April 26, 2010
World Net Daily
By Bob Unruh
Federal agents invaded an Amish farm in Pennsylvania at 5 a.m. to inspect cow-milking facilities then followed up the next day with a written notice that the farmer was engaged in interstate sale of raw milk in violation of the Public Health Services Act.
A failure to correct the situation could result in “seizure and/or injunction,” the warning letter from Kirk Sooter, district director of the Philadelphia office of the Department of Health and Human Services, told farmer Dan Allgyer of Kinzers, Pa., on Wednesday.
The farm invaded Tuesday is the one agents visited in February, driving past “Private Property” signs to demand Allgyer open his property for their inspection, saying, “You have cows. You produce food for human consumption.”
The case is being publicized by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which promotes traditional methods of linking farmers with consumers.
Spokeswoman Deborah Stockton told WND Allgyer “is the type of farmer who exemplifies what we are trying to restore.” On her organization’s website is the commitment “to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products.”
She reported she got details directly from Allgyer of Tuesday’s early-morning inspection, which highlights the growing conflict between farmers who want to provide health food locally and federal regulators.
Allgyer could not be reached immediately for comment.
The farmer told NICFA he came out of his house about 4:30 a.m. for his milking routine and noticed a lot of traffic on Kinzer Road.
Shortly later, the cars were coming up his lane.
“I stood back in the dark barn to see what they were going to do. They drove past my two ‘Private Property’ signs, up to where my coolers were, with their headlights shining right on them,” Allgyer reported.
He called to the five men as they were preparing to knock on his home, where his wife and family remained asleep.
“Two were from the FDA, agent Joshua C. Schafer who had been there in February and another. They showed me identification, but I was too flustered to ask for their cards. I remember being told that two were deputy U.S. marshals and one a state trooper. They started asking me questions right away. They handed me a paper, and I didn’t realize what it was,” he said.
“Schafer told me they were there to do a ‘routine inspection.’ At 5:00 in the morning, I wondered to myself? ‘Do you have a warrant?’ I asked, and one of them, a marshal or the state policeman, said, ‘You’ve got in your hand buddy.’ I asked, ‘What is the warrant about?’ Schafer responded, ‘We have credible evidence that you are involved in interstate commerce,’” the farmer reported.
WND telephone calls and e-mails to the FDA requesting comment did not generate a response.
Allgyer said he confirmed his identification but then said he wouldn’t answer anything further.
April 26, 2010
By Ethan A. Huff
According to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center, all babies born in the United States are required to be screened for a host of genetic diseases. The government has mandated that all newborns be evaluated genetically to see whether or not they might be predisposed to developing a genetic disease and most parents are not informed about the tests.
The Browns from Mankato, Minnesota, are one such couple who was informed by their pediatrician that their daughter, Isabel, has a gene that allegedly heightens her risk of developing cystic fibrosis. Curious as to how the doctor obtained information about Isabel’s genes, the couple inquired of her about this, only to find out that Isabel had undergone gene tests when she was born without their consent.
Many states not only conduct gene tests on newborns but they store them indefinitely in government labs, which has caused an uproar among concerned parents.
“Why do they need to store my baby’s DNA indefinitely? Something on there could affect her ability to get a job later on, or get health insurance,” explained Annie Brown, Isabel’s mother. Her concern is shared by millions of parents across the country, many of whom have filed lawsuits in their own states against the government.
In Minnesota, the explanation for why DNA is stored indefinitely is so analysts can perform repeat tests if need be. The state claims that in case a child ever goes missing or dies, DNA blueprints can be used for tracking and identification purposes. It also admits that samples are used for “medical research”.
Genetic testing on newborns first began in the 1960s to allegedly help detect serious conditions like retardation in order to save babies’ lives. According to records, many newborns’ lives were saved from such testing.
However, new tests were gradually added to the panel over the years. In some states, babies are screened for up to 54 different conditions. Their results are then stored in state labs for indefinite periods of time but, according to Therrell, parents need not worry about it.
“The states have in place very rigid controls on those specimens,” he explained. “If my children’s DNA were in one of these state labs, I wouldn’t be worried a bit.”
In reality, outside researchers often have access to the samples as well as the babies’ names to whom they belong. One study conducted in Minnesota found that over 20 scientific papers published in the U.S. since the year 2000 used newborn blood samples.
In many states, parents can request that their babies’ DNA be removed from labs and destroyed. Whether or not the state actually obeys is another story.
April 26, 2010
By Andrew Orlowski
Google’s roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it’s got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users’ unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.
Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he’s “horrified” by the discovery.
“I am appalled… I call upon Google to delete previously unlawfully collected personal data on the wireless network immediately and stop the rides for Street View,” according to German broadcaster ARD.
Spooks have long desired the ability to cross reference the Mac address of a user’s connection with their real identity and virtual identity, such as their Gmail or Facebook account.
Other companies have logged broadcasting WLAN networks and published the information. By contrast Google has not published the WLAN map, or Street View in Germany; Google hopes to launch the service by the end of the year (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/02/google_germany/).
But Google’s uniquely cavalier approach to privacy, and its potential ability to cross reference the information raises additional concerns. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn’t worry about privacy unless they have something to hide. And when there’s nowhere left to hide…?
April 26, 2010
By Jonathan Leake
THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
The completion of the documentary marks a triumph for Hawking, now 68, who is paralysed by motor neurone disease and has very limited powers of communication. The project took him and his producers three years, during which he insisted on rewriting large chunks of the script and checking the filming.
John Smithson, executive producer for Discovery, said: “He wanted to make a programme that was entertaining for a general audience as well as scientific and that’s a tough job, given the complexity of the ideas involved.”
Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon.
So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances.
Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.
Hawking’s belief in aliens places him in good scientific company. In his recent Wonders of the Solar System BBC series, Professor Brian Cox backed the idea, too, suggesting Mars, Europa and Titan, a moon of Saturn, as likely places to look.
Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
April 26, 2010
By Ryan Grim
The Wall Street reform bill headed for a test vote on the Senate floor Monday night will allow the Federal Reserve to continue to pump trillions of dollars into major banks largely in secrecy, the co-author of House language that would open the central bank to an audit charged in a memo to the Senate.
“The Senate has a provision in its reform bill that purports to audit the Fed. But, it really doesn’t do anything of the sort. I’m going to run down the details for you, and reprint the legislative language so you can read it yourself,” writes Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).
It would not allow the GAO to look into the Fed’s massive purchase of toxic assets, its hundreds of billions in foreign currency swaps with other central banks or its open market operations, among other restrictions.
Grayson and co-author Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) passed legislation through the House that would allow the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit the Federal Reserve and, after a delay, release the information to Congress. It was a remarkable victory, with a populist coalition beating back the combined lobbying efforts of the Treasury Department, the Fed and Wall Street banks.
The Senate has been more hostile territory for the Fed audit provision. Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) opposes the Grayson-Paul version, but allowed a much more restrictive audit proposal from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) into his bill.
Grayson, in his memo, outlines the shortcomings of the Senate bill. Walker Todd, who spent some 20 years as a counselor with the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Cleveland, reviewed Grayson’s analysis and told HuffPost he concurs with it.
The Seante bill would allow an audit of the TALF program and slightly expands authority to audit emergency lending conducted under section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, but restricts it to very specific purposes.
Meanwhile, it would not allow the GAO to look into the Fed’s massive purchase of toxic assets, its hundreds of billions in foreign currency swaps with other central banks or its open market operations, among other restrictions.
Fed backers argue that requiring transparency would politicize monetary policy, though monetary policy and the Fed itself are already political — they regularly lobby Congress, after all — and would tempt lawmakers to pressure the Fed to inflate the currency to reduce the debt burden.
Merkley said he agrees with Grayson’s analysis. “I appreciate Representative Grayson’s concerns over accountability at the Federal Reserve. I have been a strong proponent of Fed reform and voted against the re-confirmation of Ben Bernanke because the Fed has been so lax in using its regulatory powers,” Merkley said in a statement to HuffPost.
“Moreover, I felt strongly that we need to act now to empower the GAO to audit the extraordinary emergency programs created by the Fed and I succeeded in getting that power into the Senate bill. Rep. Grayson points out, fairly in my mind, that we need to go even further to audit the Fed’s standing programs. I agree. While we need to protect the Fed’s independence to implement monetary policy, I think the structure and use of their standard programs should be transparent.”
April 26, 2010
By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Samuel Epstein is a well respected professional in cancer prevention. He is a professor emeritus of occupational and environment medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and is an expert on toxins. He is also the chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition.
Dr. Epstein has authored 270 scientific articles, and 15 books on the causes and prevention of cancer. These include the groundbreaking Politics of Cancer (1979), and most recently Toxic Beauty (2009) about carcinogens and other toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.
In this interview, Dr. Epstein discusses several pressing health dangers that receive little attention, including:
* Nanoparticles used in cosmetics
* rBGH milk
* The lack of prevention in the new Obama cancer plan
April 26, 2010
By Richard Alleyne
The fruit lowered blood pressure, improved heart function and reduced other risk factors for heart disease and metabolic syndrome, it was claimed.
American researchers found this could be due to phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that grapes contain.
Following animal tests, the research revealed a grape-enriched diet preventing risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a condition which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
Mixing a blend of green, red and black grapes into the diets of laboratory rats as part of a high-fat, American style diet, they were compared with a test group fed with a similar diet full of fat and sugars.
After three months, the rats that received the grape-enriched diet had lower blood pressure, better heart function, and reduced indicators of inflammation in the heart and the blood than rats who received no grape powder.
Rats also had lower triglycerides and improved glucose tolerance.
Heart surgeon Dr Steven Bolling said: “The possible reasoning behind the lessening of metabolic syndrome is that the phytochemicals were active in protecting the heart cells from the damaging effects of metabolic syndrome.
“In the rats, inflammation of the heart and heart function was maintained far better.
“Although there’s not a particular direct correlation between this study and what humans should do, it’s very interesting to postulate that a diet higher in phytochemical-rich fruits, such as grapes, may benefit humans.”
Although he added those wanting to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes should follow some tried-and-true advice such as eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, maintain a desirable weight and exercise more.
April 26, 2010
By Rob Stein
Federal health officials are investigating the first hints of any possible significant complications from the H1N1 vaccine, but stressed that the concerns will probably turn out to be a false alarm.
The latest analysis of data has detected what could be a somewhat elevated rate of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis and death; Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis; and thrombocytopenia, which is a low level of blood platelets, officials reported Friday. The data is being collected through five of the networks the government is using to monitor people who were inoculated against the swine flu.
Officials stressed that it is far too early to know whether the vaccine was increasing the risk of those conditions or whether there is some other explanation, such as doctors identifying more cases because of the intensive effort to pinpoint any safety problems with the vaccine.
Based on the preliminary report, the Health and Human Services Department’s National Vaccine Advisory Committee, which has been charged with monitoring the vaccine’s safety, voted unanimously to follow up on the findings. “We’re at the first step of determining whether there is a problem,” Guthrie S. Birkhead, who chairs the committee, said during a teleconference in which a subcommittee of experts presented its latest findings on the data. “There’s a lot more work to determine whether there is.”
Marie McCormick, who led the subcommittee, said there was a good chance the indications of problems could disappear with further analysis. Even if the link with Guillain-Barrésyndrome is confirmed, the committee calculated the vaccine at most could be causing one extra case per 1 million people vaccinated.
“We have categorized this as a potential, not even a weak, signal,” McCormick said, adding that no signs of problems have been seen in the other networks of data the government has been analyzing.
Even if the possible risks turn out to be real, officials stressed that the danger of the flu remains far greater.
“From everything we know right now, the influenza vaccine, including the H1N1 vaccine, is very safe, and it’s much riskier to get influenza than the influenza vaccine,” said Anne Schuchat of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials said they were not surprised that some possible problems that turn out to be false alarms might be found, given how intensively the vaccine’s safety is being monitored.
The vaccine was administered to 350 million to 400 million people worldwide, including as many as 80 million Americans, as part of an unprecedented response to the first flu pandemic in decades.
Since the inoculation program was launched, health officials have been particularly concerned about Guillain-Barré syndrome, in part because a vaccine made in 1976 in response to a different strain of H1N1 influenza led to a small increase in the number of cases of the condition.
But officials expressed confidence that the new vaccine is safe because it was produced with the same methods employed since then to make the seasonal flu vaccine, which has been administered safely to millions of people.
Each year, about 3,000 to 6,000 people in the United States develop Guillain-Barré syndrome whether or not they were vaccinated — a rate of one to two people out of every 100,000 people. Some studies have indicated that the seasonal flu vaccine might be associated with one additional case of the syndrome out of 1 million vaccinated. And influenza itself can cause the syndrome.
Although the vaccine was produced in record time, antiquated technology and unexpected problems growing the virus fast enough to produce the vaccine meant that most of the doses did not arrive until after the second wave of infections peaked last fall. That led to widespread anxiety, frustration and lines across the country as people scrambled to find the first doses. By the time most of the vaccine was ready, the second wave was already receding and demand fell sharply, leaving millions of doses unused.
The relatively low number of deaths compared with previous pandemics and the millions spent on the vaccine have led to charges that the World Health Organization exaggerated the pandemic’s risks. That prompted the Geneva-based arm of the United Nations to launch two investigations, which are ongoing.
April 26, 2010
If scientists from Mars were to study the human male’s reproductive system they would probably conclude that he is destined for rapid extinction. Compared to other mammals, humans produce relatively low numbers of viable sperm – sperm capable of making that long competitive swim to penetrate an unfertilised egg.
As many as one in five healthy young men between the ages of 18 and 25 produce abnormal sperm counts. Even the sperm they do produce is often of poor quality. In fact only between 5 and 15 per cent of their sperm is, on average, good enough to be classed as “normal” under strict World Health Organisation rules – and these are young, healthy men. By contrast, more than 90 per cent of the sperm of a domestic bull or ram, or even laboratory rat, are normal.
Human males also suffer a disproportionately high incidence of reproductive problems, from congenital defects and undescended testes to cancer and impotency. As these also affect fertility, it’s a minor miracle men are able to sire any children at all. In fact, an increasing number of men are finding themselves childless. Among the one in seven couples now classed as infertile, the “male factor” has been found to be the most commonly identified cause.
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the WHO conference where a Danish scientist first alerted the world to the fact that Western men are suffering an infertility crisis. Professor Niels Skakkebaek of the University of Copenhagen presented data indicating sperm counts had fallen by about a half over the past 50 years. Sperm counts in the 1940s were typically well above 100m sperm cells per millilitre, but Professor Skakkebaek found they have dropped to an average of about 60m per ml. Other studies found that between 15 and 20 per cent of young men now find themselves with sperm counts of less than 20m per ml, which is technically defined as abnormal. In contrast, a dairy bull has a viable sperm count in the billions.
Experts in human reproductive biology were astonished by the Danish study. The declining trend seemed to indicate that men were on a path to becoming completely infertile within a few generations (although recent studies suggest the fall in sperm counts may have bottomed out). Professor Skakkebaek could offer no explanation for the trend other than to suggest that the fall may have something to do with the equally alarming rise in other reproductive disorders, such as cancer of the testes and cryptorchidism, the incomplete descent of the testes into the scrotum.
Experts began to talk of a new phenomenon affecting the human male, a collection of disorders known as testicular dysgenesis syndrome. They wanted to know what was causing it, because the changes were occurring too quickly to be a result of genetics. It must have something to with changing lifestyles or the environment of men, and almost everything was suggested, from exposure to chemical pollutants to the modern fashion for tight underpants. There is now an emerging consensus among some experts that whatever it is that is exacerbating the problems of male infertility, it probably starts in the womb. It is not the lifestyle of men that is problem, but that of their mothers.
The process of sperm production, called spermatogenesis, starts in adolescence, but the groundwork is laid down in the few months before and immediately after birth. An increasing number of studies point to a crucial “window” of testicular development that begins in the growing foetus and ends in the first six months of life. Interfere with this critical developmental period, and a baby boy will suffer the lifetime consequences of being a suboptimally fertile man.
So are we anywhere nearer to finding an explanation for why are so many more men today are suffering from reproductive problems?
April 26, 2010
New York Times
Crackberry is no joke.
American college students are hooked on cellphones, social media and the Internet and showing symptoms similar to drug and alcohol addictions, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Maryland who asked 200 students to give up all media for one full day found that after 24 hours many showed signs of withdrawal, craving and anxiety along with an inability to function well without their media and social links.
Susan Moeller, the study’s project director and a journalism professor at the university, said many students wrote about how they hated losing their media connections, which some equated to going without friends and family.
“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” said one student. “Between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin.”
Moeller said students complained most about their need to use text messages, instant messages, e-mail and Facebook.
“Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” wrote one of the students, who blogged about their reactions. “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life.”
Few students reported watching TV news or reading a newspaper.
The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize so-called Internet addiction as a disorder.
But it seems to be an affliction of modern life. In one extreme example in South Korea reported by the media, a couple allegedly neglected their three-month-old daughter, who died of malnutrition, because they were on the computer for up to 12 hours a day raising a virtual child.
In the United States a small private U.S. center called ReSTART, located near Redmond, Washington, opened last year in the shadow of computer giant Microsoft to treat excessive use of the Internet, video gaming and texting.
The center’s website cites various examples of students who ran up large debts or dropped out of college due to their obsession.
Students in the Maryland study also showed no loyalty to news programs, a news personality or news platform. They maintained a casual relationship to news brands, and rarely distinguished between news and general information.
“They care about what is going on among their friends and families and even in the world at large,” said Ph.D. student Raymond McCaffrey who worked on the study. Loyalty “does not seemed tied to any single device or application or news outlet.”