January 30, 2012
By Ellen Nakashima and Lisa Rein
The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show.
The surveillance — detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by six of the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in U.S. District Court in Washington last week — took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers.
Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges. All had worked in an office responsible for reviewing devices for cancer screening and other purposes.
Copies of the e-mails show that, starting in January 2009, the FDA intercepted communications with congressional staffers and draft versions of whistleblower complaints complete with editing notes in the margins. The agency also took electronic snapshots of the computer desktops of the FDA employees and reviewed documents they saved on the hard drives of their government computers.
FDA computers post a warning, visible when users log on, that they should have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in any data passing through or stored on the system, and that the government may intercept any such data at any time for any lawful government purpose.
But in the suit, the doctors and scientists say the government violated their constitutional privacy rights by gazing into personal e-mail accounts for the purpose of monitoring activity that they say was lawful.
“Who would have thought that they would have the nerve to be monitoring my communications to Congress?” said Robert C. Smith, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, a former radiology professor at Yale and Cornell universities who worked as a device reviewer at the FDA until his contract was not renewed in July 2010. “How dare they?”
An FDA spokeswoman, Erica Jefferson, said the agency does not comment on litigation.
But according to FDA internal documents that the scientists and doctors obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency told the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general that they had improperly disclosed confidential business information about the devices. The agency requested that an investigation be opened in May 2010.
November 16, 2011
“Don’t you find it odd how many presidents are in secret societies? Why keep things secret from the public? Both George Bush AND John Kerry, the man he defeated to win the presidency, were in Skull & Bones It makes you wonder if they were in it together as a team.” –KTRN
Charlotte Iserbyt breaks down the history of this secret order and reveals just how big this elite club at Yale really is and how much political power they have wield over the past 180 years!
Iserbyt unveils the connection of her father and grandfather to the elite Skull & Bones secret society, including an exclusive look at the official members list the public was never meant to see. Iserbyt also explores the research of Anthony Sutton and others who’ve made the connection between Skull & Bones, the Illuminati and experimental psychology from Germany that has been injected into the American education system since the late 1800s. Also in play is the elite’s control of the Left-Right political paradigm, infiltration of key policy groups and backing from globalist foundations that have threatened to undermine the American way for the better part of a century.
August 3, 2010
By Tom Diemer
Sen. John Kerry, who took a beating from rivals in his 2004 presidential campaign because he was viewed as an indecisive flip-flopper, acted swiftly this week to defuse a tax controversy over his family’s luxury yacht. Kerry has agreed to voluntarily to pay the state of Massachusetts $500,000 in taxes on the Isabel, even though the 76-foot sloop is currently berthed at the Newport Shipyard in neighboring (and tax-friendly) Rhode Island.
On Tuesday, the Democratic senator short-circuited pesky questions about whether he was avoiding stiff taxes on the yacht in his home state after a tax agency began looking into reports that the $7 million craft has been seen repeatedly in Massachusetts waters, despite being docked in Newport, R.I., the Boston Globe reported.
“We’ve reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and made clear that, whether owed or not, we intend to pay the equivalent taxes as if the boat’s home port were currently in Massachusetts,” Kerry said. “That payment is being made promptly.”
Massachusetts residents who purchase boats in other states but plan to sail them in Massachusetts must file forms in the state and pay the equivalent of a sales tax and annual excise taxes, according to the state agency. Kerry apparently had not filed the required form, and the presence of the family yacht in the Newport boatyard led to a flurry of media reports, suggesting he was trying to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes on the Isabel.
April 16, 2010
by Ted Neale
Companies providing life and health insurance owned $1.9 billion worth of stock in the fast-food industry as of June 11, 2009, researchers reported online in the American Journal of Public Health.
The investments were in the five largest fast-food corporations — Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and others), and Wendy’s/Arby’s, according to J. Wesley Boyd, of Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, and colleagues.
“The insurance industry, ostensibly, appears to be concerned about people’s health and well-being,” Boyd said in an interview.
But, he said, “if the insurance industry is willing to invest in products known to be harmful and/or kill people then, prima facie, this is not an industry that actually cares about health and well-being.”
Although Boyd acknowledged that fast food can be consumed responsibly, he said the aggregate evidence points toward a negative effect on public health.
“We argue that insurers ought to be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility,” he and his co-authors wrote in their paper.
All of the study authors are members — and two are co-founders — of Physicians for a National Health Program, a nonprofit organization advocating for universal, single-payer national health insurance.
“PNHP opposes for-profit control, and especially corporate control, of the health system and favors democratic control, public administration, and single-payer financing,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
Boyd said that the passage of healthcare reform makes the issue of owning stock in fast-food companies especially important.
“The health insurance industry is going to have a much bigger stake in providing healthcare, and what we’re doing in our paper is reminding people that [the industry's] primary interests are in earning money and generating profit, not in insuring people’s health,” he said.
In an e-mail, Pauline Rosenau, PhD, a professor of management, policy, and community health at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said the investment strategy of these insurance companies is not ethical.
“They are placing themselves in a situation of substantial conflict of interest — especially starting in 2014,” she wrote.
“Starting in 2014, insurers will have an even greater incentive to encourage their customers to pursue healthy food choices,” she continued. “However, this is only with respect to their own customers, not those insured by other companies. As long as insurers are largely private, for-profit entities, they are unlikely to identify with a public health orientation.”
To determine the extent to which insurance companies invested in the fast-food industry, Boyd and his colleagues analyzed shareholder data from the Icarus database, which contains information from Securities and Exchange Commission filings and reports from news agencies.
Their data were “vetted during the peer-review process by outside referees,” according to a spokesperson for the American Public Health Association, which publishes the American Journal of Public Health.
The $1.9 billion worth of stock in the five leading fast food companies represented 2.2% of the total market capitalization of those companies on June 11, 2009.
Most of the investments ($1.2 billion) were in McDonald’s, followed by Yum! Brands ($404.2 million), Burger King ($165.5 million), Jack in the Box ($120 million), and Wendy’s/Arby’s ($15 million).
The insurer investing the most in fast food — $422.2 million — was Northwestern Mutual, which offers life, disability, and long-term care insurance.
Next highest at $406.1 million was ING, a Dutch investment company selling life and disability insurance.
Massachusetts Mutual, which offers life, disability, and long-term care insurance, and Prudential Financial, which sells life insurance and long-term disability coverage, ranked third and fourth at $366.5 million and $355.5 million, respectively.
At first glance, it would appear that there is an inconsistency with insurance companies that have an interest in protecting health investing in the fast-food industry, although Boyd said that it makes sense financially.
“They’re hedging their bets,” he said. “First of all, they’re making money by directly investing in fast food, and, secondly, they’re making money by often charging higher premiums to people who’ve eaten a little too much fast food and are obese, have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, etc.”
He said that he would like to see insurance companies sell their stakes in the fast-food companies.
“But if they don’t divest, at a minimum they could use their position as owners of fast food to insist on higher quality products, lower calories, [and] better information about how many calories are in different foods,” he said.
David Orentlicher, MD, JD, of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University, agreed in an e-mail that insurers should be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility.
“That said,” he wrote, “it is very difficult in a capitalist society to expect people or companies to act against their self-interest. If we want people to act responsibly, we have to create financial incentives for them to do so.”
Theodore Marmor, PhD, a professor emeritus of public policy and management at Yale School of Management, did not agree that health and life insurers should be held to a different standard than other companies.
“I think this is a foolish approach to improving the health of the public,” Marmor wrote in an e-mail.
“It would be hard to find any corporation that did not have some effect on the public’s health. Why are insurers to be held to a higher standard? We have more important worries about health insurers than improving their stock portfolios — e.g., their behavior as insurers.”
ING did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Northwestern Mutual disputed the study’s figures, saying that the company’s stock holdings in the fast-food industry at the end of 2008 totaled less than $257 million. The current total is slightly less at $248 million, or 0.17% of a $146.1 billion portfolio, she said.
A spokesperson for Massachusetts Mutual said the reported investments were “absolutely incorrect.” He said that as of Dec. 31, the company owned about $1.4 million worth of stock in fast-food-related companies, which was “less than one-hundredth of one percent of cash and total invested assets of $86.6 billion.”
A Prudential Financial spokesperson said, “We can’t discuss specific investments within Prudential portfolios or those managed for third parties. That said, we have a fiduciary duty to manage assets in a way that provides the opportunity for consistently strong investment performance to our individual and institutional clients, while managing risk and investing responsibly.”
A spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group for health insurers, said he could not comment on the investments of individual companies.
“Our industry is strongly committed to health and wellness,” he said. “Health plans have pioneered programs to promote prevention and encourage people to live healthier lifestyles.”
March 24, 2010
By Madison Park
The health care bill signed into law Tuesday by President Obama is the nation’s most sweeping social legislation in four decades. But it also includes some smaller changes that will directly affect consumers.
These include taxes on indoor tanning services, requirements for restaurants to post calorie information and changes to flexible spending accounts.
There are 540 calories in a Big Mac and 670 calories in a Whopper. Nutritional information will be unavoidable when customers step up to the counter to order.
The health care law requires chain restaurants that have more than 20 locations to display calorie information next to the food item on the standard menu.
The Food and Drug Administration has the task of establishing more specific regulations and determining when these changes go into effect.
The health care law requires “succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake” that are “posted prominently on the menu and designed to enable the public to understand, in the context of a total daily diet, the significance of the caloric information that is provided on the menu.”
Dr. Kelly Brownell, a Yale University psychology professor at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, conducted research that found that consumers choose lower-calorie food when their menus contained caloric information and a statement that said “an average person consumes 2,000 calories a day.”
“A lot of people don’t know what it means to have 600 calories,” he said. “They have no context and the legislation requires that anchor statement.”
Nutrition facts would also be required to be posted on vending machine products and drive-thru menus. Temporary specials appearing on the menu for less than 60 days, condiments and test market foods are exempt.
“Consumers have the right to this info whether or not it makes a difference on the diet,” Brownell said. “But I believe the data will ultimately show that it does.”
The National Restaurant Association called the passage of the provision “a win for consumers and restaurateurs.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group, praised its passage, calling it a “one of dozens of things we will need to do to reduce rates of obesity and diet-related disease in this country.”
In recent years, New York City and California have passed laws requiring nutritional information on menus.
Earlier this month, Panera Bread announced it voluntarily will post calorie information in all its locations by the end of 2010.
October 14, 2009
By Duncan Greenberg
Are billionaires born or made? What are the common attributes among the uber-wealthy? Are there any true secrets of the self-made?
We get these questions a lot, and decided it was time to go beyond the broad answers of smarts, ambition and luck by sorting through our database of wealthy individuals in search of bona fide trends. We analyzed everything from the billionaires’ parents’ professions to where they went to school, their track records in the early stages of their careers and other experiences that may have put them on the path to extreme wealth.
Our admittedly unscientific study of the 657 self-made billionaires we counted in February for our list of the World’s Billionaires yielded some interesting results.
First, a significant percentage of billionaires had parents with a high aptitude for math. The ability to crunch numbers is crucial to becoming a billionaire, and mathematical prowess is hereditary. Some of the most common professions among the parents of American billionaires (for whom we could find the information) were engineer, accountant and small-business owner.
Consistent with the rest of the population, more American billionaires were born in the fall than in any other season. However, relatively few billionaires were born in December, traditionally the month with the eighth highest birth rate. This anomaly holds true among billionaires in the U.S. and abroad.
More than 20% of the 292 of the self-made American billionaires on the most recent list of the World’s Billionaires have either never started or never completed college. This is especially true of those destined for careers as technology entrepreneurs: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Michael Dell (Dell, Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Theodore Waitt (Gateway).
Billionaires who derive their fortunes from finance make up one of the most highly educated sub-groups: More than 55% of them have graduate degrees. Nearly 90% of those with M.B.A.s obtained their master’s degree from one of three Ivy League schools: Harvard, Columbia or U. Penn’s Wharton School of Business.
Goldman Sachs has attracted a large share of hungry minds that went on to garner 10-figure fortunes. At least 11 current and recent billionaire financiers worked at Goldman early in their careers, including Edward Lampert, Daniel Och, Tom Steyer and Richard Perry.
Several billionaires suffered a bitter professional setback early in their careers that heightened their fear of failure. Pharmaceutical tycoon R.J. Kirk’s first venture was a flop–an experience he regrets but appreciates. “Failure early on is a necessary condition for success, though not a sufficient one,” he told Forbes in 2007.(See “Flying Solo.”)
According to a statement read by Phil Falcone during a congressional hearing in November, his botched buyout of a company in Newark in the early 1990s taught him “several valuable lessons that have had a profound impact upon my success as a hedge fund manager.”
Several current and former billionaires rounded out their Yale careers as members of Skull and Bones, the secret society portrayed with enigmatic relish by Hollywood in movies like The Skulls and W. Among those who were inducted: investor Edward Lampert, Blackstone co-founder Steven Schwarzman, and FedEx founder Frederick Smith.
Anderson Cooper has long traded on his biography, carving a niche for himself as the most human of news anchors. But there’s one aspect of his past that the silver-haired CNN star has never made public: the months he spent training for a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Following his sophomore and junior years at Yale—a well-known recruiting ground for the CIA—Cooper spent his summers interning at the agency’s monolithic headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in a program for students interested in intelligence work. His involvement with the agency ended there, and he chose not to pursue a job with the agency after graduation, according to a CNN spokeswoman, who confirmed details of Cooper’s CIA involvement to Radar.