New World of the left. For all too many, the Obamacare and Obamaphones and Kim Kardashian diet won’t be enough. History shows the young always demand to know why men live and die. Snarky answers from Lena Dunham aren’t good enough any more. And of all the questions in the liberal west, none is more forbidden to ask than why you are alive. As Huxley pointed out, in the perfect future, which is our present, God will be pornography.
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When we locked up the sacred writing of our civilization in a safe labeled ‘hate speech’; when we made it shameful to fly the flag, wear the uniform, or bow your head to something greater than the Great Leader what did we think we would get?  We got ISIS.

The Left believed they could abolish the transcendent without understanding that this process  risked abolishing man.  The Great Narrative strove to make man merely an animal, and in its stead they got a monster.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 PM | Permalink

This makes me hopping mad

 Waste Book 14 Cover

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) just released Wastebook 2014, his annual list of the most wasteful government projects during 2014.  He calls it "What Washington Doesn't Want You to Read" -

“With no one watching over the vast bureaucracy, the problem is not just what Washington isn’t doing, but what it is doing.” Dr. Coburn said. “Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up some of these projects.”
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Congress actually forced federal agencies to waste billions of dollars for purely parochial, political purposes.

For example, lawmakers attached a rider to a larger bill requiring NASA to build a $350 million launch pad tower, which was mothballed as soon as it was completed because the rockets it was designed to test were scrapped years ago. Similarly, when USDA attempted to close an unneeded sheep research station costing nearly $2 million every year to operate, politicians in the region stepped in to keep it open.

Examples of wasteful spending highlighted in “Wastebook 2014” include:
Coast guard party patrols – $100,000
Watching grass grow – $10,000
State department tweets @ terrorists$3 million
Swedish massages for rabbits – $387,000
Paid vacations for bureaucrats gone wild – $20 million
Mountain lions on a treadmill – $856,000
Synchronized swimming for sea monkeys – $50,000
Pentagon to destroy $16 billion in unused ammunition -- $1 billion
Scientists hope monkey gambling unlocks secrets of free will –$171,000
Rich and famous rent out their luxury pads tax free – $10 million
Studying “hangry” spouses stabbing voodoo dolls – $331,000
Promoting U.S. culture around the globe with nose flutists $90 million

Take a look at the table of contents of the full report .  I guarantee you will be as infuriated as I am.

What makes me so made is that the federal government is incompetent at doing what it's supposed to do,
yet it spends all this money on nonsense and no one is ever held incompetent

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Paralysis and stem cells, pill for alcoholics, Parkinson's drugs side effects, Ketamine for depression or eat 8 a day

Paralyzed man walks again after cell transplant

The pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralyzed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack. He said walking again - with the support of a frame - was "an incredible feeling", adding: "When you can't feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it's like you were born again."

Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London's Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team.  He said what had been achieved was "more impressive than man walking on the moon".

A Pill Could Help Alcoholics, and Let Them Drink in Moderation

The key, says Wim van den Brink,a spirited Dutch psychiatrist  who co-founded the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research, is a pill to curb drinking. The drug, nalmefene, acts as an alcohol antagonist; it binds to opiate receptors in the brain and reduces the rush of pleasure associated with alcohol. (It has also been tested, with less success, to treat compulsive gambling.) In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, sponsored by Lundbeck A/S, a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufacturers nalmafene, van den Brink and his colleagues studied 604 people who took the drug.

Over six months, they found that those taking the drug reduced the number of heavy drinking days from 19 to eight per month, and effectively cut overall drinking by two-thirds. Van den Brink admits there was also a profound reduction in consumption in the placebo group, which nearly halved daily drinking—but the effects were amplified with the nalmefene tablet, to the equivalent of drinking a large glass of wine instead of an entire bottle. ….The drug, sold as Selincro, is available in Europe. In August, a clinical trial began enrolling patients for a U.S. study.
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Nalmefene (Selincro) is the first drug approved anywhere for the reduction of alcohol consumption. It’s also taken “as needed,” so it puts the patient in control.

Pay close attention if someone you know and love is taking drugs for Parkinson's.  Drugs for Parkinson's disease can turn patients into gamblers, sex addicts and compulsive shoppers

Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die, causing a lack of the chemical dopamine.  This, in turn, interferes with movement and co-ordination.

The disease is incurable - the aim of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. There are two types of medication: ‘levodopa’ drugs, used since the Sixties, and ‘dopamine agonists’, introduced 12 years ago.
Both attempt to replace the missing dopamine, but the levodopa group restores it artificially, while dopamine agonists mimic its role by stimulating nerve cells.
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The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation says in one earlier study, dopamine agonists were linked with compulsive behaviours in up to 14 percent of patients….Dopamine agonist drugs were 277 times more likely to result in a report of specific impulse control symptoms than other drugs

Eat your greens to fight the blues: Scientists say eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables can make you happy

A study by The University of Queensland found that eight or more portions of fruit and vegetables drastically improves mental wellbeing. Dr Redzo Mujcic collected data from 12,000 Australians.
It found that eight fruits and vegetables each a day is ideal. Less than 10 per cent of Australians are eating this amount. The study found that fruit has a larger impact on mental health than vegetables and women experience the benefit more than men.

Ketamine Restores Ability to Experience Pleasure in Depressed Patients Within Minutes

There are many faces to depression: sadness, hopelessness, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation, an inability to experience pleasure. That last one has a medical name—anhedonia—and people experiencing it often no longer enjoy activities that used to bring happiness. Anhedonia is not found just in depression; it can be an important part of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.

In a study published this month in Translational Psychiatry, researchers have found that a drug called ketamine can help quickly reverse anhedonia in patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression (also known as manic-depression or bipolar disorder).
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Ketamine has previously been shown to help rapidly reverse other aspects of depression in a number of studies; doctors use the drug to treat patients at several hospitals around the country, although it remains illegal to possess without a prescription and hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for psychiatric purposes. On the party drug circuit it’s sometimes called “Special K” and is abused for its anaesthetic and hallucinogenic effects.

The researchers found that a single injection of ketamine led to a significant improvement in normal pleasure-seeking behavior in as little as 40 minutes, and this dramatic improvement lasted as long as two weeks for some of the 36 participants.

The Internet of Things Can Lower Cost of Eldercare The Silver Economy in the Financial Times:

Lively, a US-based company, sticks sensors on everything from medications to food and drink to learn an older person’s routine, sending alerts at any abnormalities to an app on the carer or child’s phone.
As the cost of care rises, Lively is being used by some care companies as a “last mile solution”, charging $40-$45 a week to wrap services and monitoring around the system, on top of the $25 a month Lively costs, he said.

“It is about a tenth of the price of full home care, “ Mr Fanlo said. “Care providers can look after many many more families than they did before by using technology. It is a smart and intelligent way to use human resources.”

And it mentions Jibo, the first family robot developed at MIT and now being crowdfunded as a device to care for the elderly.

 Jibo Black White- Video of the cute robot

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

October 22, 2014

Our Cyborg Future

Nine real technologies that will soon be inside you

1. Implantable smartphones
2. Healing chips
3. Cyber pills that talk to your doctor
4. Implantable birth control - The Gates Foundation is supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by an external remote control. The tiny chip generates small amounts of contraceptive hormone from within the woman's body for up to 16 years.
5. Smart tattoos
6. Brain-computer interface
7. Meltable bio-batteries
8. Smart dust -arrays of full computers with antennas, each much smaller than a grain of sand, that can organize themselves inside the body into as-needed networks to power a whole range of complex internal processes.
9. The verified self - could be used to ID every single human being,

In the London Telegraph, Arthur House explores  The Real Cyborgs  The pioneers of our “post-human” future are implanting technology in to their bodies and brains. Should we stop them or join them?

1. Brain implants augment memory and provide access to the internet
2. Wearable exoskeleton boosts strength and endurance
3. Internet-connected spinal implant stimulates genitals for long-distance sex
4. Interchangeble limbs match capabilities to tasks
5. Access-control chips replace keys and passwords

 Cyborgs Camera-In-Eye

When he lost his right eye in a shotgun accident in 2005, the Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence replaced it with a wireless video camera that transmits what he’s seeing in real time to his computer.
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The US military is pouring millions of dollars into projects such as Ekso Bionics’ Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), an ‘Iron Man’-style wearable exoskeleton that gives soldiers superhuman strength. Its Defense Advanced Research Projects Association (Darpa) is also working on thought-controlled killer robots, “thought helmets” to enable telepathic communication and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to give soldiers extra senses, such as night vision and the ability to “see” magnetic fields caused by landmines.

Every technological advance brings mixed blessings. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:47 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2014

Health Roundup: Poop pills, cancer blood test, fruit juice, 5 a day, broccoli, ibuprofen

Fecal transplants made easier with A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow developed at MGH.  Already called the 'poop pill'.

Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator….
The patients, 11 to 89 years old, had each experienced at least two episodes of C. difficile that antibiotics had failed to control. After one round of dosing (two days, 15 capsules per day), diarrhea cleared up in 14 patients. Five others, sicker than the rest beforehand, responded after a second two-day dosing about a week later.

New startup Miroculus could make regular cancer screenings as simple as a getting blood drawn

The Miroculus technology is based on microRNA, a class of small molecules that can act as a type of biological warning sign, appearing and disappearing based on what is happening in our bodies at that moment. As a result, they’ve become effective indicators of diseases—including cancer—ever since they were first discovered in 1993. They can reveal not just whether a person may have cancer, but what specific type of cancer that person might have.

A daily glass of fruit juice leads to people having significantly higher central blood pressure - which can increase the risk of problems such as a heart attack or angina as Australian scientists have discovered….

Study author, Dr Matthew Pase said their findings were important because 'there is a common perception that fruit juice is healthy. Although juices may have essential vitamins, they commonly contain high amounts of sugar with negligible fibre.  …..An 8 oz glass of fruit juice contains 7 tsp of sugar.  The WHO recommends people have no more that 6 tsp a day.

On the other hand, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables will not only enhance your mental well-being, it will enhance your creative brain power. Fruit, the thinking man's food.

Could symptoms of autism be improved by eating broccoli? Chemical which gives veg its bitter taste 'helps autistic teens become calmer and more sociable'

The chemical - suforaphane- that gives broccoli its distinctive bitter taste made teenagers and young men with autism calmer and more sociable, a study found.

‘Remarkable’ improvements were seen in as little as four weeks and by the end of the study, some of those given a capsule a day felt able to look the researchers in the eye and shake their hand. The finding suggests it may be possible to create a pill that gets to the root of autism for the first time.

Existing drugs simply control symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity or sleep problems, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition.  Researcher Dr Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology in the US who has spent the last 25 years researching nature’s medicine cabinet, said:It was a small study but the effects were very, very large.
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We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some underlying cellular mechanisms.’British experts described the research as ‘intriguing’ but said it is simply too early to say if broccoli is beneficial in autism.

The research, from the respected MassGen Hospital for Children and Johns Hopkins University, both in Boston, comes amid concern about rising rates of autism.

Ibuprofen can make your lungs look younger and could help fight Tuberculosis

Research has already established that the inevitable inflammation that comes with aging is linked to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Researchers found lungs become more inflammatory with age and that Ibuprofen can lower that inflammation.Old mice on ibuprofen were able to fight the disease like young mice
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2014

The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar

16 Members of Doctors Without Borders Infected with Ebola, Nine Dead

Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."

Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent

Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call

“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”

Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed.  >

Where is Dr. Nicole Lure, Obama's Ebola Czar?   

the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.

Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health  decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said  prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine.  But that's not true.

According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."

So what did they spend all this money on?

Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
$517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
$386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
$2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
$592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
$257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
$939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
$181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
$548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
$832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
$1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
•  $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
$509,840  to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
•  NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos

Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores.  Surely, that could be used to better effect.

Ebola and the great forgetting: the best of times, the worst of times

WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
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Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.

Was Ebola Behind the Black Death?

Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.

History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2014

Weekend Miscellany 2

The Secret Pot-Growing Operations in America's Cornfields

Once a corn field is planted and herbicide applied, many farmers don’t return to a given field until harvest time. The biotechnological and labor-saving innovations that have reduced costs for corn farmers mean that literally no one walks into the average corn field during the growing season. Which presents a major opportunity for marijuana growers.
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Piggybacking on the incredible technological investments required to create so much corn, marijuana growers reap orders of magnitude more revenue per acre. This fact is not lost on individual farmers, but is virtually undetectable in national conversations about the profits and pitfalls of industrial corn agriculture.

"I love John the Baptist’s definition of the word politics – “poly means many, tics are bloodsucking parasites.” from Tim Walker's 5 star review of The Man Jesus by Simon Callow now on the London stage. "Funny, knowing and profoundly sad".

Michael J Totten on The Walking Dead in an Age of Anxiety

The Walking Dead is a morality tale that disdains easy answers. How does a civilized person behave in a world where civilization has collapsed? Decency is still possible, the show instructs us, but ruthlessness is needed as well. “It’s ugly,” Carol says when explaining this to a child, “and it’s scary and it does change you, but that’s how we get to be here.”
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The fascination with the zombie apocalypse, I believe, is a cultural reflection of the new age of anxiety that opened on 9/11, with its fear of social collapse. As Penn State professor Peter Dendle puts it, the zombie is a “barometer of social anxiety”—and we’re plenty anxious.
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A zombie invasion is simply a metaphor for any situation in which the government cannot protect its citizens.”

The Gaelic Stars of YouTube Irish-language covers of popular English songs.  All by students of Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish-Gaelic-immersion summer school, with a musical, energetic, social approach to learning Irish, an endangered language, but now a mandatory part of a school's curriculum.

What a beautiful language Irish is. Here Stiofán Ó Fearail  sings "Wake Me Up"

Have you ever seen students so engaged or having so much fun learning language?

Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, "We're Going to End Up Breaking the Internet" unless governments reform their surveillance practices.

NPR: Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola In Its Tracks

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2014

"Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created"

From Notable and Quotable and philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book “How to Be a Conservative”:

Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:26 PM | Permalink

October 9, 2014

No more boys and girls

School Told to Call Kids ‘Purple Penguins’ Because ‘Boys and Girls’ Is Not Inclusive to Transgender

A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead….

Despite controversy, Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel has declared that he is “happy” and “pleased” with the training documents.

What idiocy.  I completely understand why homeschooling is booming. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 PM | Permalink

Despising Christianity and the Fruits of Faith

Damon Linker asks Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?

Item 1: In a widely discussed essay in Slate, author Brian Palmer writes about the prevalence of missionary doctors and nurses in Africa and their crucial role in treating those suffering from Ebola. Palmer tries to be fair-minded, but he nonetheless expresses "ambivalence," "suspicion," and "visceral discomfort" about the fact that these men and women are motivated to make "long-term commitments to address the health problems of poor Africans," to "risk their lives," and to accept poor compensation (and sometimes none at all) because of their Christian faith.

The question is why he considers this a problem…..

The real reason is that he doesn't believe that missionaries are capable "of separating their religious work from their medical work," even when they vow not to proselytize their patients. And that, in his view, is unacceptable — apparently because he's an atheist and religion creeps him out. As he puts it, rather wanly, "It's great that these people are doing God's work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?…..

Item 2: Gordon College, a small Christian school north of Boston, is facing the possibility of having its accreditation revoked by the higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, …revoking a school's accreditation is a big deal — and can even be a death sentence…..

In accordance with traditional Christian teaching, Gordon College bans all sexual relationships outside of marriage, gay or straight, and it goes out of its way to say that its structures against homosexual acts apply only to behavior and not to same-sex desires or orientation.  The accreditation board is not so much objecting to the college's treatment of gays as it is rejecting the legitimacy of its devoutly Christian sexual beliefs.
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The problem is not just the cavalier dismissal of people's long-established beliefs and the ways of life and traditions based on them. The problem is also the dogmatic denial of the beauty and wisdom contained within those beliefs, ways of life, and traditions. (You know, the kind of thing that leads a doctor to risk his life and forego a comfortable stateside livelihood in favor of treating deadly illness in dangerous, impoverished African cities and villages, all out of a love for Jesus Christ.)

Contemporary liberals increasingly think and talk like a class of self-satisfied commissars enforcing a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. The idea that someone, somewhere might devote her life to an alternative vision of the good — one that clashes in some respects with liberalism's moral creed — is increasingly intolerable.

That is a betrayal of what's best in the liberal tradition.

Brian Palmer should lister to Matthew Parris  who, after 45 years,  returned to Malawi where he spent his childhood.  As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply
distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
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Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
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Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
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Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

And it wouldn't hurt Brian Palmer to learn more about  Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith, a WSJ article in which oseph Epstein in reviewed what he called a Masterpiece,  Varieties of Religious Experience by William James,  written more than a hundred years ago in 1902.

James never discusses religious institutions or theology, concentrating instead on "the effect of religion on the individual, of its stirrings in the human heart."
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James remarks that "it makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accept the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints."
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The "faith-state," in which the mind is prepared for acceptance of God and the results of conversion are, "A paradise of inner tranquility seems to be faith's usual result." He likens the harmony achieved by those who arrive at religious faith to the harmony artists strive for in their art.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:18 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain scans for early warning of Alzheimer's and peanuts

Cure for Type 1 diabetes imminent after Harvard stem-cell breakthrough

A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics.  Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation.

It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes.
And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.

Arthritis breakthrough could end agony for millions of sufferers

They have developed a pioneering simple new technique to generate cells which can go on to re-grow damaged cartilage and even bone. The process offers major hope for people suffering in daily pain from the degenerative joint condition. It paves the way for a quick treatment - possible as a single injection of the stem cells - directly into the effected joint to end the agony.
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Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, have used a combination of small molecules to generate mouse cells that can form bone and cartilage.  They say the new method could allow them to re-grow broken bones and mend cartilage damage to back discs and joints. …. It would revolutionize treatment for the condition because it would not have the side effects of many of the current drug-based treatments for the condition.
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The research team, led by Dr Naoki Nakayama, created special stem cells known as pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. This type of stem cell has the ability to become any cell type in the body. The team then used small molecules to persuade them to turn into cells that can form cartilage, called chondrocytes.

Scan to give warning of Alzheimer's: Five minute test will spot differences in the brain that allow a patient to take preventative measures

A five-minute brain scan could give healthy people early warning of dementia, scientists believe. They found that by measuring blood flow in the brain, it is possible to distinguish healthy people whose memory will decline from those who stay mentally sharp.In other words, tell-tale signs are present in the brain long before the memory fades.

Those given warning of the disease could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.

Memory loss is reversed in Alzheimer's patients for the first time, scientists claim

A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.

The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's did not improve.  The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.

Dr Bredesen said the findings are 'very encouraging', but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed. No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.

Could UV light eradicate peanut allergies?  Pulses eliminate 80% of allergens without ruining flavor or texture?

A University of Florida scientist has used pulses of UV light to remove 80 per cent of allergens from peanuts.  Dr Yang says it could one day be used to remove 99 per cent of allergens.  In the research he used concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. By doing this human antibodies can't recognize them as allergens.  And the method does not ruin the flavor or texture of the peanuts

Using Google, a 47-year-old woman came up with the proper diagnosis that her doctors over 7 years couldn't

Sallie Powell was so bloated she looked nine months pregnant and the excruciating pains in her joints and overwhelming tiredness had forced her to give up work as a wedding photographer.  Despite seeing several doctors - and even undergoing major surgery - her crippling symptoms continued.

In desperation, she turned to the internet - and just moments later found the answer that would change her life. The search results indicated she was suffering from a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Here, tiny parathyroid glands in the neck which control calcium levels malfunction, causing an excess of calcium in the blood. This, in turn, was causing her symptoms such as memory loss, depression, extreme tiredness and bloating.
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Shocked, Ms Powell printed off her findings and took them to her GP - only to be proved right…..Ms Powell was told she would require surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland…..'I went into surgery feeling 95, but after the operation I  woke up feeling 35.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

October 8, 2014

Quote of the day: "Computers are getting smarter, we're not"

That's web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the future of farming, work and computing

“Companies,” says web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “are increasingly going to be run by computers. And computers are getting smarter and we are not.” The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.
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Still, users can gather up their data to derive new insights about themselves and then put them to good use in a way that is currently neglected: “People feel passionately but I think we’re missing a lot of the value of personal data because it’s stored in these different silos,” says Sir Tim. He points out that businesses have long been quick to realise this value for their own interests. “Enterprises do data integration or they die – if you can’t do a query across the company you die. Companies like Mint that integrate across the financial side of your life but that’s the start.”

“There’s a lot of art about keeping the consitency across silos to allow them to integrate, but in the future you’ll be able to hone going through the system – say you’re filing your taxes it won’t ask ‘what’s this expenditure’ it’ll say this is where you were, this is your diary, annotated with photographs.”
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He emphasises that the need for software developers and the like, rather than being small as it is today, will be almost infinite in an increasingly technologically dependent future.
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people are hanging on to small farms, because they like to have a world in which crops are grown locally by hand, again around Massachusetts for instance. You might start to think of farming more like performance art, where you know the person who has done it.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

Another problem with open borders

General: If Ebola Reaches Central America, 'There Will Be Mass Migration into the U.S.

There’s Just ONE CDC Quarantine Station Along Entire U.S.-Mexico Border

The CDC’s El Paso Quarantine station is single-handedly responsible for monitoring the ENTIRE border

According to a CDC report, the lone El Paso Quarantine Station has just “one medical officer and one public health advisor who are responsible for responding to these public health threats at 29 POEs [Points of Entry] spread over 1,200 miles of the U.S.–Mexico border.”
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The responsibility for screening arriving immigrants falls on Border Patrol officers who are required to report signs of infectious disease to CDC Quarantine Stations maintained along U.S. borders
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The report noted that screening and reporting of public health threats on the U.S.-Mexico border may be “limited” by Customs & Border Patrol’s “need for rapid processing of travelers” and “The large volume of travelers crossing at international POEs makes identification and reporting of infectious diseases difficult.”
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“CBP officers are responsible for observing all travelers for obvious signs and symptoms of quarantinable and communicable diseases… However, CBP officers are not medically trained or qualified to physically examine or diagnose illness among arriving travelers.”

The CDC also expressed concerns about Border Patrol agents’ “competing priorities” and “limited public health training.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2014

How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto saved Europe

Michael Novak gives us all a history refresher course in October 7: The Feast of Our Lady of Victory

For those who know little history, today’s battle with the Islamic State in the Middle East may seem new and unprecedented. It is not.

In a.d. 622, Mohammed set out from Medina to conquer the whole Christian world for Allah by force of arms. Within a hundred years, his successors had occupied and pillaged every Christian capital of the Middle East, from Antioch through North Africa (home of Saint Augustine) and Spain. All that remained outside Allah’s reign was the northern arc from Southern France to Constantinople.

What we are seeing in 2014 has a history of more than 1,300 years — a very bloody, terror-ridden history. Except that today the struggle is far, far more secular than religious — a war over political institutions and systems of law, with almost no public argument over religious doctrine.

 Battle-Of-Lepanto

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

"Total pandemonium" in upstate New York nursing home, "The lights turned back on in people' eyes"

A wonderful article by Atul Gawande.  Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?

One young doctor in upstate New York thought so and he came up with a highly eccentric way of demonstrating it. In this extract from his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas and his miraculous menagerie.

In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed an experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was 31 years old, less than two years out of family residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with 80 severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability.

Up until then Thomas had worked as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital, the near opposite of a nursing home. People arrived in the emergency room with discrete, reparable problems – a broken leg, say, or a cranberry up the nose. If a patient had larger, underlying issues – if, for instance, the broken leg had been caused by dementia – his job was to ignore the issues or send the person somewhere else to deal with them, such as a nursing home. He took this new medical director job as a chance to do something different.

The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. …

He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some. The idea he came up with was as mad and naive as it was brilliant. That he got the residents and nursing home staff to go along with it was a minor miracle.

He brought in a dog, four cats, live plants and a bird in every room, children in the afternoon, and a big garden in back.

It was ‘total pandemonium,’ Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face. He is that sort of person. He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch.
‘They laughed their butts off,’ Thomas said. He marvels now at the team’s incompetence.

‘We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. Did, Not, Know what we were doing.’ Which was the beauty of it. They were so patently incompetent that almost everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included. Whoever could do it helped line the cages with newspaper, got the dogs and the cats settled, got the children to help out. It was a kind of glorious chaos – or, in the diplomatic words of Greising, ‘a heightened environment’.
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‘People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,’ Thomas said. ‘People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, “I’ll take the dog for a walk.” ’ All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. In a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia.
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The most important finding of Thomas’s experiment wasn’t that having a reason to live could reduce death rates for the disabled elderly. The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with greater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Marijuana, Statins, Mental well-being, Multi-tasking, and Happiness at 70

Marijuana, the terrible truth: Expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless

Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.
The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain. Professor Hall found:

• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it,
• Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs,
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink,
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby’s birth weight.

Statin users more at risk of piling on the pounds:

People who take statins are more likely to gain weight, researchers say. British scientists have warned that the millions who are given the cholesterol-busting drugs should also be advised to do more exercise in a bid to counter the unwanted side effect.

Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also good for the BRAIN and helps prevent depression

Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables won't just help stave off disease - they could also keep the blues away. A new study has found a person's mental wellbeing may be closely linked to how much fresh produce they eat.  Mental wellbeing was was defined as a state in which people feel good and function well, the researchers said.

Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state, they added.
More than a third of people with good mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 per cent who ate less than one portion.  A further 31 per cent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three to four portions and 28 per cent ate one to two portions.

Previous research has shown that eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables helps prevent people from developing more than one chronic disease such as high blood pressure, very high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, heart disease, asthma, stroke and cancer.

The study - carried out by Warwick University's medical school - used figures from the Health Survey for England. It found the effect on mental wellbeing from eating more fruit and vegetables was found in both men and women. Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: 'Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing.

Multi-tasking makes your brain smaller: Grey matter shrinks if we do too much at once

People who multitask with multiple media devices have less grey matter, that part of the brain that processes information
Older studies found multitasking on media devices led to poor attention and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety

Happiness index: life begins at 70

Forget the idea that school days are the best days of our lives, a happiness study suggests that turning 70 marks the start of a golden decade.  New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, far from preparing to take life more slowly, people turning 70 are just embarking on a golden decade.  The main indicators used to measure the nation’s “well-being” show that general contentment and having a sense of worth peak when people are in their early 70s.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

"The Banishment of Useful Hypocrisy"

Adam Garfinkle  in American Sex and the Middle East points out that foreigners listen to America's constant public talk about sex and the consequences are not trivial

All the American culture-war topics surrounding variable human sexuality—same-sex rights and marriage, abortion, surrogacy, and, lately, campus sexual assaults as a sub-category of generic violence against women—attract great buckets of ink on a regular basis. Most of these buckets are the property of the post-bourgeois salon Left, which has rendered the American Left as a whole so drunk on culture-war juice that it spends almost no effort on the political economy issues that used to be its raison d’etre. The country is arguably much worse off as a result.

Let me put my cards on the table before we go any further: I’m sick of it all, especially the obsessions of the Sunday New York Times Magazine, whose editors seem to have great difficulty getting their heads out of their, or other people’s, crotches. I am unashamedly old-fashioned: I think public discussion of intimate sexual matters is unseemly, a word that has become as quaint as outlandish mass-culture fare has become hideously sexualized. I don’t care if the subject to hand is essentially heterosexual in nature, or homosexual, transsexual, omnisexual, multisexual, interspecies-sexual, or all the other kinds of sexual that I’m sure exist but know nothing about. I could not give a damn what consenting adults do with their genitalia in private, but I don’t need or want to hear about it in public—and these days you nearly have to hole up in a mountain cave somewhere to escape it.

For similar reasons I don’t like “acclaimed” television shows like Law and Order, because the relentless focus on pedophilia and other disgusting para-sexual behaviors is coarsening, just as all the over-the-top, gratuitous violence on offer 24/7 in the American electronic sewer is coarsening….

By “norming” such behaviors through ceaseless discussion and fictive depiction, many people come to believe that they are not only more prevalent but also less morally deviant. The net result of more coarsening images is more coarsening behavior; life does indeed imitate art, even very bad art.
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Without hypocrisy we are sunk, for the alternative to high standards is not low standards; it’s eventually no standards at allwhich in matters sexual is pretty much where we are now, it seems to me. (As Mary Eberstadt argued already some years ago, we seem to have transferred our moral taboos from sex to food—as in homosexuality is fine, but transfats are sinful.)
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To one extent or another, all Muslim Middle Eastern societies (to include those of North Africa, the Sahel and Southwest Asia), Arab and non-Arab alike, maintain traditional attitudes toward human sexuality and to how that subject in its various manifestations may and may not be discussed in public. …
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This raises a weird but telling paradox. Many young Middle Easterners admire American political institutions but not the wiles and ways of American society. And they have a point. Their countries’ political institutions are mostly pathetic or worse, but their societies generally are not.
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The favorite rhetorical question asked here after 9/11 was “Why do they hate us?” The answer to this question is that it was and remains the wrong question. The typical tradition-minded Middle Easterner does not hate America. But rather a lot of tradition-minded Middle Easterners are disgusted by America. There is a difference.
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The rise of “gay rights” discourse and especially of the gay marriage controversy to the pinnacle of American politics—all the way to the Supreme Court—befuddles and disgusts most of them. The immodesty and downright salaciousness of American “low” fashion, especially for women, repels and disgusts them, too. The manifest disrespect shown to elders and teachers alarms and disgusts them. The now deeply embedded linguistic obscenity in American culture, whether in some forms of popular music or just in overheard speech, repulses and disgusts them. And not that violence against women and homosexuals is unknown to them in their own societies—again, very much to the contrary—but the casual pervasiveness of it in Americans’ own depictions of American society shocks and disgusts them, too.

Above all, the deafeningly public character of all this—the banishment of useful hypocrisy, in other words—puzzles and disgusts to the point that many of them think we have simply gone mad.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2014

What is the origin of the enterovirus that's killing our children?

Polio-like illness claims fifth life in U.S. by Sharyl Atkinson

At least five children infected with the respiratory illness known enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have died in the U.S. in the past month.
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The CDC reports that in the past month and a half, at least 538 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have become ill with EV-D68. Most of them are children and some developed limb paralysis. Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.

The actual number of EV-D68 infections is likely significantly higher than reported since some state health officials are not testing every suspected case.
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The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.

The origin could be entirely unrelated.

However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013.  (See Fig. 3)

Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.

Eileen F. Toplansky writes though he has been repeatedly warned by credible sources of the health risks of illegal immigration, Barack Hussein Obama refuses to use the legal power within his authority to "seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States."

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And still the stream of illegal immigrants not only continues, but is actively pursued by the Department of Justice, which mandates that unaccompanied minors be sent to various U.S. locations to live with relatives or, in some cases, to live as foster wards.  The children would be allowed to enroll in local, taxpayer-funded public schools with no questions asked – by law.  Clearly "[t]he Obama administration is fully aware of the health risks presented by its policy of forcing potentially unvaccinated, diseased immigrants into public schools."

Moreover, school districts have been ordered to "accept illegal immigrant children even if they have no home and no documentation concerning their health or immunization status."  In fact, local schools "cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.”
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Obama's ongoing disregard of federal law on immigration has been the cause of this now emerging potential for a pandemic in this country.  But when this is pointed out, charges of racism completely subvert the conversation.  That protecting all Americans is racist belies logic, since germs do not select black, brown, or white Americans to sicken. 

IBD. A New Border Surge Opens Us To Surge Of Epidemics

The next wave may be worse than the first, however, because monsoon conditions, a harsh drought and the globalization of transport are ensuring that the 50,000 or so unscreened new entrants will be bringing a raft of new diseases with them.

In throwing open our border for political purposes, the U.S. is exposing itself to a host of nasty diseases and epidemics, among them

chikungunya, known as "the virus of pain." Its Tanzanian-origin Bantu name means "to contort," describing the agony it leaves in joints for years.

Some 183,000 cases were detected in the region this year as it spreads from the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and yellow fever. Central America, according to a report in El Pais, is the epicenter. Puerto Rico has reported 2,000 cases and three deaths.
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there's also a monster dengue fever epidemic raging through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala right now, with 120,000 cases, 60 deaths and public health emergencies declared in those countries, also a result of the rainy season.
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There's tuberculosis, which has infection rates in Central America roughly 10 times that of the U.S.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

What's Racist, What's Not

What's Racist, What's Not (As of Friday, Oct. 3, 2014) by Andrew Stiles who provides the necessary links. 

Things That Are Racist

1. Talking about Ebola (Salon)

6. The American Revolution (Salon)

7. Children’s books with white characters (Salon)

8. Criticizing the IRS (MSNBC)

9. Donating to the United Negro College Fund

16. Saying Obama likes to play golf (MSNBC)

17. Saying “Obamacare” (MSNBC)

18. Living in the suburbs (Salon)

19. Calling Obama “Obama” (MSNBC)

23. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Things That Are Not Racist

1. Suing a fertility clinic after giving birth to a mixed race child that you wish was white* (Salon)

White lesbian mother sues sperm bank after she gave birth to mixed-race baby because she was sent black man's sperm

A white lesbian mother is suing a Chicago sperm bank after she claims she was mistakenly sent a black man's sperm and gave birth to a mixed-race daughter.  Jennifer Cramblett, 36, claims the mistake has caused her stress and anguish because her family is racist and she lives in a small, all-white Uniontown in northeast Ohio.

Apparently, she also claims breach of warranty.

Kevin Williamson writes about the Clash of the Progressive Pieties

While one must pity the poor little girl who is being treated like a defective Honda Civic, it’s a delicious clash of progressive pieties. The mother — and somehow I suspect that I’ll be informed five minutes from now that it is wicked to call the half of the couple who carried the child and gave birth the “mother” — Jennifer Cramblett, among other things complains that it is difficult to find a place to get her daughter a decent haircut.
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One feels for same-sex couples who long for children, as one feels for heterosexual couples with fertility problems who likewise long for children. But parenthood is not simply another experience that you purchase, like a vacation, and children are not — not yet — products to be built to your specifications. A model of parenthood dominated by the mandate to satisfy the parents’ needs rather than those of the children will be forever defective. But it is, increasingly, the model we have. It’s a perverse consequence of the times in which we live: Cultural and economic pressures see to it that many young women spend their most fertile years trying desperately to avoid motherhood and then spend their least fertile years trying, with the same desperation, to conceive. It’s cruel.

A strange thing: Nothing in the modern world has contributed to the devaluation of women as pitilessly as has the reduction of motherhood to the status of a take-out order of ovum foo young, and yet nothing is held so sacred by feminists. I cannot imagine that when the early feminists wrote about the “commodification of women” that they ever imagined it would get so literal, with product warranties and all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink

Ebola is scarier when the government can't focus on real threats

" It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola. " wrote Matthew Continetti in The Case for Panic.  Incompetent government + corrupt elite = disaster

CDC, You Had One Job!  writes Glenn Reynolds in  CDC multitasking hurts Ebola fight, its core mission: protecting America from a deadly epidemic.

Disease control shouldn't extend to playground safety and occupational hazard nor "how much salt you put on your steaks, how close you stand to second-hand smoke and how often you do calisthenics."

It seems that as government has gotten bigger, and accumulated more and more of its own ancillary responsibilities, it has gotten worse at its primary tasks. It can supervise snacks at elementary schools, but not defend the borders; it can tax people to subsidize others' health-care plans but not build roads or bridges; and it can go after football team names but can't seem to deal with the Islamic State terror group.

Multitasking results in poorer performance for individuals. It also hurts the performance of government agencies, and of government itself. You have one job. Try doing it.

CDC FINALLY considers giving every passenger arriving from Liberia a medical check-up on arrival

Despite the calm and collected image that the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services today, doctors and public health officials have repeatedly fumbled when confronted with the virus.

When Duncan first went to the hospital with a high fever on September 25, he was given antibiotics and sent home - despite revealing that he had recently been in Ebola-stricken Liberia. He was not diagnosed with the disease until his girlfriend called an ambulance on September 28. The ambulance transported at least one other person before being taken out of service.

Then, after the the case of Ebola was confirmed, family members and friends who had contact with Duncan said they were left to go about their daily routines without contact from the CDC or local health officials.  Four days after the Ebola diagnosis, Duncan's girlfriend revealed that his sweat-stained sheets were still on his bed and that no one from the CDC or health department had been by to collect his belongings.  It was not until Friday that a cleaning crew finally arrived to remove the infectious items and clean the apartment. 

The insanity of our immigration policy, Mark Steyn in Ebola Yes, Bagpipes No

US border security devotes more time and resources to Campbell Webster of Concord bringing in a bagpipe than to Thomas Duncan of Monrovia bringing in Ebola.
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Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security expands its curious priorities from raiding Boston strip clubs for selling knock-off Red Sox T-shirts to raiding private homes to seize vintage cars that don't meet EPA standards. And yet more emission creep:

Homeland Security Is Now Helping To Protect Communities From The Effects Of Climate Change

Big Government is, inevitably, stupid government. The bigger it gets the more it will focus on trivia, and the less it will even be able to discern the few things it should be doing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 AM | Permalink

October 4, 2014

Weekend Miscellany 1

From the Art of Manliness, How to Gird Up Your Loins, an illustrated guide.

Deep Into Green by Michael Gorra, a review of Green: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau in the New York Review of Books

 Van Eyck Wedding Green
Jan Van Eyck: The Arnolfini Wedding, circa 1435

Trained as a medievalist, Pastoureau argues that the history of color is an “altogether more vast” subject than the history of painting, and this book’s concerns range from Latin etymologies to the green neon crosses that hang outside modern French pharmacies.
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Pastoureau writes many pages further on, that trash cans are often green, a bit of sympathetic magic against decay, for “green cleans, green refreshes, green purifies.” It means health, and it did so long before it became the name of a political party, “no longer so much a color as an ideology.” Yet growth implies change, change betokens instability, and green is in fact “an uncertain color,” ambiguous and at times even forked in its significance.

Those pharmacy signs suggest illness as much as health, and green has often functioned as the color of poison and disease; think of the pustular figures on the Isenheim Altarpiece, and even of that work’s dead Christ. We speak of certain greens as sickly in a way that has no parallel in talking of blue or red or black, and for that there might be a reason in the very chemistry of the color itself.

In the Renaissance the color’s chemical instability made it seem “false” and even treacherous, a “deceptive color, simultaneously appealing and disappointing.” As such, it became associated with games of chance or hazard; think of the green baize with which tables for cards or craps or pool are covered even now. The color here carries a symbolic charge that is inseparable from its use—gambling means green. It connotes luck, the ups and downs of a player’s fortunes, and it also suggests avarice.

The death of the first star in the Universe: Incredible image could shed new light on how solar systems formed

Researchers say the death throes of these early stars were unique as they exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no black hole behind, but instead spewing out chemical elements into space that eventually formed our Universe.

 Death-Of-A-Star+Brain

Two Blind Sisters See for the First Time  YouTube link

Sonia and Anita, two sisters living in India, have been blind since birth, but a simple eye operation makes it possible for them to see their mom for the first time. The nonprofit organization 20/20/20 provides free operations to these sisters--as well as thousands of other people in developing countries. These procedures empower people in impoverished communities to create better futures. In this short film, Blue Chalk Media shares the sisters’ poignant story and captures their initial experiences after the bandages come off.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 AM | Permalink

October 2, 2014

Health roundup: Viagra & blindness, losing sense of smell, bowel cancer breakthrough, new breast cancer drug cocktail, on-off switch for aging cells

A lot of men are going to be unhappy about this. Viagra 'may cause blindness': Ingredient in the drug can permanently affect sight, doctors warn

One theory is that erectile dysfunction drugs may obstruct an enzyme which is important for transmitting light signals from the retina to the brain.  It is already known that sildenafil, the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction medication, can cause temporary vision problems in some healthy people.

Doctors have now warned it could also cause permanent damage to the eyes of people with retinitis pigmentosa.  People with normal sight that carry the gene for the condition may also be at risk, experts warn.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare hereditary condition that causes the cells in the retina - the area of the back of the eye which detects light - to degenerate and die.  This can lead to difficulty seeing in dim light, loss of peripheral vision, and sometimes blindness.
About one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of genes which lead to the degeneration of cells in the retina.
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Previous studies have linked Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to side effects such as deafness.  American researchers also found that men who used Viagra increased their risk of developing skin cancer.

Your nose knows death is imminent

Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research…. the sense of smell is the canary in the coal mine of human health. A study published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE, shows that losing one’s sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years, suggesting that the nose knows when death is imminent, and that smell may serve as a bellwether for the overall state of the body, or as a marker for exposure to environmental toxins.

The study involved more than 3,000 participants, all of them between 57 and 85 years old, from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a longitudinal study of factors affecting the well-being of older people living in America.

In 2005-6, Jayant Pinto of the University of Chicago and his colleagues asked all the participants to perform a simple test that involved identifying five common odors (rose, leather, fish, orange, and peppermint), using the number of incorrectly identified odours as a score of the severity of smell loss.
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Loss of the sense of smell predicted death more accurately than did a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure or lung disease, the only other common cause of predicting it more accurately being severe liver damage. But the researchers stress that it is unlikely to be a cause of death itself, arguing only that it is a harbinger for what is to come, and suggesting two possible reasons why this might be so.

Scientists make bowel cancer breakthrough that targets 80 PER CENT of tumours… using existing arthritis drugs

Dr Toby Phesse, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, said early data showed medication currently used to treat psoriasis, arthritis and minor fibrosis could help in the fight against the country's second deadliest form of cancer.  He said the lab's focus was directed in signaling pathways and finding how to locate the pathways that stop tumors from growing.

'We identified a weak pathway that we found had a certain mutation in 80 per cent of tumous but there was a considerable risk since the pathway requires normal cells of the intestine. If the pathway is targeted directly you could be affecting normal cells of the intestine.We had to come up with a new method and target a parallel pathway.'

This is what brought scientists to the existing medicines, JAK inhibitors. The scientific breakthrough found 'JAK inhibitors' responded to 80 per cent of the colon tumors that possess the certain mutation.The treatment has caused excitement because the drug only targeted cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed, leaving no side effects.
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Dr Phesse said this is an exciting breakthrough that will help thousands of people who have colon cancer or face risk of developing tumors.  'The main point is that the inhibitors already exist and have been approved,' he said.

New breast cancer drug cocktail shows 'unprecedented' boost to patient's lifespan

A new breast cancer drug from Roche has shown 'unprecedented' benefits in extending lives in a clinical trial….Experts urged its widespread use for women with an aggressive form of the disease. 
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Patients with a type of breast cancer known as HER2 positive, which makes up about a quarter of all breast cancers, who were given Perjeta on top of older medicine Herceptin and chemotherapy lived 15.7 months longer than those on Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.    That is the longest extension to survival ever seen for a drug studied in metastatic breast cancer and also an unusually good result for any type of metastatic cancer, where disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

The switch controls the growth of telomeres, the timekeepers of cells…In a new study published September 19th in the journal Genes and Development, scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered that telomerase, even when present, can be turned off.
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Understanding how this “off” switch can be manipulated–thereby slowing down the telomere shortening process–could lead to treatments for diseases of aging (for example, regenerating vital organs later in life).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:07 PM | Permalink

Another day, another huge security breach

JPMorgan data breach affects 76 million households

JPMorgan Chase Co. says that a recent cyberattack compromised customer information for about 76 million households and 7 million small businesses.

The New York-based bank said Thursday that customer information including names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses were stolen in the cyberattack.

However, JPMorgan said there’s no evidence that the data breach included customers’ account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers or dates of birth.

The lender said it has not found any unusual customer fraud related to this data breach.

Yet.

And More IRS Employees Busted for Stealing Taxpayers' Identities

Just days after revealing that the tax agency's failure to follow its own rules put the private data of 1.4 million people at risk, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration publicized the sentencing of Tax Examining Technician Missy Sledge for aggravated identity theft and mail fraud, and IRS employee Monica Hernandez for making and subscribing a false income tax return, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
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in addition to IRS personnel, 14,000 contractors have "staff-like" access to Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information. Such protected data includes "any information under the IRS's authority that the loss, misuse, unauthorized access, or modification of could adversely affect the national interest, the conduct of IRS programs, or the privacy to which individuals are entitled under law." To gain that access, contractors have to submit to background checks…..

The tax collection agency failed to perform background checks when handing out five reviewed contracts for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language interpreter services. The report also found a dozen other contracts where the IRS planned to perform background checks, but didn't get to all of the people on the job.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:36 PM | Permalink

Apple never told you about its hidden tracking system

Phone? It's a spyphone: Apple devices can record your every movement

It is tracking your every move – recording the exact time you left for work, where you bought your coffee and where you like to shop.
But this isn’t a futuristic spy drone or some sinister Big Brother state – it’s the iPhone sitting in your pocket.

Hidden in Apple phones is a function which logs every journey. The iPhones are then able to analyze the data to figure out where you live and work, basing decisions on the frequency and timing of trips.

The function – called the Frequent Locations feature – was quietly introduced to iPhones a year ago. But since access to the program is buried beneath five layers of settings menus, few people know it exists.

Apple claims the data never leaves your phone without your permission, and that it was only designed to improve mapping services.

But Professor Noel Sharkey, one of Britain’s leading computing experts, described Apple’s ability to track people as ‘terrifying’. ‘This is shocking,’ he said. ‘Every place you go, where you shop, where you have a drink – it is all recorded. This is a divorce lawyer’s dream. But what horrifies me is that it is so secret. Why did we not know about this?’

Smartphones have had the ability to track their owners’ movements since they were first installed with GPS chips and mapping functions.  But this feature, which is automatically installed on any iPhone with the iOS 7 or an iOS 8 operating system, is the first to display the movements clearly on a map. The phone records the date of every one of your journeys, your time of arrival and departure and how many times you have been to each address.


HOW THE HIDDEN TRACKING SYSTEM WORKS…AND HOW YOU CAN STOP IT

The Frequent Locations function is automatically installed on any phone with iOS 7 or iOS 8.

• To access Frequent Locations, go into Settings, choose the Privacy option and then Location Services.
• Go right down to the bottom and select System Services – then click Frequent Locations.
• Your data will be displayed under a History heading divided up into cities and districts – click on each one to see how your phone monitors, analyses and maps everywhere you go.
• To disable Frequent Locations, select Clear History and make sure Improve Maps is deselected.
• Finally, turn off the Frequent Locations tab. This does not stop data being recorded, it only stops it being packaged up in a map.
• To stop it being logged at all, you can disable Location Services in the Privacy menu – but this will leave you unable to use your phone’s mapping software.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink