Monthly Archives: June 2013
NSA taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal
• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.
Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.
In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.
The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.
The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.
It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.
Disclosure of the PRISM program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.
The participation of the internet companies in PRISM will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.
Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacyis our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.
It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.
The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.
Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.
The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.
When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.
The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”
The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.
The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.
In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.
The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.
In the document, the NSA hails the PRISM program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.
It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the PRISM program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.
The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.
The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.
Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.
“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.
“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”
Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.
When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 PRISM-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.
In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.
“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.
“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”
A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.
“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.
“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.”
Additional reporting by James Ball and Dominic Rushe
More and more embarrassing stories of keep leaking out of the SEC, which is beginning to look somehow worse than corrupt – it’s hard to find the right language exactly, but “aggressively clueless” comes pretty close to summing up the atmosphere that seems to be ruling the country’s top financial gendarmes.
The most recent contribution to the broadening canvas of dysfunction and incompetence surrounding the SEC is a whistleblower complaint filed by 56-year-old Kathleen Furey, a senior lawyer who worked in the New York Regional Office (NYRO), the agency outpost with direct jurisdiction over Wall Street.
Furey’s complaint is full of startling revelations about the SEC, but the most amazing of them is that Furey and the other 20-odd lawyers who worked in her unit at the NYRO were actually barred by a superior from bringing cases under two of the four main securities laws governing Wall Street, the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and the Investment Company Act of 1940.
According to Furey, her group at the SEC’s New York office, from a period stretching for over half a decade through December, 2008, did not as a matter of policy pursue cases against investment managers like Bernie Madoff. Furey says she was told flatly by her boss, Assistant Regional Director George Stepaniuk, that “We do not do IM cases.”
Some background is necessary to explain the significance of this tale.
Connecticut passes first ever GMO labeling legislation while local farmer who distributed Raw Milk in Wisconsin gets Jail time by Federal Prosecution
Attorney General Has Been Lobbying for a Get-Out-Of-Jail Card for Big Banks and their Bosses for 14 Years
Everyone knows that Eric Holder – the head of the Department of Not-Much Justice – has said that the big banks are too big to jail.
And many people know that – prior to becoming the Attorney General – Holder was a partner at a big firm which did some despicable things to represent the big banks and MERS.
But Holder’s see-no-evil act actually started more than a decade ago.
Specifically, in 1999, as Deputy Attorney General, Holder wrote a memo arguing against prosecuting large financial service companies:
Prosecutors may consider the collateral consequences of a corporate criminal conviction in determining whether to charge the corporation with a criminal offense.
One of the factors in determining whether to charge a natural person or a corporation is whether the likely punishment is appropriate given the nature and seriousness of the crime. In the corporate context, prosecutors may take into account the possibly substantial consequences to a corporation’s officers, directors, employees, and shareholders, many of whom may, depending on the size and nature (e.g., publicly vs. closely held) of the corporation and their role in its operations, have played no role in the criminal conduct, have been completely unaware of it, or have been wholly unable to prevent it. Further, prosecutors should also be aware of non-penal sanctions that may accompany a criminal charges, such as potential suspension or debarment from eligibility for government contracts or federal funded programs such as health care. Whether or not such non-penal sanctions are appropriate or required in a particular case is the responsibility of the relevant agency, a decision that will be made based on the applicable statutes, regulations, and policies.
Virtually every conviction of a corporation, like virtually every conviction of an individual, will have an impact on innocent third parties ….
Matt Taibbi points out that – when the Department of Justice subsequently prosecuted accounting giant Arthur Andersen for covering up Enron’s fraudulent schemes – Anderson ran with Holder’s argument, and threatened the DOJ “using their employees as human shields”.
Specifically, Andersen said that – unless the DOJ dropped the prosecution – innocent Andersen employees would lose their jobs.
Andersen was prosecuted and convicted, and some innocent employees – as well as the big time fraudsters – lost their jobs. Since then, the Justice Department has gotten so gun-shy that we basically haven’t had any criminal indictments against a large financial services company since then.
In the wake of the recent revelations that the big banks manipulate virtually every market in the world, and that HSBC blatantly laundered drug cartel money, Holder has said that we can’t indict big companies because that might harm the U.S. or world economy.
And Matt Taibbi notes that – for the first time – Holder is now saying that not only can’t we indict the companies, but we can’t even indict any of the individual criminals at the companies. In other words, Holder is implementing a permanent shield for employees and executives at large institutions.
Vatican Secretary of State Set to Resign: Insider
Posted on June 04, 2013 by itccs
A source within the Vatican announced today that Tarcisio Bertone, the most powerful
official in the Roman Curia and one of five Cardinals convicted by a Common Law
Court of Justice last February, has prepared his letter of resignation.
Cardinal Bertone has been the effective “king maker” at the papacy for many years,
and helped force Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger, from office on February 11 just
days after an arrest warrant was to be issued against Ratzinger.
According to the Vatican insider,
“Bertone knows that if he’s arrested while in office, all of the Vatican archives
and his records are subject to seizure, and they can never let that happen. Once
he’s resigned, he can do like Ratzinger and claim immunity from prosecution as a
‘private citizen’, something the Lateran Treaty allows. These guys understand the
power of the common law court arrest warrant, even if others don’t.”
Bertone’s resignation also coincides with the recent formation of a new Italian
movement to expose child torture and trafficking within the Vatican, announced by
the ITCCS and Rete L’Abuso in Savona, Italy on May 23.
This campaign will commence on September 20 in Rome with civil disobedience actions
and church occupations, and demands to the Italian government to revoke the Lateran
Treaty with the Vatican. (see itccs.org, May 24 posting).
ITCCS Field Secretary Kevin Annett is in Europe investigating this latest development.
Further communiques on the impending Bertone resignation and the September 20
campaign will be forthcoming.
ITCCS Central Office Brussels
In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in “consumer product stocks” by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel.
With 70% of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffett’s apparent lack of faith in these companies’ future prospects is worrisome.
Unfortunately Buffett isn’t alone.
Fellow billionaire John Paulson, who made a fortune betting on the subprime mortgage meltdown, is clearing out of U.S. stocks too. During the second quarter of the year, Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Co., dumped 14 million shares of JPMorgan Chase. The fund also dumped its entire position in discount retailer Family Dollar and consumer-goods maker Sara Lee.
Finally, billionaire George Soros recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the three banks, Soros sold more than a million shares.
So why are these billionaires dumping their shares of U.S. companies?
After all, the stock market is still in the midst of its historic rally. Real estate prices have finally leveled off, and for the first time in five years are actually rising in many locations. And the unemployment rate seems to have stabilized.
It’s very likely that these professional investors are aware of specific research that points toward a massive market correction, as much as 90%.
One such person publishing this research is Robert Wiedemer, an esteemed economist and author of the New York Times best-selling book Aftershock.
Before you dismiss the possibility of a 90% drop in the stock market as unrealistic, consider Wiedemer’s credentials.
4th June 2013
Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
In yet another example of how an out-of-control Goliath state system can cause more harm than good, a teenage boy who was diagnosed with autism at a young age has risen to stellar heights after quitting the special ed system with the help of his concerned mother.
State therapy specialists claimed Jacob Barnett would never tie his shoes, read or function normally in society. But the boy’s mother realized when Jacob was not in therapy, he was doing “spectacular things” completely on his own.
She decided to trust her instinct and disregard the advice of the professionals. Instead of following a standardized special needs educational protocol, she surrounded Jacob with all the things that inspired passion for him – and was astonished at the transformation that took place.
Following a diagnosis of autism at age two, Jacob was subjected to a cookie cutter special education system that focused on correcting what he couldn’t do compared to normal children. For years, teachers attempted to convince Kristine Barnett that her son would only be able to learn the most basic of life skills.
When exposed to the state system of educational therapy, Kristine noticed Jacob would withdraw deeply and refuse to speak with anyone. Even though she found it “terrifying to fly against the advise of the professionals,” she knew in her heart “that if Jake stayed in special ed, he would slip away,” Kristine relates in her memoir, The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius.
So began a journey for Jacob that would lead to such unexpected achievement that the whole premise of standardized therapy for this ‘special needs’ child would be blown to bits.
A path of passion and discovery
After years of frustration and little progress, Kristine made a radical decision in the eyes of the special ed system — she took Jacob out of school and prepared him for kindergarten herself. As described in the New York Daily Times:
She let him explore the things he wanted to explore. He studied patterns and shadows and stars. At the same time, she made sure that he enjoyed “normal” childhood pleasures – softball, picnics – along with other kids his age.
“I operate under a concept called ‘muchness’,” Kristine said “which is surrounding children with the things they love – be it music, or art, whatever they’re drawn to and love.”
By the time Jacob reached the age of 11, he entered college and is currently studying condensed matter physics at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. According to an email Professor Scott Tremaine wrote to Jacob’s family:
“The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics … Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.”
Jacob also has an IQ of 170 — higher than that of Einstein. He is history’s youngest astrophysics researcher, has spoken at a New York TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) conference, and appeared on a variety of news interviews, including 60 Minutes and the Time magazine website.
Not bad for someone who was classified by state experts as so severely disabled that he would never tie his own shoes or learn to read. If Jacob had stayed within the system, the prediction may very well have come true.
Sources for this article include:
Dr. Plimer says what I’ve been saying all along and it should put “global warming” to bed once and for all. Its totally a bunch of Hooey!!! They all need to shut up and let us live and we’ll all be better off. Its just another thing the government wants to stuff down our throats and cost us a bloody fortune…without ANY need!’
Okay, here’s the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland,
As France, the UK, and other nations gathered to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York, the U.S. was not among them.
Although it was widely believed that Obama would add his name to treaty when other Western allies gathered to sign it on June 3, Sec. of State John Kerry now says that Obama will sign the treaty once “the process of confirming the official translations” has had time to be “satisfactorily” completed.
From the time the U.N. General Assembly passed the ATT on April 2 till now, there has been a growing chorus of opposition to signing on to the document. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) pushed through an amendment opposing the treaty in the senate, effectively ending any chance for a resolution of ratification at this time. The NRA ran a campaign against it, encouraging its 5 million members to contact their Senators and the administration and ask that the treaty be opposed. And just last week, according to Fox News, 130 members of Congress signed a letter to Obama, asking him not to sign the treaty.
As Bloomberg News reports, even with the signatures the treaty has no force until 50 of the signatory nations ratify it. For the U.S. alone, if Obama does sign it as Kerry says he will, the ratification process is anticipated to “take [up to] 10 to 15 years.”
This is because a successful resolution of ratification requires two-thirds of U.S. Senators to support it, and Sen. Inhofe has already demonstrated that this won’t be happening any time soon.
From tarihinde yayımlandı
To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because at the time of my writing most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
Last week of May 2013 a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and yoga students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.
They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening of May 31st the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
They gathered and continued sitting in the park. The riot police set fire to the demonstrators’ tents and attacked them with pressurized water, pepper and tear gas during a night raid. Two young people were run over by the panzers and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.
These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.
On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.
People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.
What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.
Yet they still march. Hundreds and thousands of citizens from all walks of life then joined them to support for the protestors. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim. They were met with more water cannons and more pepper spray, more hostility. Four people died, thousands of people were injured.
No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.
Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.
People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul. Demonstations spread to other cities where citizens were faced more brutality and hostiliy from police. Hundred of thousands kept joining.
Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.
I do not belong to a political party. I don’t believe in politics. I don’t defend any ideology and I am not on the side of any regime. Like many others in Turkey I am tired and frustrated from the polarization between Kemalist seculars and the Islamists. I don’t belong to any of them. I believe in moving away from polarization and towards a new way of relating. I know many people who are out on the streets of Istanbul share the way I think and I know we are not the only ones. We just want to live our lives with human dignity.
As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:
«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»
This blog is my answer to her.
By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:
Freedom of expression and speech,
Respect for human rights,
Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,
The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.
But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!
Please spread the word and share this blog.
For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help
Published on Jun 2, 2013
More than 100,000 Turkish protesters have gathered at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan.
Thousands of others also took to the streets in cities, including the capital Ankara, Izmir, Mugla and Antalya in support of the protesters in Istanbul.
Protesters say that Erdogan is out of touch with the reality on the ground and want his government to step down.
The unrest turned into anti-government protests after police moved into Taksim on Friday in order to break up a sit-in protest against the razing of the park, wounding at least two dozen people.
On this edition of The Debate, we will discuss the latest protests and events taking place in Turkey.
Watch this video on our website: http://www.presstv.ir/Program/306729….
Would “blow them out of the water” if the facts exposed in this case became public knowledge
Vinegar cancer test saves lives, India study finds
- In this Tuesday, May 21, 2013 photo, Usha Devi, right, who was suffering from cervical cancer, talks with health workers from Tata Memorial Hospital in a slum in Mumbai, India. A simple vinegar test slashed cervical cancer death rates by one-third in a remarkable study of 150,000 women in the slums of India, where the disease is the top cancer killer of women. Experts called the outcome amazing and said this quick, cheap test could save tens of thousands of lives each year in developing countries by spotting early signs of cancer, allowing treatment before its too late. Devi, one of the women in the study, says it saved her life. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
- In this Tuesday, May 21, 2013 photo, Anjali S, a health work from Tata Memorial Hospital, briefs a group of women about cervical cancer during one of her regular visit to a slum in Mumbai, India. A simple vinegar test slashed cervical cancer death rates by one-third in a remarkable study of 150,000 women in the slums of India, where the disease is the top cancer killer of women. Experts called the outcome amazing and said this quick, cheap test could save tens of thousands of lives each year in developing countries by spotting early signs of cancer, allowing treatment before its too late. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
MUMBAI, India – A simple vinegar test slashed cervical cancer death rates by one-third in a remarkable study of 150,000 women in the slums of India, where the disease is the top cancer killer of women.
Doctors reported the results Sunday at a cancer conference in Chicago. Experts called the outcome “amazing” and said this quick, cheap test could save tens of thousands of lives each year in developing countries by spotting early signs of cancer, allowing treatment before it’s too late.
Usha Devi, one of the women in the study, says it saved her life.
“Many women refused to get screened. Some of them died of cancer later,” Devi said. “Now I feel everyone should get tested. I got my life back because of these tests.”
Pap smears and tests for HPV, a virus that causes most cervical cancers, have slashed cases and deaths in the United States. But poor countries can’t afford those screening tools.
This study tried a test that costs very little and can be done by local people with just two weeks of training and no fancy lab equipment. They swab the cervix with diluted vinegar, which can make abnormal cells briefly change color.
This low-tech visual exam cut the cervical cancer death rate by 31 percent, the study found. It could prevent 22,000 deaths in India and 72,600 worldwide each year, researchers estimate.
“That’s amazing. That’s remarkable. It’s a very exciting result,” said Dr. Ted Trimble of the National Cancer Institute in the U.S., the main sponsor of the study.
The story of research participant Usha Devi is not an unusual one. Despite having given birth to four children, she had never had a gynecological exam. She had been bleeding heavily for several years, hoping patience and prayers would fix things.
“Everyone said it would go away, and every time I thought about going to the doctor there was either no money or something else would come up,” she said, sitting in a tiny room that serves as bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room for her entire family.
One day she found a card from health workers trying to convince women to join the study. Devi is in her late 40s and like many poor Indians doesn’t know her date of birth. She learned she had advanced cervical cancer. The study paid for surgery to remove her uterus and cervix.
The research effort was led by Dr. Surendra Shastri of Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. India has nearly one-third of the world’s cases of cervical cancer — more than 140,000 each year.
“It’s just not possible to provide Pap smear screening in developing countries. We don’t have that kind of money” or the staff or equipment, so a simpler method had to be found, Shastri said.
Starting in 1998, researchers enrolled 75,360 women to be screened every two years with the vinegar test. Another 76,178 women were chosen for a control, or comparison group that just got cancer education at the start of the study and vouchers for a free Pap test — if they could get to the hospital to have one. Women in either group found to have cancer were offered free treatment at the hospital.
Still, this quick and free cancer screening was a hard sell in a deeply conservative country where women are subservient and need permission from husbands, fathers or others for even routine decisions. Social workers were sent into the slums to win people over.
“We went to every single house in the neighborhood assigned to us introducing ourselves and asking them to come to our health talks. They used to come out of curiosity, listen to the talk but when we asked them to get screened they would totally refuse,” said one social worker, Vaishnavi Bhagat. “The women were both scared and shy.”
One woman who did agree to testing jumped up from the table when she was examined with a speculum. “She started screaming that we had stolen her kidney,” Bhagat said. Another health worker was beaten by people in the neighborhood when women realized they would have to disrobe to be screened.
“There was a sense of shame about taking their clothes off. A lot of them had their babies at home and had never been to a doctor,” said one health worker, Urmila Hadkar. “Sometimes just the idea of getting tested for cancer scared them. They would start crying even before being tested.”
But screening worked. The quality of screening by health workers was comparable to that of an expert gynecologist, researchers reported. The study was planned for 16 years, but results at 12 years showed lives were saved with the screening. So independent monitors advised offering it to the women in the comparison group.
An ethics controversy developed during the study. The U.S. Office for Human Research Protections faulted researchers for not adequately informing participants in the comparison group about Pap tests for screening. A letter from the agency in March indicated officials seemed to accept many of the remedies study leaders had implemented.
Others defended the study.
“We looked at the ethics very carefully” and felt them to be sound, and visited the project in India, said Trimble of the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Sandra Swain, a cancer specialist at Medstar Washington Hospital Center, also defended the research. She is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the research results were presented at that group’s meeting in Chicago on Sunday.
“There really was no wrongdoing there,” she said. “They have no screening anyway,” so there is no standard of care now.
Officials in India already are making plans to expand the vinegar testing to a wider population.
Many poor countries can’t afford mammograms for breast cancer screening either. The India study also has been testing breast exams by health workers as an alternative. Preliminary results suggest breast cancers are being found at an earlier stage, but it’s too soon to know if that will save lives because not enough women have died yet to compare the groups, said Trimble of the National Cancer Institute.
More progress against cervical cancer may come from last month’s announcement that two companies will drastically lower prices on HPV vaccines for poor countries. Pilot projects will begin in Asia and Africa; the campaign aims to vaccinate more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries by 2020.
As you may have heard, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spent his Memorial Day palling around with his new al-Qaeda buddies in Syria. He wants Congress to appropriate funds to help these terrorists rebels, one of whom wasresponsible for kidnapping Lebanese pilgrims, as they fight Bashar al-Assad for control of the country.
But Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) warned Americans of the dangers of intervening, in an op-ed at CNN, noting that ourhistory of arming so-called “rebels” and hasn’t exactly worked well for the United States.
Paul recaps the history of our involvement in Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s, both in support of and opposition to Saddam Hussein, has had the effect of empowering Iran in the region. He goes to recap our more recent problems in Libya, where our support of rebels included helping elements of al-Qaeda:
In 2009, members of the U.S. Senate — Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain and an independent, Joe Lieberman — would travel to Libya to meet with Gadhafi to offer further aid. Sen. McCain said: “We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of nonlethal defense equipment to the government of Libya.” President Obama would eventually meet with Gadhafi to reconfirm the same relationship established during the Bush administration.
By 2011, President Obama was arming Libyan rebels and ordering airstrikes to overthrow Gadhafi. Some of the president’s most vocal supporters were the same Republicans who traveled to Libya two years before to help Libya’s strongman acquire military equipment. Sen. McCain said of the Libyan rebels: “I have met with these brave fighters, and they are not al Qaeda. … To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it.”
We did help them, something I opposed on the Senate floor as an unconstitutional overreach by the executive branch. We now have reason to believe that the Libyan rebels did contain elements of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.
Paul acknowledges that what is happening in Syria is “dire.” But his concern is that our involvement may yet again empower certain elements that have declared war on the United States. This hasn’t ended well for us in the past, and it’s unlikely to change if we involve ourselves in Syria.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said DePaul’s proposed new stadium that would cost taxpayers $100 million from public funds was “essential” to the city.
DePaul, a private school that did not even average 3,000 fans a game last season in attendance and has only won seven games combined in the last five years in Big East play, is a private Catholic school that turned down offers to play rent free at the United Center.
Speaking at the 2013 Intersport Activation Summit in Chicago on Thursday, Emanuel said he was going to “make sure that DePaul has a facility in the city” and that DePaul’s stadium was “essential to the city’s quality of life and economic development.”
According to Sports Business Journal, Emanuel noted that the “Big Ten basketball tournament will come to Chicago every other year” and the city wanted to land more of those types of events.
Chicago, meanwhile, is broke and closing 50 public schools because of budget shortfalls.