March 12, 2012
By Mike Barrett
“Not all doctors are this evil – some really do care. But you really need to be careful about who you go see regarding your health.” –KTRN
Medical doctors are nearly revered by many individuals for their medical knowledge accumulated after years of schooling. These doctors have gone through years of training in what is regarded as the western based medicine philosophy, where drugs and surgery are more or less their specialties. In addition to knowing virtually nothing about nutrition, natural solutions, and how to address the root causes of health conditions, many doctors, as well as scientist, have also been shown to be falsifying data in order to have research published. What’s more, many colleagues of the scandalous individuals are urged to keep quiet about what they know.
A survey of nearly 2,800 scientists and doctors in the UK has found that 13 percent of them admitted to witnessing the falsification and fabrication of data created by their colleagues. Additionally, 6 percent of the nearly 2,800 individuals surveyed were aware of research misconduct at their own workplace which had never been properly investigated to looked into. Needless to say, there could very well be more scientists or doctors not speaking up, further increasing the scandal rate.
Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor for the British Medical Journal, for which the poll was conducted, says:
“While our survey can’t provide a true estimate of how much research misconduct there is in the UK, it does show that there is a substantial number of cases and that UK institutions are failing to investigate adequately, if at all…The BMJ has been told of junior academics being advised to keep concerns to themselves to protect their careers, being bullied into not publishing their findings, or having their contracts terminated when they spoke out…This survey chimes with our experience where we see many cases of institutions not co-operating with journals and failing to investigate research misconduct properly.“
Interestingly enough, there is so much fraud occurring in the medical field that websites are popping up solely to target these numerous cases. Another medical fraud coming to light is the case involving Duke University and Anil Potti, a researcher formally known by mainstream medical experts for transforming cancer research for the better. However, the scientific papers published by Potti turned out to be completely falsified and skewered – a case showing and ultimately convincing many individuals that medical fraud can happen anytime and anywhere, even at high-status universities.
August 22nd, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Dina Rickman
When the woman who exposed the MPs expenses scandal says she’s uncovered the next big public outrage, it’s impossible not to take notice.
Heather Brooke explains to the Huffington Post UK why data dealing is even bigger than phone hacking and the reasons she lost faith in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Somewhere in an upmarket central London restaurant over lunch the negotiations started at £100,000. Heather Brooke witnessed the document with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of every voter in Britain go on sale.
The investigative journalist and campaigner says the attempt to sell the electoral register was just one example of data dealing – the burgeoning trade in personal information that could affect any citizen with an online profile.
“I don’t think people have any idea that this goes on all the time. There are corporate private investigators, companies doing very forensic background checks on people. They buy data, they get their own data … They don’t want their industry publicised”, she says.
The phone hacking scandal exposed how the private lives of celebrities and the bereaved had been targeted by journalists. But according to Brooke, her latest investigation will show now everyone’s details are up for grabs, and not by reporters, but by companies.
“Phone hacking, that’s just touching the surface of that whole industry in personal information which is vast, huge, it’s massive,” she says.
Two years ago a wave of public outrage forced the Home Office to abandon plans to set up a so-called ‘Big Brother database’ to collect information about every website you visited, phone call you made and email you sent. In the new information era exposed by Brooke in her forthcoming book, that doesn’t matter, companies can just piece together that information about you anyway.
And she says they can use instant message conversations, pictures, the texts you receive and your Facebook status.
Brooke warns corporations and governments are a “customer” for information, and they want it for a reason: “It’s trying to predict the behaviour of different people and it’s making decisions about who it thinks are going to be trouble makers, not based on what you’ve actually done but based on what they think you’re going to do in the future.”
She doesn’t subscribe to the ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’ philosophy: “If you believe the promise that an authoritarian state makes that if it has enough knowledge on every citizen it will keep people safe. I think that’s a false promise. It doesn’t actually happen. If that was the case then East Germany would be a really incredible place to live and in fact it wasn’t, it was really horrible, most of these places were really horrible.”
And as the amount of data about people increases – google searches, text messages, emails, chat logs, purchases – so does the value of what it says about you. The websites you like to go to, the products you like to buy, and what exactly you might get up to in your spare time. And with more data comes opportunity for democracy – or suppression.
Brooke explores this in new book, ‘The Revolution Will Be Digitisied’, part crash course in information held by the government and corporations, and part thriller, focusing on the drama surrounding WikiLeaks’ attempts to expose US diplomatic cables and the gradual implosion of the organisation.
For Brooke it comes down to the dangers when there is a concentration of power – either with WikiLeaks or in government. The investigative journalist and campaigner made it clear she was not afraid to take on vested interests during her five year campaign to expose MPs’ expenses. And she says pockets of public outrage when it emerges that iPhones keep track of everywhere you go aren’t enough.
She’s scathing about David Cameron’s response to the riots in Britain, proposing to monitor social networks like BBM and Twitter.
“I think it’s interesting the political reaction is ‘we have to start surveying all the social networks’. That’s the instant reaction. That’s what I mean about how the revolution will be digitised because it totally shakes up power structures, it does put power in the hands of people, including the proletariat, chavs, whatever you want to call them. They’re on social networks now, they can organise, they can communicate. And people that are in power, in the more elitist bastions of power, they find that really frightening. It’s challenging, it’s frightening, they don’t know what to do, their kind of instant reaction is: let’s shut it down.”
For her, governments haven’t “evolved fast enough”: “People are used to getting a lot of information quickly and they’re used to being quite empowered as consumers and they go to governments expecting a similar treatment, they want to find data and they want to influence events quickly and yet they come into this brick wall. The government wants to know everything about them but isn’t willing to share any of that information.”
Julian Assange, of course, plays a part in her quest to free up data. Initially, she’s attracted to him (“He’s the world’s most famous leaker, I’m a freedom of information campaigner so we’ve a lot to talk about”). But he also unsettles her, telling her without fear she can become a “megalomaniac” like him. She says in her book “I couldn’t have felt less comfortable alone in that room with him”, and most strikingly, reveals that he asked her to be his Mary Magdalene and “bathe his feet at the cross”.
Now, Brooke says she would not have been tempted by Assange even if she were not married: “He did strike me as a kind of dangerous person.”
She says it was his domination of the WikiLeaks exposes that left her disillusioned with the founder.
“The values of WikiLeaks have been completely overshadowed by Julian Assange. And he’s trying to conflate the two as one. Which is why a lot of the good people left. The people that I thought were the best people left. It is basically the Julian Assange project now.
“I guess that’s the real disappointment in the book. There was this opportunity in 2010 to really revolutionise the way information was shared, and instead of that cause going forward and being the main thing it was subverted, I felt and I observed by Julian Assange to serve his own personal interest and protect himself from personal problems.”
She says the leaks on Iraq and Afghanistan could have actually changed government policy, if it weren’t for Assange.
“I think they could have had a pretty big effect on America’s view of that war. But … because of the way Julian personalised those stories and made them about him rather than the story itself.”
Suddenly we’re back to the hacking scandal again: “That’s all Nick Davies, right? Does Nick Davies give a press conference himself about Nick Davies? No he doesn’t, he lets the story speak for itself.
“That’s what Julian needs to take on board. If you’re really serious about wanting to change society you have to pull back off the story, let the facts speak for themselves and stop trying to micromanage the way the public interprets it.”
Today, Kevin gives you his take on the Norwegian tragedy and how the media isn’t giving you all the accurate details. Plus, get Kevin’s predictions about where the economy is going and the indications that inflation is coming in a huge way!
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July 21st, 2011
Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. home lender, agreed to pay a record $85 million fine to settle Federal Reserve claims it steered borrowers into costlier loans and falsified data in mortgage applications.
Employees at Wells Fargo Financial, the lender’s consumer- finance unit, pushed customers who may have been eligible for prime interest rates into loans carrying higher rates intended for riskier borrowers, the Fed said in a statement announcing the settlement today. Separately, sales personnel used false documents to make it appear borrowers qualified for loans when their incomes made them ineligible.
The company shuttered Wells Fargo Financial in July 2010, eliminating 3,800 jobs and ceased making non-prime home loans. The business was overseen by Mark Oman, 56, who has announced he will retire by yearend. The San Francisco-based bank didn’t admit wrongdoing in agreeing to today’s action.
The civil penalty is the largest issued by the Fed in a consumer-protection action, according to the statement. The accord requires Wells Fargo to re-evaluate qualifications of borrowers who received a subprime, cash-out refinancing loan between January 2006 and June 2008. Wells Fargo must compensate borrowers harmed by the practice, which may exceed 10,000, according to the statement.
The Fed also issued consent orders against 16 Wells Fargo employees that bar them from working in the banking industry, the regulator said in the statement.
October 25th, 2010
By: Vanessa Allen
Google was accused of spying on households yesterday after it admitted secretly copying passwords and private emails from home computers.
The internet search giant was forced to confess it had downloaded personal data during its controversial Street View project, when it photographed virtually every street in Britain.
In an astonishing invasion of privacy, it admitted entire emails, web pages and even passwords were ‘mistakenly collected’ by antennae on its high-tech Street View cars.
Privacy campaigners accused the company of spying and branded its behaviour ‘absolutely scandalous’.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said it would launch a new investigation. Scotland Yard is already considering whether the company has broken the law.
Google executive Alan Eustace issued a grovelling apology and said the company was ‘mortified’, adding: ‘We’re acutely aware that we failed badly.’
Critics seized on the admission as the latest example of technology’s ever-expanding ability to harvest information about ordinary households, often without their knowledge or consent.
Google sent a fleet of specially equipped cars around Britain in 2008, armed with 360-degree cameras to gather photographs for its Street View project.
There were immediate complaints that the pictures were a security risk, after householders complained that house numbers and car registrations were easily identifiable.
Privacy fears followed when it emerged that individuals could be seen, including a man emerging from a sex shop in London’s Soho, three police officers arresting a man in Camden, North London, and children throwing stones at a house in Musselburgh, Scotland.
Earlier this year the California-based firm admitted that the cars’ antennae had also scanned for wireless networks, including home wi-fi, which connect millions of personal computers to the internet.
Google registered the location, name and identification code of millions of networks and entered them into a database to help it sell adverts.
The firm – which uses the slogan ‘Don’t be evil’ – was able to record the location of every wireless router and network without alerting households because wi-fi signals are ‘visible’ to other internet devices, including the cars’ antennae.
Google played down the significance of the wi-fi mapping and insisted it had not collected or stored data from personal computers.
It then backtracked and said its software had ‘inadvertently’ collected fragments of data which were being transmitted as the cars criss-crossed Britain.
The cars’ antennae skipped networks five times a second, it said, meaning each network was only accessed for one-fifth of a second.
But it has now emerged that entire emails, web pages and passwords were copied and stored during that split-second.
The information was only gathered from wireless networks which were not password-protected.
But it means the antennae potentially harvested millions of private emails and passwords around the country. It is not known how many householders have unprotected wireless networks.
October 18th, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Emily Steel and Geoffrey A. Fowler
Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.
The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.
The problem has ties to the growing field of companies that build detailed databases on people in order to track them online—a practice the Journal has been examining in its What They Know series. It’s unclear how long the breach was in place. On Sunday, a Facebook spokesman said it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information.
“A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser or by an application,” the spokesman said. Knowledge of an ID “does not permit access to anyone’s private information on Facebook,” he said, adding that the company would introduce new technology to contain the problem identified by the Journal.
“Our technical systems have always been complemented by strong policy enforcement, and we will continue to rely on both to keep people in control of their information,” the Facebook official said.
“Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.
The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.’s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user’s friends to outside companies.
Most apps aren’t made by Facebook, but by independent software developers. Several apps became unavailable to Facebook users after the Journal informed Facebook that the apps were transmitting personal information; the specific reason for their unavailability remains unclear.
The information being transmitted is one of Facebook’s basic building blocks: the unique “Facebook ID” number assigned to every user on the site. Since a Facebook user ID is a public part of any Facebook profile, anyone can use an ID number to look up a person’s name, using a standard Web browser, even if that person has set all of his or her Facebook information to be private. For other users, the Facebook ID reveals information they have set to share with “everyone,” including age, residence, occupation and photos.
The apps reviewed by the Journal were sending Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities.
Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.
RapLeaf said that transmission was unintentional. “We didn’t do it on purpose,” said Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development for RapLeaf.
Facebook said it previously has “taken steps … to significantly limit Rapleaf’s ability to use any Facebook-related data.”
Facebook prohibits app makers from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies, even if a user agrees. The Journal’s findings shed light on the challenge of policing those rules for the 550,000 apps on its site.
October 14, 2010
Christopher S. Rugaber
More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the first rise in three weeks and evidence that companies are reluctant to hire in a slow economy.
Initial claims for unemployment aid rose by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 462,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was only the second rise in two months.
Jobless claims have been stuck near 450,000 all year. Few employers see much reason to create many jobs, and some are still laying off workers. Rail operator CSX Corp., for example, said Wednesday that it can lengthen its trains to handle rising shipments, reducing its need to hire more employees.
“The labor market is kind of frozen right now,” said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities. “There’s not a lot of hiring going on, not a lot of quitting, not a lot of layoffs.”
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed the trade deficit widened in August by 8.8 percent to $46.3 billion. The gap grew because of a 2.1 jump in imports, driven by demand for foreign-made semiconductors, generators and other types of industrial machinery. Exports edged up a slight 0.2 percent.
A third report noted that prices at the wholesale level remained tame outside a sharp rise in food and energy costs. Excluding those two volatile categories, core wholesale prices rose just 0.1 percent, the Labor Department said.
The data illustrate a weak economy that is slowly recuperating more than a year after the recession officially ended. Businesses are unable to raise prices because of high unemployment that is not expected to ease for months, perhaps years.
The initial claims figure, while volatile, is considered a real-time snapshot of the job market. It is also a measure of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies’ willingness to hire. The four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, rose by 2,250 to 459,000 — the first increase after six consecutive declines.
Claims have fallen significantly since June 2009, the month the recession ended. First-time claims topped 600,000 at the end of that month.
But most of the improvement took place last year. Since January, claims have fluctuated around 450,000.
Cash-strapped state and local governments are cutting jobs, adding to the ranks of those out of work and likely driving up the initial claims for unemployment aid.
State and local governments shed 83,000 jobs in September. The economy lost a net total of 95,000 jobs overall and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.6 percent.
Local governments cut the most jobs in 28 years last month, most of them teachers and other school employees.
Private employers, meanwhile, added a net total of 64,000 jobs, about one-third what’s needed to make a dent in the unemployment rate. Pandl and other economists don’t expect hiring by companies to accelerate much from that pace this year.
Total unemployment benefit rolls, meanwhile, fell last week, most likely because many of those out of work are using up their benefits.
The number of people continuing to receive benefits fell by 112,000 to just under 4.4 million, the department said. But that doesn’t include several million people who are receiving benefits under extended programs approved by Congress.
The number of people on extended benefits dropped by about 340,000 to about 4.8 million in the week ending Sept. 25, the latest data available. All told, about 8.6 million people received unemployment aid that week.
Layoffs are continuing in some sectors. Sanofi-Aventis SA, the world’s fourth-largest drug maker, said last week that it is eliminating 1,700 jobs in its U.S. pharmaceutical business due to growing generic competition.
And insurance conglomerate Aon said Thursday that it will cut 1,500 to 1,800 jobs over the next three years as it consolidates its acquisition of Hewitt Associates, a human resources firm.
October 13, 2010
They discovered that reboxetine, marketed as Edronax by Pfizer, was no more effective at countering major depression than a placebo sugar pill, after studying all available data on the drug.
In the study, published in the British Medical Journal today (WED), the German researchers found that some trials which failed to show reboxetine worked well were not submitted for publication by academic journals.
This, they said, was “a striking example of publication bias” – where academics or drug companies decide not to publish unfavourable results in peer-reviewed journals.
Overall, data on nearly three in four patients who took the drug went unpublished, claimed the researchers, working for the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.
“Data on 74 per cent of the patients included in our analysis was unpublished, indicating that the published evidence on reboxetine so far has been severely affected by publication bias,” they wrote.
If all the studies were taken into account – both published and unpublished – then the evidence showed that the risks of taking the drug outweighed the benefits.
Their analysis found that those who took reboxetine were more likely to have “at least one adverse event” than those given a placebo. However, there was no significant difference in the rate of suicide attempts between the two groups.
They noted that guidance issued by Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), that “reboxetine is superior to placebo and as effective as other antidepressants” was in their opinion, a conclusion that “can no longer be upheld”.
A spokesman for Pfizer said: “Pfizer discloses the results of its clinical trials to regulatory authorities all around the world. These regulatory authorities carefully balance the risks and benefits of each medication, and reflect all important safety and efficacy information in the approved product labelling.
“Pfizer will review the meta-analysis relating to reboxetine published in the British Medical Journal on 13th October 2010 in detail and will provide further comment after completing the review.”
October 13, 2010
Doctors and patients are being misled about the effectiveness of some drugs because negative trial results are not published, experts have warned.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say that pharmaceutical companies should be forced to publish all data, not just positive findings.
The German team give the example of the antidepressant reboxetine, saying publications have failed to show the drug in a true light.
Pfizer maintains its drug is effective.
But its rejection by US drug regulators raised doubts about its effectiveness, and led some to hunt for missing data.
This is not the first time a large drug company has come under fire about its published drug trial data.
Trial informationPharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was criticised for failing to raise the alarm on the risk of suicidal behaviour associated with its antidepressant Seroxat.
GSK rejected claims that it improperly withheld drug trial information.
But GSK has also been forced to defend itself over allegations about hiding negative data regarding another of its drugs, Avandia, which is used to treat diabetes.
Now researchers from The German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care say there is unpublished trial data for Pfizer’s antidepressant reboxetine that should be made public because it could change views about the drug.
Dr Beate Wieseler and colleagues carried out their own assessment of reboxetine, looking at the results of 13 trials, including eight previously unpublished trials from the manufacturer Pfizer.
They found the drug was no better than a placebo in terms of remission and response rates. And its benefit was inferior when compared with other similar antidepressants.
Furthermore, a higher rate of patients had side effects with reboxetine than with placebo. And more stopped taking the drug because of side effects compared with those taking a placebo or a different antidepressant.
Biased pictureThe researchers said there has been a publication bias and this had overestimated the benefit of reboxetine and underestimated potential harm. And, they said, it was a widespread problem that applied to many of the drugs in use today.
“Our findings underline the urgent need for mandatory publication of trial data,” they say in the BMJ.
They warn that the lack of all information means policy makers are unable to make informed decisions.
In the US, it is already a requirement that all data – both positive and negative – is published. The UK is also striving to achieve this.
The UK’s regulator, the MHRA, said: “There is a European initiative to provide public access to the results of clinical trials. The currently planned timeline is that this information could become available in late 2011/early 2012.”
A spokeswoman for Pfizer said: “In the UK, Pfizer’s reboxetine is licensed for the acute treatment of depressive illness/major depression and for maintaining the clinical improvement in patients initially responding to treatment.
“This medicine presents an effective treatment option to clinicians for the use in patients suffering from these conditions.
“Pfizer discloses the results of its clinical trials to regulatory authorities all around the world. These regulatory authorities carefully balance the risks and benefits of each medication, and reflect all important safety and efficacy information in the approved product labelling.
“Pfizer will review the meta-analysis relating to reboxetine published in the British Medical Journal on 13th October 2010 in detail and will provide further comment after completing the review.”
Others lay at least some of the blame with the medical journals that publish drug trial data.
In response, the BMJ has promised to devote an entire issue to the topic next year.
BMJ Editors Dr Fiona Godlee and Dr Elizabeth Loder said: “It is time to demonstrate a shared commitment to set the record straight.”
September 30, 2010
Some of the most popular apps written for Google’s Android phones do not tell users what data they are gathering, says a study by US researchers.
Half of 30 applications studied share location information and unique identifiers with advertisers.
Information about the data gathering was collected using software developed by the team.
App creators should provide more information what will be done with harvested data, they say.
The team of computer scientists from Intel Labs, Penn State, and Duke University chose 30 out of the 358 most popular Android apps that, when installed, ask for permission to get at location, camera and audio data.
Using an extension to the Android operating system called TaintDroid, created by the team, they logged what the applications did.
This revealed that 15 of the apps sent location information to advertisers but did not inform users that data was being shared. Some apps gathered and despatched location information even when an application was not running and some sent updates every 30 seconds.
One application gathered data and sent it as soon as it was installed but before it was run for the first time.
TaintDroid also found that seven of the apps shared unique identifiers, known as IMEI numbers, when sending data. Others despatched phone numbers or SIM card serial numbers.
The researchers said that while many Android apps ask for permission to gather information they did not do enough to inform users what was going to be done with that data or who it would be shared with.
They criticised the fact that users must “blindly trust” applications to play fair with data that they gather.
“Android’s coarse grained access control provides insufficient protection against third-party applications seeking to collect sensitive data,” wrote the researchers in a paper about their work.
Mobile security analyst Nigel Stanley from Bloor Research said the loose permission system could prove a boon for hi-tech thieves.
“The blanket permissions a user gives on installing an app can give carte blanche to malware and spyware providers to collect as much private data as they want, under the protective nicety of a simplistic warning from the operating system,” he said.
In a statement, Android creator Google said users necessarily entrusted all computing devices with some of their information.
“Android has taken steps to inform users of this trust relationship and to limit the amount of trust a user must grant to any given application developer,” it said. “We also provide developers with best practices about how to handle user data.”
It added that when apps are installed they show a screen detailing what information that program will access and users must give permission for installation to go ahead.
“We consistently advise users to only install apps they trust,” it said.
The research and the TaintDroid program are due to be presented at the Usenix symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 10).