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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 49003 times)
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« Reply #765 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 08:32am »

New York Times

August 19, 2010
Reanimated ‘Junk’ DNA Is Found to Cause Disease
By GINA KOLATA

The human genome is riddled with dead genes, fossils of a sort, dating back hundreds of thousands of years — the genome’s equivalent of an attic full of broken and useless junk.

Some of those genes, surprised geneticists reported Thursday, can rise from the dead like zombies, waking up to cause one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. This is the first time, geneticists say, that they have seen a dead gene come back to life and cause a disease.

“If we were thinking of a collection of the genome’s greatest hits, this would go on the list,” said Dr. Francis Collins, a human geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health.

The disease, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, known as FSHD, is one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. It was known to be inherited in a simple pattern. But before this paper, published online Thursday in Science by a group of researchers, its cause was poorly understood.

The culprit gene is part of what has been called junk DNA, regions whose function, if any, is largely unknown. In this case, the dead genes had seemed permanently disabled. But, said Dr. Collins, “the first law of the genome is that anything that can go wrong, will.” David Housman, a geneticist at M.I.T., said scientists will now be looking for other diseases with similar causes, and they expect to find them.

“As soon as you understand something that was staring you in the face and leaving you clueless, the first thing you ask is, ‘Where else is this happening?’ ” Dr. Housman said.

But, he added, in a way FSHD was the easy case — it is a disease that affects every single person who inherits the genetic defect. Other diseases are more subtle, affecting some people more than others, causing a range of symptoms. The trick, he said, is to be “astute enough to pick out the patterns that connect you to the DNA.”

FSHD affects about 1 in 20,000 people, causing a progressive weakening of muscles in the upper arms, around the shoulder blades and in the face — people who have the disease cannot smile. It is a dominant genetic disease. If a parent has the gene mutation that causes it, each child has a 50 percent chance of getting it too. And anyone who inherits the gene is absolutely certain to get the disease.

About two decades ago, geneticists zeroed in on the region of the genome that seemed to be the culprit: the tip of the longer arm of chromosome 4, which was made up of a long chain of repeated copies of a dead gene. The dead gene was also repeated on chromosome 10, but that area of repeats seemed innocuous, unrelated to the disease. Only chromosome 4 was a problem.

“It was a repeated element,” said Dr. Kenneth Fischbeck, chief of the neurogenetics branch at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “An ancient gene stuck on the tip of chromosome 4. It was a dead gene; there was no evidence that it was expressed.”

And the more they looked at that region of chromosome 4, the more puzzling it was. No one whose dead gene was repeated more than 10 times ever got FSHD. But only some people with fewer than 10 copies got the disease.

A group of researchers in the Netherlands and the United States had a meeting about five years ago to try to figure it out, and began collaborating. “We kept meeting here, year after year,” said Dr. Stephen J. Tapscott, a neurology professor at the University of Washington.

As they studied the repeated, but dead, gene, Dr. Tapscott and his colleagues realized that it was not completely inactive. It is always transcribed — copied by the cell as a first step to making a protein. But the transcriptions were faulty, disintegrating right away. They were missing a crucial section, called a poly (A) sequence, needed to stabilize them.

When the dead gene had this sequence, it came back to life. “It’s an if and only if,” Dr. Housman said. “You have to have 10 copies or fewer. And you have to have poly (A). Either one is not enough.”

But why would people be protected if they have more than 10 copies of the dead gene? Researchers say that those extra copies change the chromosome’s structure, shutting off the whole region so it cannot be used.

Why the reactivated gene affects only muscles of the face, shoulders and arms remains a mystery. The only clue is that the gene is similar to ones that are important in development.

In the meantime, says Dr. Housman, who was not involved in the research but is chairman of the scientific advisory board of the FSHD Society, an advocacy group led by patients, the work reveals a way to search for treatments.

“It has made it clear what the target is,” he said. “Turning off that dead gene. I am certain you can hit it.”

The bigger lesson, Dr. Collins said, is that diseases can arise in very complicated ways. Scientists used to think the genetic basis for medical disorders, like dominantly inherited diseases, would be straightforward. Only complex diseases, like diabetes, would have complex genetic origins.

“Well, my gosh,” Dr. Collins said. “Here’s a simple disease with an incredibly elaborate mechanism.”

“To come up with this sort of mechanism for a disease to arise — I don’t think we expected that,” Dr. Collins said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/science/20gene.html?ref=science

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« Reply #766 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 08:36am »

Guardian

Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to be extradited to US
Thailand court rules that Viktor Bout, dubbed the 'merchant of death', should face trial in America
Ben Doherty in Bangkok guardian.co.uk, Friday 20 August 2010 11.21 BST

The man known as the "merchant of death", the alleged black-market arms dealer Viktor Bout, could be on American soil to face terrorism charges within weeks after a Thai appeals court ruled he must face charges of conspiring to supply Colombian rebels with weapons.

The 43-year-old Russian, who has maintained his innocence throughout two years in a maximum security prison in Thailand, will continue to fight the US's extradition request. His lawyer said he would lodge a petition with the Thai government asking it to block the extradition.

"The defence believes Bout will not be safe in the US and he will not receive a fair trial," Lak Nittiwattanawichan said outside court.

The Thai government is not compelled to extradite Bout, but is almost certain to, given the high profile of the defendant, and strong American pressure. If he is not extradited within three months, he must be released.

Bout has been in jail since March 2008, when he was arrested in a five-star Bangkok hotel in a joint US-Thai sting operation. Government agents posed as arms buyers for the Colombian rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

According to the US grand jury indictment, Bout told the agents he could supply them with 700-800 surface-to-air missiles, more than 5,000 AK-47s and millions of rounds of ammunition, as well as C4 explosive, landmines and unmanned aerial drones.

Bout was indicted on four charges, including conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to provide material support to a proscribed terrorist group.

The US and UN have claimed Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, has been a weapons trafficker since the 1990s, using a fleet of cargo plans to move arms to Africa, Central America and the Middle East.

He is alleged to have brokered weapons deals in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan, and to have armed the forces of the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

The 2005 movie Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage, is loosely based on the Russian's life.

Bout, who maintains he has never traded in weapons, told his trial he ran a legitimate air cargo business and was in Thailand to discuss selling aircraft to Thais.

Last August, a Thai court ruled Bout should not be extradited because Farc was not a terrorist group but a political one.

The appeals court today overturned that decision, saying Farc was a proscribed terrorist organisation and that Thailand was obliged to extradite Bout in accordance with treaties with the US.

Prosecutors brought six new charges against Bout yesterday, including money laundering and electronic fraud. Those charges will be heard in a US court.

Thailand has been under intense pressure from both US and Russia over Bout's case.

The US state department summoned the Thai ambassador this week "to emphasise how important this judgment is", a department spokesman, Philip Crowley, said. The Obama administration has previously cited Bout's arrest as an example of co-operation and trust between the two countries.

more after the jump
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/20/viktor-bout-extradited-us-thailand

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« Reply #767 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 08:40am »

Daily Mail

The human magnet: Mother has amazing power to make metal stick to her body (and she also sets off car alarms)By Arthur Martin
Last updated at 11:35 AM on 20th August 2010

Looking on the bright side, she should never lose her keys.
But for mother-of-one Brenda Allison, her mysterious 'power' that means metallic objects stick to her body has long since lost its attraction.
Dubbed 'the human magnet', Miss Allison says she is often embarrassed by the effect, which she has been told is down to a heightened electromagnetic current running through her body.

The accounts manager says coins, safety pins, magnets, spanners and even a metal lid from a Vaseline pot can stay on her body for up to 45 minutes without falling off.
When the pulse is at its strongest, she says she can even dance in her living room without them coming off.
For as long as she can remember, she explains, her body has set off car alarms, interrupted the TV signal and blown out light bulbs.

Positive: Mrs Allison was once accused by a cashier of deliberately cursing his till when her magnetism caused it to develop problems.

When she was a child, she said, her parents stopped buying her watches because her magnetic field kept interfering with the timing mechanism.
Every person has a subtle electromagnetic field flowing through their bodies - but most of us are unaware of its presence. However, Miss Allison, 50, says she first noticed the effects of her magnetism when she was in a nursery school.

As she grew up she started to keep a diary and realised the magnetic pulses were strongest at the end of each menstrual cycle.
'People laugh when I put metal objects on my skin and they don't fall off,' Miss Allison, of Holloway, North London, said: 'But sometimes my condition can be extremely embarrassing.

'On one occasion I had a dreadful experience at the supermarket. When I reached the check-out the till machine started to misbehave and it was obvious I had caused it.
'The man on the checkout started shouting at me and accused me of putting a voodoo curse on his till.'
Doctors have told Miss Allison that her magnetism may be caused by high stress levels and have urged her to take steps to relax.

During strong magnetic periods she has been advised to grip the kitchen taps as they are 'earthed'.

photos and more after the jump
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1304481/The-human-magnet-Mother-power-make-metal-stick-body.html

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« Reply #768 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 08:46am »

Wired

Focusing on Dark Energy With Cosmic Lens
By Lisa Grossman August 19, 2010 | 4:33 pm | Categories: Physics, Space

Our view of dark energy, the mysterious force that is shoving the universe apart, just got a little clearer. By observing the way large clumps of mass distort their local space-time into enormous cosmological lenses, astronomers have zoomed in on a quantity that describes how dark energy works.

“We have established the potency of a brand new technique to address this very fundamental problem,” said astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, co-author of a paper in the Aug. 20 Science describing the new results. Combined with earlier experiments, the new results lead to significantly more accurate measurements of dark energy’s properties, and could ultimately help explain what the bizarre stuff really is.

Dark energy was first proposed in 1998 to explain why the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. Astronomers suggested that some kind of force, dubbed “dark energy” because of the shroud of mystery it hides in, works against gravity to push matter apart.

Although earlier experiments convinced astronomers the enigmatic stuff exists, not much else is known about it. Dark energy makes up the majority of the mass and energy in the universe, about 72 percent. Another 24 percent is thought to be dark matter, which is easier to study than dark energy because of its gravitational tugs on normal matter. The regular matter that makes up everything we can see, including atoms, stars, planets and people, comprises just 4 percent of the universe.

Dark energy also helps explain the geometry of the universe, and how the shape of the universe has changed over time. In the new study, Natarajan and her colleagues used Hubble Space Telescope images of a massive cluster of galaxies called Abell 1689 to get a clear view of the way space-time is shaped behind the cluster.

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This galaxy cluster contains so much matter — both dark matter and the regular type — that light passing through it is distorted into long, stringy arcs. The cluster acts as a gigantic magnifying glass called a gravitational lens, and produces multiple, distorted images of the galaxies behind it.

For the first time, Natarajan said, “we were able to exploit this beautiful, clean phenomenon to characterize this lens so well that we could then map dark energy.”

Natarajan and her colleagues carefully measured the way each image was distorted to determine how far the background galaxies were from the lens. They then combined that information with data on how far the galaxies are from Earth to come up with a parameter that describes the density of dark energy in the universe, and how the density changes with time.

“Knowing exactly where the object is, and knowing about the big lump that is causing the bumps in space-time, allows us to accurately calculate the light path,” Natarajan said. “The light path depends on geometry of space-time, and dark energy manifests itself there. That’s how we get at it.”

This technique had been attempted before with a different cluster, but without much success. But because Abell 1689 is one of the most massive lenses around, it made more than 100 images of the galaxies behind it. “You want the oomphiest lens, the most massive, dramatic, extreme lens,” Natarajan said. Abell 1689’s extreme mass allowed the team to measure many more galaxies than ever before, and gave them a better picture of the cluster itself.

Natarajan hopes to apply the same technique to other massive clusters in the future. “What is fantastic about this technique is it’s really rich,” she said. “With just one cluster we can get a lot of stuff out. The prospects of applying this technique to many clusters, and to add to the statistical power, is very tantalizing.”

“This method looks to be quite a promising addition to the cosmography toolkit,” commented Stanford astrophysicist Phil Marshall, who was not involved in the new study. “It’s impressive how well they do with just one cluster.”

The results confirm what astronomers already thought they knew about dark energy, but with much greater accuracy, said study co-author Eric Jullo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The new measurements suggest that dark energy has had the same density for the entire history of the universe.

“That’s weird,” Jullo said. Imagine the universe as a balloon full of gas, he suggests. When the balloon gets bigger, the gas inside should spread out and get less dense. But dark energy seems to stay the same no matter how big the balloon is. “We don’t know why this happens,” he said. “That’s why there is this race now, with many techniques and this one in particular, in trying to measure how dark energy density evolves with time.”

Ultimately, astronomers will have to throw the kitchen sink at dark energy to figure out what it’s made of. Every technique to measure dark energy has its own set of problems and errors. Using many different techniques can make each technique’s shortcomings less important.

“The power is in combination,” Natarajan said.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/lensing-dark-energy/

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« Reply #769 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 08:57am »

Wired

Photog Probes Secret Sites With Megazoom and Science
By Pete Brook August 18, 2010 | 2:46 pm | Categories: Books, Fine Art, War, science

Geographer and artist Trevor Paglen has spent a career tracking the purposefully hidden cogs of U.S. military Secret Ops.

Described by critic Paul Schmelzer as “part Gerhard Richter painting, part Bigfoot sighting,” Paglen’s imagery is both a best-attempt documentary of secret fragments that can be seen and a euphemism for all else that is not.

Paglen’s first monograph, Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes, published this month by Aperture puts onto paper – sometimes in oblique forms – the rendition flights, military satellites and black site prisons of unseen martial systems. The book draws viewers into a world infiltrated by the classified acts of U.S. government and intelligence.

“I think of my visual work as an exploration of political epistemology,” said Paglen in a recent interview with Joerg Colberg, “The politics of how we know what we think we know. [An exploration] filled with all the contradictions, dead ends, moments of revelation, and confusion that characterize our collective ability to comprehend the world around us in general.”

Among Paglen’s many projects is Limit Telephotography for which he uses astrophotography to capture images of aircraft deep within U.S. desert military bases.

Through desert heat and dust, at about 60 miles the image breaks down entirely, “The atmosphere doesn’t cooperate, color falls apart,” says Paglen. “You begin to see the limits of your own vision.” This obfuscation is a metaphor Paglen embraces. His photographs are specters of the Global War on Terror and they’re the closest we’ve come to seeing the most secretive aspects of this most abstract of wars.

Paglen, who holds a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley, spent almost two years working with a team of computer scientists at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center to develop a software model to describe the orbital motion of classified spacecraft.

The Other Night Sky, 189 shots of covert satellites, plays on artistic traditions of pictorial landscape but exposes the Western deserts for what they’ve always been – contested sites of military engagement and R&D.

Evoking cult insignia, Paglen’s 2006 work Symbology collates the patches of a military trying to define itself without describing its activities.

In a 2009 lecture, Paglen retold a service-person’s summary of working in the Black-world: “When you do the work I do, you have to look your mother in the eye and lie.” Paglen attended alumni gatherings of former black-world employees and witnessed repeated “crises of language” as men were awarded for significant achievements – none of which were detailed.

Paglen has also revealed ghost identities of board members to front companies involved in the U.S. rendition program, and listed thousands of code-names – some dark and comic – of classified military programs active between 2001 and 2007.

As part of his detective work, Paglen also trawls public records and Department of Defense budgets (available to any tax-payer by virtue of Article 1, Section 9, Receipts and Expenditures clause of the U.S. constitution).

The heavily regulated aviation industry also provides a wealth of documents – airfield fueling agreements, purchasing histories and flight records. Paglen has deduced the itineraries not only of detainees but also their federally-employed interrogators.

The final aspect of his work – which Paglen is always keen to emphasize – is that of political performance. Paglen insists on his right to venture to the edge of restricted sites to make photographs, that those expeditions become activism.

The performance, however, is not without its hazards. “Once, I got lost in the middle of the desert and had to follow the north star to find the dirt road where my truck was parked a few miles away,” Paglen told Colberg. “Another time I got stuck in quicksand for two days.”

Video and photos after the jump
http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2010/08/photog-probes-secret-sites-with-mega-zoom-and-science/all/1#ixzz0x9cD931O

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #770 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 09:24am »

Good morning Crystal grin

Quote:
The human magnet: Mother has amazing power to make metal stick to her body (and she also sets off car alarms)By Arthur Martin
Last updated at 11:35 AM on 20th August 2010


This is an interesting story.... A few years ago I read a story of a person who could not sink in water. They just floated like a buoy. If they were pushed under water they just popped right back to the surface.

Btw, thank you for the bigfoot story the other day.... smiley

Have a wonderful day.
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« Reply #771 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 1:01pm »

on Aug 20th, 2010, 09:24am, Luvey wrote:
Good morning Crystal grin



This is an interesting story.... A few years ago I read a story of a person who could not sink in water. They just floated like a buoy. If they were pushed under water they just popped right back to the surface.

Btw, thank you for the bigfoot story the other day.... smiley

Have a wonderful day.
Pen


Good evening Pen,
Glad you liked the Bigfoot story.
I've never heard of the unsinkable person. Weird and weirder.
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« Reply #772 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 6:25pm »

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My poor husband just lost his mind. He's been robbed twice this week in his World of Warcraft game. Someone hacked his account and took almost everything. Evidently they left some coins..... I don't want to go up there. It's ugly.
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« Reply #773 on: Aug 20th, 2010, 7:26pm »

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« Reply #774 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:20am »

New York Times

August 20, 2010
U.S. Inaction Lets Look-Alike Tubes Kill Patients
By GARDINER HARRIS

Thirty-five weeks pregnant, Robin Rodgers was vomiting and losing weight, so her doctor hospitalized her and ordered that she be fed through a tube until the birth of her daughter.

But in a mistake that stemmed from years of lax federal oversight of medical devices, the hospital mixed up the tubes. Instead of snaking a tube through Ms. Rodgers’s nose and into her stomach, the nurse instead coupled the liquid-food bag to a tube that entered a vein.

Putting such food directly into the bloodstream is like pouring concrete down a drain. Ms. Rodgers was soon in agony.

“When I walked into her hospital room, she said, ‘Mom, I’m so scared,’ ” her mother, Glenda Rodgers, recalled. They soon learned that the baby had died.

“And she said, ‘Oh, Mom, she’s dead.’ And I said, ‘I know, but now we have to take care of you,’ ” the mother recalled. And then Robin Rodgers — 24 years old and already the mother of a 3-year-old boy — died on July 18, 2006, as well. (She lived in a small Kansas town, but because of a legal settlement with the hospital, her mother would not identify it.)

Their deaths were among hundreds of deaths or serious injuries that researchers have traced to tube mix-ups. But no one knows the real toll, because this kind of mistake, like medication errors in general, is rarely reported. A 2006 survey of hospitals found that 16 percent had experienced a feeding tube mix-up.

Experts and standards groups have advocated since 1996 that tubes for different functions be made incompatible — just as different nozzles at gas stations prevent drivers from using the wrong fuel.

But action has been delayed by resistance from the medical-device industry and an approval process at the Food and Drug Administration that can discourage safety-related changes.

Hospitals, tube manufacturers, regulators and standards groups all point fingers at one another to explain the delay.

Hospitalized patients often have an array of clear plastic tubing sticking out of their bodies to deliver or extract medicine, nutrition, fluids, gases or blood to veins, arteries, stomachs, skin, lungs or bladders.

Much of the tubing is interchangeable, and with nurses connecting and disconnecting dozens each day, mix-ups happen — sometimes with deadly consequences.

“Nurses should not have to work in an environment where it is even possible to make that kind of mistake,” said Nancy Pratt, a senior vice president at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego who is a vocal advocate for changing the system. “The nuclear power and airline industries would never tolerate a situation where a simple misconnection could lead to a death.”

Tubes intended to inflate blood-pressure cuffs have been connected to intravenous lines, leading to deadly air embolisms. Intravenous fluids have been connected to tubes intended to deliver oxygen, leading to suffocation. And in 2006 Julie Thao, a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Wis., mistakenly put a spinal anesthetic into a vein, killing 16-year-old Jasmine Gant, who was giving birth.

Ms. Thao, who had worked two eight-hour shifts the day before, was charged with felony neglect. She pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges. But experts say such mistakes are possible only because epidural bags are compatible with tubes that deliver medicine intravenously.

“This is a deadly design failure in health care,” said Debora Simmons, a registered nurse at the University of Texas Health Science Center who studies medical errors. “Everybody has put out alerts about this, but nothing has happened from a regulatory standpoint.”

An international standards group is seeking consensus on specific designs on how tubes for different bodily functions should differ, but the group has been laboring for years and its complete recommendations will take years more. Some manufacturers have used color-coding to distinguish tubes for different functions, but with each manufacturer using a different color scheme, the colors have in some cases added to the confusion.

An Alarm Is Raised

Advocates in California got legislation passed in 2008 that would have mandated that feeding tubes no longer be compatible with tubes that go into the skin or veins by 2011. But in 2009, AdvaMed, the manufacturers’ trade association, successfully pushed legislation to delay the bill’s effects until 2013 and 2014 or until the international standards group reaches a decision.

In the meantime, F.D.A. reviewers have begun to question whether feeding tubes that could mistakenly be connected to intravenous tubes should be declared fundamentally unsafe.

The catalyst for those questions, according to internal documents provided to The New York Times, was an application filed in August 2009 from Alan Reid, president of Multi-Med in West Swanzey, N.H., to produce feeding tubes for newborns that go into the stomach using the same connectors as those that go into veins. The F.D.A. was so concerned about the application that it inspected the Multi-Med plant in September and issued a warning letter for Multi-Med’s failure to test or design its pediatric feeding tubes adequately.

The similarity of feeding and intravenous tubes caused the near death of Johannah Back’s premature infant, Chloe Back, in 2006. A nurse mistakenly connected a bag of breast milk to an intravenous tube, leading Chloe to form tiny blood clots throughout her body, bleed profusely and suffer seizures for months.

“These problems have been going on since at least the 1970s. Why?” asked Ms. Back, of Las Vegas.

Federal Approvals

Because of such problems, an F.D.A. reviewer recommended against the approval of Multi-Med’s application, even though the company planned to use a special color and label to distinguish it as a feeding tube, according to internal agency documents provided to The Times. Dr. Kevin McBryde, the F.D.A. reviewer, wrote in an April 20 memorandum that the Multi-Med application “does not adequately address the safety concerns for misconnections.”

An F.D.A. manager overruled Dr. McBryde, saying Multi-Med’s tubing was no more dangerous than tubes already on the market. The manager’s reasoning was based on the agency’s own rules for an abbreviated device-approval process that requires only that the manufacturer prove that a new product works just like an old one, whether the old one is safe or not. No clinical testing or proof of safety is generally needed.

The result of these rules is that the F.D.A. sometimes approves devices even when officials suspect that they might harm or kill patients. Indeed, the F.D.A. has on occasion approved a new device, mandated that it be recalled and then approved another just like it because the rules are set up to require such approvals.

In 2005, for instance, the French company Gambro was forced to recall its Prisma dialysis machine because patients died or were injured after the patients or caregivers ignored warnings from the machine and, as a result, received too much or too little fluid. In 2007, Edwards Lifesciences of California sought approval for the Aquarius system, a dialysis machine that an agency reviewer noted had the same problem.

The agency had never rescinded its original approval of the Gambro device; such approvals are rarely rescinded, even after a recall, partly because there is some debate about whether it would be legal to do so. So the agency approved the Edwards one as well, documents show. In February, the Edwards device was recalled because of “reports of clinically significant fluid imbalance,” according to the recall alert.

“I raised this issue during the review, but the division director at the time advised that the device should be” approved, wrote Joshua Nipper, an F.D.A. device reviewer, in a Feb. 18 internal e-mail provided to The Times. “We knew that the device could result in serious injury or death, and we allowed it to be marketed anyway. Not surprisingly, the device causes serious injury / death and now must be recalled.”

John McGrath, a vice president at Edwards, said there had been no patient injuries or deaths in the United States caused by the Aquarius system. The F.D.A. received a report on Oct. 7, 2008, of a patient who lost a dangerous amount of fluid while using the Aquarius system and died two days later “due to a cervix tumor,” but the patient was a woman in Europe who overrode the system’s alarms 119 times in a 14-hour period, Mr. McGrath said.

Christy Foreman, acting director for the F.D.A.’s office of device evaluation, said that Gambro fixed its dialysis device after the 2005 recall so that its approval did not need to be rescinded. Ms. Foreman said that Edwards Lifesciences had asserted that better training and instructions would prevent a repeat of the Gambro problem. “Unfortunately, those mitigations weren’t as effective as the reviewer thought,” she said.

The F.D.A. is in the midst of a wide-ranging reassessment of its device approval process and released a report Aug. 4 that highlighted some of its flaws, including approvals of devices modeled on unsafe or obsolete predecessors. Ms. Foreman said the F.D.A. was considering the creation of a list of old products that manufacturers should avoid using as models for new ones.

Mark E. Brager, a spokesman for AdvaMed, said the agency’s current device approval process “has an excellent safety record, facilitates medical innovation and has served patients well for more than 30 years.” The organization fears that “proposed changes could, if implemented the wrong way, result in delaying patient access to improved medical technology.”

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/health/policy/21tubes.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #775 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:23am »

New York Times

August 20, 2010
Blackwater Reaches Deal on U.S. Export Violations
By JAMES RISEN

WASHINGTON — The private security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide, long plagued by accusations of impropriety, has reached an agreement with the State Department for the company to pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of United States export control regulations.

The violations included illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers, according to company and government officials familiar with the deal.

The settlement, which has not yet been publicly announced, follows lengthy talks between Blackwater, now called Xe Services, and the State Department that dealt with the violations as an administrative matter, allowing the firm to avoid criminal charges. A company spokeswoman confirmed Friday that a settlement had been reached. The State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said he could not immediately comment.

The settlement with the State Department does not resolve other legal troubles still facing Blackwater and its former executives and other personnel. Those include the indictments of five former executives, including Blackwater’s former president, on weapons and obstruction charges; a federal investigation into evidence that Blackwater officials sought to bribe Iraqi government officials; and the arrest of two former Blackwater guards on federal murder charges stemming from the killing of two Afghans last year.

But by paying fines rather than facing criminal charges on the export violations, Blackwater will be able to continue to obtain government contracts. While the company lost its largest federal contract last year to provide diplomatic security for United States Embassy personnel in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government was incensed by killings of Iraqis in one highly publicized case, it still has contracts to provide security for the State Department and the C.I.A. in Afghanistan.

Blackwater, its reputation tainted in part because of the excessive use of force by some of its personnel in Baghdad, sought for years to extend its reach far beyond the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

For a time, the company’s founder, Erik Prince, had ambitions to turn Blackwater into an informal arm of the American foreign policy and national security apparatus, and proposed to the C.I.A. to create a “quick reaction force” that could handle paramilitary operations for the spy agency around the world. He had hopes that Blackwater’s military prowess could be an influential force in regional conflicts around the world.

Mr. Prince, a former Navy Seals member and the heir to an auto parts fortune, took an interest in Africa, particularly Sudan, and he is said to have wanted Blackwater to step in to help the rebels in southern Sudan, which is predominantly Christian and animist, fight the Sudanese government and the Muslim north, despite United States economic sanctions.

Blackwater’s ambitions in Sudan were described in detail by McClatchy newspapers in June.

The settlement with the State Department, involving practices from the days before Blackwater was rebranded as Xe Services, comes as Mr. Prince is trying to shed his ties to Blackwater and its past activities.

He overhauled the company’s management in 2009, changed its name, and has now put the privately held company up for sale. He has just moved with his family to Abu Dhabi from the United States, a move that colleagues say was a result of his deep anger and frustration over the intense scrutiny he and his firm have received in recent years.

The State Department export controls require government approval for the transfer of certain types of military technology or knowledge from the United States to other countries. But Blackwater began to seek training contracts from foreign governments and other foreign organizations without adhering closely to American regulations.

The company also shipped automatic weapons and other military equipment for use by its personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan in violation of export controls, and in some cases sought to hide its actions, according to the government. In one incident, Blackwater shipped weapons to Iraq hidden inside containers of dog food.

A federal investigation into the company’s weapons shipments to Iraq led to guilty pleas on criminal charges by two former Blackwater employees who are believed to have cooperated with a broader federal inquiry.

Investigators reportedly looked into whether some of the weapons that were shipped to Iraq were sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkish officials reportedly complained to the United States about American weapons seized from the group.

In 2008, after a federal investigation of Blackwater’s actions was begun, the company admitted “numerous mistakes” in its adherence to export laws and created an outside board of experts to supervise the firm’s compliance.

Current and former government officials say that the government’s inquiry into some of Blackwater’s export control violations began as part of a federal grand jury investigation in North Carolina, where Blackwater is based. But the matter was apparently shifted to the State Department when the criminal investigation in North Carolina narrowed its focus.

That grand jury handed down the indictments of the five former Blackwater executives earlier this year. That indictment includes charges that Blackwater executives sought to hide evidence that they had given weapons as gifts to King Abdullah of Jordan.

Despite the fines and investigations that have plagued Blackwater, the firm has continued to win contracts from the State Department and the C.I.A.

In June, the State Department awarded Blackwater a $120 million contract to provide security at its regional offices in Afghanistan, while the C.I.A. renewed the firm’s $100 million security contract for its station in Kabul. At the time, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, defended the decision, saying that the company had offered the lowest bid and had “cleaned up its act.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/world/21blackwater.html?ref=world

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« Reply #776 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:28am »

Telegraph

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange facing arrest over 'rape' claim
Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks website, is facing a warrant for his arrest over an accusation of rape.

By Colin Freeman
Published: 11:48AM BST 21 Aug 2010

The warrant was issued by prosecutors in Sweden, where the Australian-born internet activist was on a visit last week.

"We can confirm that he's wanted. He was charged last night - the allegation is suspected rape," said Karin Rosander, director of communications at the national prosecutor's office.

One is rape and one is molestation," she said, without giving details. During his visit to Sweden, Assange held a press conference where he announced that his whistleblower website was intending to publish further secret military documents on the war in Afghanistan.

The website has already published thousands of pages of intelligence information, infuriating the US government, which claims the disclosures may have compromised military security and put informants' lives in danger.

Supporters of Mr Assange believe he has been the victim of a smear campaign to discredit him. The Wikileaks Twitter page dismissed the assault claims, which first appeared in Sweden's Expressen newspaper, as "dirty tricks".

It said: "Expressen is a tabloid; No one here has been contacted by Swedish police. Needless to say this will prove hugely distracting."

Mr Assange, whose current whereabouts are unknown, also sent an email to the Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, saying that he had not yet been contacted by police.

"Why these accusations are popping up right now is an interesting question. I have not been contacted by police. These allegations are false," he said.

Mr Assange has close ties with Sweden, where WikiLeaks has said it keeps some of its servers. The purpose of his visit there was also to apply for a publishing certificate to make sure the website, which has servers in Sweden, can take full advantage of Swedish laws protecting whistle-blowers.

He also spoke at a seminar hosted by the Christian faction of the opposition Social Democratic party and announced he would write bimonthly columns for a left-wing Swedish newspaper.

US officials have called the Wikileaks disclosures, including more than 70,000 documents detailing the war in Afghanistan, as one of the biggest security breaches in American military history.

The Pentagon said this month it would be the "height of irresponsibility" if WikiLeaks went through with a new threat to publish outstanding documents it had on the Afghan war.

It wants the site to expunge all classified material from the Internet and return the material it had to the US government.

News of the warrant came as the Wall Street Journal reported that Pentagon lawyers have concluded that Wikileaks acted illegally in disclosing the military documents, and are now considering possible criminal charges.

Several officials told the newspaper that the Defence and Justice departments were now exploring legal options for prosecuting Mr Assange and others involved on grounds that they encouraged the theft of government property.

Prosecuting Wikileaks would be a complex procedure, however, and expose the Obama administration to accusations of trying to stifle legitimate journalism.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/wikipedia/7957665/Wikileaks-founder-Julian-Assange-facing-arrest-over-rape-claim.html

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« Reply #777 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:34am »

Telegraph.

North Korea joins Facebook shocked

North Korea appears to have joined the social networking site Facebook after its Twitter account was blocked by South Korea under the country's security laws.

By Laura Roberts
Published: 8:30AM BST 21 Aug 2010

The account, opened on Thursday night under the Korean username "uriminzokkiri," meaning "on our own as a nation," an official at South Korea's Communications Standards Commission said on Friday.

It appeared hours after the commission blocked North Korea's 1-week-old Twitter account from being accessed in the South for containing information that is illegal under South Korean security laws, the official said.

North Korea's government-run website, Uriminzokkiri, announced last week that it has a Twitter account and a YouTube channel which was created in July.

The Twitter account, under the name uriminzok (''our nation" in Korean), gained more than 8,500 followers in a week though it posted just 30 tweets linking to reports praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and lambasting South Korea and the U.S. over ongoing joint military drills.

Uriminzok has "content that praises, promotes and glorifies" North Korea that was confirmed to be "illegal information" under South Korea's National Security Law, a commission statement said on Thursday. The commission said it has no immediate plan to block the North's YouTube channel.

A South Korean government warning saying "Illegal content" pops up when an attempt is made to access the Twitter account in South Korea.

Commission official Han Myung-ho said the new Facebook account, which was allegedly set up by North Korean officials, could receive the same treatment.

"We are aware of the Facebook account and the police and the National Intelligence Service are currently investigating the site to verify whether it is indeed run by the North Korean government," Han said on Friday.

"If we find that this Facebook account also carries content violating the National Security Law, we will do our duty of shutting it down as well."

The Facebook account, which describes itself as male, says it is interested in men and is looking for networking. The account had 50 friends on Friday.

Its profile picture is of the Three Charters for National Reunification Memorial Tower, a 100-foot (30-meter) monument in Pyongyang that "reflects the strong will of the 70 million Korean people to achieve the reunification of the country with their concerted effort," according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

The Facebook account calls itself "a page representing the intentions of North and South Koreas and compatriots abroad, who wish for peace, prosperity, and unification of our homeland."

There were over 50 posts on Uriminzokkiri's wall, including links to reports that criticize South Korea and the U.S. as "warmongers," photos of picturesque North Korean landscapes, and a YouTube video of a dance performance celebrating leader Kim Jong Il, "guardian of the homeland and creator of happiness."

More than 130 videos have been uploaded to North Korea's YouTube channel, including clips that condemn and mock South Korea and the U.S. for blaming North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. The North has insisted it had nothing to do with the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday that the U.S. welcomed North Korea to the social media forums but challenged its authoritarian leaders to allow its citizens full access to the sites.

North Korea, one of the world's most secretive countries, blocks Internet access for all but the elite among its 24 million citizens but is believed to have a keen interest in information technology.

The official North Korean Uriminzokkiri website, run by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, has been blocked in South Korea alongside 64 other North Korean-run and pro-North Korean websites, says Shim Joo-hyung, a spokeswoman for the standards commission.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/7957222/North-Korea-joins-Facebook.html

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« Reply #778 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:39am »

Telegraph. We are ruled by marching morons.

Pensioner who created dazzling garden on wasteland told to let it go to waste

A pensioner who nurtured an ugly patch of disused land into a dazzling garden has been told to let it go to waste - because she had not asked for permission to tend it.

Published: 6:27AM BST 20 Aug 2010

Gloria Kersh, 69, has transformed an area of disused grass outside her council home over the last decade.

She has grown foxgloves, Christmas roses, wild violets and even a berry bush from her mother's funeral wreath.

But Havering Council have now written to Miss Kersh, from Harold Hill, Essex, to warn that she must return the area to its original state.

Estates officer Jeff McCarthy told her in a letter: "Whilst I can see the work carried out by you is to a good standard it was carried out without prior permission and if this was requested authorisation would not have been given."

Miss Kersh said she could not understand the decision and said her work would benefit the council financially.

"Gardening is one of my main pastimes," she said. "I just like pottering around cutting the grass, tending the flowers and tidying up the cigarette packets and bottles people throw away.

"I just can't understand for the life of me why they're doing this - this is for everybody's benefit, not just mine. We're all mainly elderly around here and everyone does like it.

"No one wants to stare at some shabby grass and a wall. And at the end of the day we're saving the council money because they don't have to look after it."

Dina Fitzgerald, a neighbour of Miss Kersh, said: "Gloria's flowers are really pretty and now they want to destroy her garden for some reason.

"Has the council lost all their common sense? We just can't understand what they're trying to do."

Cllr Lesley Kelly, cabinet member for housing, said: "The letter was sent in response to concerns raised by neighbours that this area was being used as a private garden - but it's fair to say that the letter was a bit premature.

"We don't want to stop people being public spirited, but we also need to respect the wishes of other neighbours.

"So we'll write to the residents of Dorking Rise to ask if they're happy for Miss Kersh to tend the flowerbeds for everyone's enjoyment and if they are, we'll be happy to agree this with Miss Kersh."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7955838/Pensioner-who-created-dazzling-garden-on-wasteland-told-to-let-it-go-to-waste.html

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« Reply #779 on: Aug 21st, 2010, 08:51am »

Wired

Google Wi-Fi Spy Lawsuits Head to Silicon Valley
By David Kravets August 20, 2010 | 2:16 pm | Categories: Cybersecurity, privacy

Whether Google is liable for damages for secretly intercepting data on open Wi-Fi routers across the United States is to be aired out in a Silicon Valley federal court.

Eight proposed class actions from across the country that seek unspecified monetary damages from Google were consolidated this week and transferred to U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, California. Another five cases are likely to join.

The lawsuits allege that Google violated federal and state privacy laws in collecting fragments of data from unencrypted wireless networks as its fleet of camera-equipped cars moseyed through neighborhoods snapping pictures for its Street View program.

The consolidation decision (.pdf) by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is likely to spark a legal frenzy by attorneys involved in the cases, as they jockey to win over Judge Ware and garner lead counsel status. That would give those lawyers intense media attention, as well as the biggest share in legal fees from a verdict or settlement.

Still, acquiring lead counsel status, a title given to lawyers whom the judge believes can best represent the interests of class members, comes with a huge risk as well.

The deep-pocketed Google maintains that it did nothing wrong, and is likely to put up a fierce and costly defense. Google, in response to government inquiries and lawsuits, claims it is lawful to use packet-sniffing tools readily available on the internet to spy on and download payload data from others using the same open Wi-Fi access point.

So far, government regulators are not sure whether Google committed any legal wrongdoing. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced in June that as many as 30 attorneys general were examining the lawfulness of Google’s actions. Several other countries are probing the issue as well.

Mountain View, California-based Google called the inadvertent three-year-long collection “a mistake” and said it was the result of a programming error — code written for an early experimental project wound up in the Street View code, and Google says it did not realize the error until May, when German privacy authorities began questioning what data Google’s cameras were collecting.

The Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said it chose Silicon Valley because “Google is headquartered there, and most relevant documents and witnesses are likely located there.” The panel also said many of the lawyers in the case “support centralization” there.

Judge Ware, a President George H.W. Bush appointee, has not set an initial hearing date.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/08/google-spy-lawsuits/#ixzz0xFS5xZVF

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