Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category
By Don Spatz
A private firm with a federal contract – and backed up by city police – forced motorists off Laurel Street and into a private parking lot Friday to question them about their driving habits and ask for a swab of their mouth.
"I feel this incident is a gross abuse of power on many levels," Reading resident Ricardo Nieves, one of those stopped, told City Council Monday.
He said federal and local tax dollars were being used to stop innocent people without probable cause, and allow a private company to hire uniformed police to force citizens to listen to their questions.
He said he wasn’t told what the swab was for, but added, "Clearly it was for DNA."
The checkpoint was among several being carried out in Pennsylvania by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, hired by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
City Police Chief William M. Heim said the two federal agencies are trying to see what can be done about crashes and injuries, and the swabs were not to get DNA samples but to test for the presence of prescription drugs.
The checkpoint was supposed to be voluntary, but Nieves said he had to refuse several times over a five-minute period before the woman taking the survey let him go.
What irked Nieves was the presence of city police. He said they were there – including a police car with flashing lights – to intimidate motorists, and gave the checkpoint an air of authority it would not otherwise have had.
"A federal survey with local police help violates my rights," Nieves said.
Heim said city police were hired for site security only, since the survey takers were paying money for answers and for the swabs.
But he said city police did not pull motorists over, nor ask any questions, and in fact were asked to stay away from the cars.
Asked about Nieves’ statement that the private firm wanted police there for intimidation, Heim responded: "People are not pressured by police presence to do something they don’t want to.
"In the grand scheme of things, I think it’s a pretty innocuous and minor issue."
Heim said checkpoints are fairly common – for seat belt use, drunken driving, truck safety regulations – and all result in minor inconvenience.
However, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said those checkpoints are legal only to protect public safety.
"A car driver or passenger cannot be required or pressured into providing a DNA sample and, in fact, can’t be stopped at all except on suspicion of a crime or for a properly conducted sobriety checkpoint," Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told the Reading Eagle Monday.
The checkpoint was part of a $7.9 million, three-year survey by the agencies, which has been conducted several times since the 1970s.
The surveys have gained more scrutiny this year because the Obama administration has been heavily criticized over revelations that U.S. spy agencies are tracking phone and Internet traffic, CNN reported in June.
Susan Watson, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN that Alabama’s use of deputies to conduct the survey was an abuse of power.
Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said neither he nor Managing Director Carole B. Snyder were aware of it, and he needs to understand what role police played before making any comment on it.
Council members also were upset, and said if local police are there, it appears they are operating the checkpoint.
Councilman Dennis M. Sterner was livid that government can’t pick up local drug dealers without a two-year investigation, but can stop motorists at random.
"Our rights are being violated more and more every day," he said. "It’s another way of government intrusion into our lives."
(Staff writer Beth Anne Heesen contributed to this report.)
Contact Don Spatz: 610-371-5027 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Four cyber-security experts testified before a Senate committee about the Healthcare.gov website’s lack of security and risk of exposure to Americans.
All four cyber security experts unanimously concurred that, given the security issues, Americans should not use the site at present.
“It’s not only social security numbers … it’s one of the largest collections of personal data, social security and everything else, that we’ve ever seen,” said David Kennedy, CEO of information security firm TrustedSEC.
One key problem facing Healthcare.gov is that security wasn’t built into the site from the very beginning, he said — an opinion shared by both Kennedy and Fred Chang, the distinguished chair in cyber security at Southern Methodist University.
“There’s not a lot of security built into the site, at least that’s what we can see from a 10,000 foot view,” Kennedy told the committee.
Kennedy told FoxNews.com he based this on an analysis revealing a large number of SQL injection attacks against the healthcare.gov website, which are indicative of "a large amount" of hacking attempts.
‘I would say the website is either hacked already or will be soon.’
– David Kennedy, CEO of information security firm TrustedSEC
"Based on the exposures that I identified, and many that I haven’t published due to the criticality of exposures – if a hacker wanted access to the site or sensitive information – they could get it," he told FoxNews.com.
The operators of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have postponed the extremely complicated and difficult task of removing damaged atomic rods.
New video footage from a robot has revealed new leaks within the damaged reactors meaning the rods now can’t be taken out as planned.
In November 2013, TEPCO set to begin to remove fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs
– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
An operation with potentially "apocalyptic" consequences is expected to begin in a little over two weeks from now – "as early as November 8" – at Fukushima’s damaged and sinking Reactor 4, when plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1300 spent fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the reactor’s upper floor.
Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event.
The Japan Times explained:
To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.
[…] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.
Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.
A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.
As long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained, the
Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible.
"In the worst-case scenario," RT adds,
the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.
Wasserman says that the plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the "dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts."
Wasserman told Common Dreams that
The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken. Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what’s actually happening. There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better. This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world’s very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.
The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic. The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs. If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail. Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.
As dire as Wasserman’s warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who told RT that the worst case scenario could be "a true apocalypse." Gunter’s warning was dire as well.
"Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic," he continued. "This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions," said Gunter.
Wasserman says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:
This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear. The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on. With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.
By Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito
IWAKI, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Tetsuya Hayashi went to Fukushima to take a job at ground zero of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He lasted less than two weeks.
Hayashi, 41, says he was recruited for a job monitoring the radiation exposure of workers leaving the plant in the summer of 2012. Instead, when he turned up for work, he was handed off through a web of contractors and assigned, to his surprise, to one of Fukushima’s hottest radiation zones.
He was told he would have to wear an oxygen tank and a double-layer protective suit. Even then, his handlers told him, the radiation would be so high it could burn through his annual exposure limit in just under an hour.
"I felt cheated and entrapped," Hayashi said. "I had not agreed to any of this."
When Hayashi took his grievances to a firm on the next rung up the ladder of Fukushima contractors, he says he was fired. He filed a complaint but has not received any response from labor regulators for more than a year. All the eight companies involved, including embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, declined to comment or could not be reached for comment on his case.
Out of work, Hayashi found a second job at Fukushima, this time building a concrete base for tanks to hold spent fuel rods. His new employer skimmed almost a third of his wages – about $1,500 a month – and paid him the rest in cash in brown paper envelopes, he says. Reuters reviewed documents related to Hayashi’s complaint, including pay envelopes and bank statements.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that calls into question whether human DNA can be claimed as intellectual property, and remain off limits to everyone without the permission of the patent holder.
The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation, challenges seven patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed in the Supreme Court.
The legal issues center on whether the genes that Myriad patented, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, are natural phenomena. The ACLU says human DNA is a product of nature, and as such not patentable under the Patent Act. Myriad argues that its patents are for genes that have been “isolated,” which makes them products of human ingenuity and, therefore, patentable.
As scholars debate the legal questions, two parallel issues have emerged: whether patenting genes thwarts scientific research, and whether it harms patients
- Supreme Court: Can human genes be patented? (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- The Question of Whether We Can Patent Genes Heads to the Supreme Court (theatlanticwire.com)
- US court to hear gene patents case (bbc.co.uk)
(Light day finally – only 2 new contracts awarded today, according to MSM Headlines however, we’re going to spend $100 million to discover what we already know but keep hidden.)