Auret van Heerden: Making global labor fair
Labor activist Auret van Heerden talks about the next frontier of workers’ rights — globalized industries where no single national body can keep workers safe and protected. How can we keep our global supply chains honest? Van Heerden makes the business case for fair labor.
More about the NSA than you ever wanted to know
Are you a “Critical Infrastructure Sector?” If so, then the Justice Department is giving you their stamp of approval to monitor private communications on your networks; an act which, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, is a questionable legal use of an Executive Order. Through two recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently revealed that the Justice Department has authorized internet providers — most prominently AT&T — to intercept and monitor communications on their networks. Its good news for these sectors: they get to freely violate existing federal wiretap laws. It’s bad news for you and me, though. Through these acts we lose major privacy rights; namely not having our communications and private data tracked. Worse yet, it’s due to a government-corporate partnership. Sounds bad? What is worse is that it ignores the actual cyber security issues we have, and it sets a terrifying precedent for the future.
The program in question began as an effort between the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and commercial defense contractors to protect military and commercial defense companies from cyber threats, in particular data theft. While the risk of cyber attacks on our military is a valid concern, it is clear now that this was not all that was on the architects of this project’s mind.
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lyn said at the time of the program’s inception: “It is possible to imagine attacks on military networks or on critical infrastructure like the transportation system and energy sector that cause severe economic damage, physical destruction or even loss of life.”
No less than two years later, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding this service to the same “critical infrastructure.” The president’s public renunciation of SOPA and CISPA is thus puzzling; those acts would accomplish many of the same goals and would be doing so legally. Obama’s Executive Order, on the other hand, is not legal.
But what’s most telling is that these safeguards are doing nothing to stop the underlying problem in the majority of these attacks: our global economic rival and current frenemy, China.
China accounted for 41% of the world’s computer attack traffic in the fourth quarter of 2012 and it is heavily suspected that hundreds of attacks are actually coming from the Chinese militaryitself. Adding fuel to that fire, a Chinese general just claimed that these cyber attacks are potentially as powerful as a nuclear weapon. If they are able to attack this powerfully, are we simply waiting for an electronic 9/11 to hit us before our electronic privacy is taken away forever? This act certainly sets the precedent for removing our privacy with its vague notion of what “critical infrastructure” is, which could potentially be interpreted as broadly as the infamous “interstate commerce” has been. If it is, than “critical infrastructure” could mean almost anything; and all our electronic privacy could be washed away. Coming at a time when Americans are becoming more wary of government intrusions into their privacy, this act is an embarrassment to our country and a failure of our leadership.
Culminating a two-week trial in which no hacking in the traditional sense occurred, a California man was convicted Wednesday under the same hacking statute internet sensation Aaron Swartz was accused of before he committed suicide in January.
Defendant David Nosal was convicted by a San Francisco federal jury on all six charges ranging from theft of trade secrets to hacking, despite him never breaking into a computer. Nosal remains free pending sentencing later this year, when he faces a potential lengthy prison term.
Nosal, a middle-aged man wearing a dark suit, sat stone faced as a clerk read “guilty” on all counts. Jurors deliberated for little more than two days.
After U.S. District Judge Edward Chen dismissed the 12-member jury, Nosal’s defense team demanded a hearing to urge the judge to set aside the verdict. A hearing was set for later this year.
“We think, legally, these counts can’t stand,” Steven Gruel, a Nosal lawyer, said outside the courtroom. Prosecutors declined comment.
Nosal’s prosecution was a novel application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the same statue Swartz was accused of violating when he allegedly breached security controls of an MIT database and downloaded millions of JSTOR academic articles. After Swartz’s death, the case set off calls across the nation to reform the 1984 hacking law and perhaps even reduce the 5-year terms each violation carries.
But unlike Swartz, Nosal never was accused of traditional hacking. Among other things, what the jury concluded was that he coaxed, sometimes through monetary payments, his former colleagues at Los Angeles-based executive search firm Korn/Ferry International to access the firm’s proprietary database and provide him with trade secrets to help him build a competing firm. Those associates cooperated with the government and were not charged.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed in 1984 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality.
The act makes it a federal offense if one “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period.” Prison penalties are up to 5 years per violation.
Nosal’s case has had a lengthy history, with two trips to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A third trip is likely and perhaps the Supreme Court might weigh in to set boundaries around how far the government may go in prosecuting so-called hacking.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in Nosal’s case for a second time last year, decided that employees may not be prosecuted under the anti-hacking statute for simply violating their employer’s computer use policy. The appeals court had tossed several charges against Nosal stemming from when he was a still a Korn/Ferry employee, in which he was accused of using his work credentials in 2005 to access his employer’s database to help build a competing business for himself.
To be sure, the government indeed levies charges under the anti-hacking statute targeting traditional hackers. Two California men, for example, were sentenced between two and four years Monday in an extortion scheme stemming from the hacking of e-mail accounts of professional poker players.
But clearly, you don’t have to be a hacker to be charged as one.
An online social media editor for the Reuters news agency, for example, was indicted last month for allegedly helping members of Anonymous hack another media organization’s network.
Matthew Keys, the now-fired 26-year-old deputy social media editor for Reuters in New York, allegedly provided log-in credentials for a server owned by the Tribune Company, his former employer. He encouraged members of Anonymous to use the credentials to “go fuck some shit up,” according to prosecutors.
As usual, the limits of selective empathy, the rush to blame Muslims, and the exploitation of fear all instantly emerge
There’s not much to say about Monday’s Boston Marathon attack because there is virtually no known evidence regarding who did it or why. There are, however, several points to be made about some of the widespread reactions to this incident. Much of that reaction is all-too-familiar and quite revealing in important ways:
(1) The widespread compassion for yesterday’s victims and the intense anger over the attacks was obviously authentic and thus good to witness. But it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid. My Guardian colleague Gary Younge put this best on Twitter this morning:
Juan Cole this morning makes a similar point about violence elsewhere. Indeed, just yesterday in Iraq, at least 42 people were killed and more than 250 injured by a series of car bombs, the enduring result of the US invasion and destruction of that country. Somehow the deep compassion and anger felt in the US when it is attacked never translates to understanding the effects of our own aggression against others.
One particularly illustrative example I happened to see yesterday was a re-tweet from Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso, proclaiming:
Idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?”
I don’t disagree with that sentiment. But I’d bet a good amount of money that the person saying it - and the vast majority of other Americans - have no clue that targeting rescuers with “double-tap” attacks is precisely what the US now does with its drone program and other forms of militarism. If most Americans knew their government and military were doing this, would they react the same way as they did to yesterday’s Boston attack: “Idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?” That’s highly doubtful, and that’s the point.
There’s nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it’s probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world. I’m not criticizing that. But one wishes that the empathy for victims and outrage over the ending of innocent human life that instantly arises when the US is targeted by this sort of violence would at least translate into similar concern when the US is perpetrating it, as it so often does (far, far more often than it is targeted by such violence).
Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you’re feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that’s the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday’s victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that’s the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It’s natural that it won’t be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.
(2) The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence. The New York Post quickly claimed that the prime suspect was a Saudi national (while also inaccurately reporting that 12 people had been confirmed dead). The Post’s insinuation of responsibility was also suggested on CNN by Former Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend (“We know that there is one Saudi national who was wounded in the leg who is being spoken to”). Former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman went on CNN to grossly speculate that Muslim groups were behind the attack. Anti-Muslim bigots like Pam Geller predictably announced that this was “Jihad in America”. Expressions of hatred for Muslims, and a desire to do violence, were then spewing forth all over Twitter (some particularly unscrupulous partisan Democrat types were identically suggesting with zero evidence that the attackers were right-wing extremists).
Obviously, it’s possible that the perpetrator(s) will turn out to be Muslim, just like it’s possible they will turn out to be extremist right-wing activists, or left-wing agitators, or Muslim-fearing Anders-Breivik types, or lone individuals driven by apolitical mental illness. But the rush to proclaim the guilty party to be Muslim is seen in particular over and over with such events. Recall that on the day of the 2011 Oslo massacre by a right-wing, Muslim-hating extremist, the New York Times spent virtually the entire day strongly suggesting in its headlines that an Islamic extremist group was responsible, a claim other major news outlets (including the BBC and Washington Post) then repeated as fact. The same thing happened with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when most major US media outlets strongly suggested that the perpetrators were Muslims. As FAIR documented back then:
“In the wake of the explosion that destroyed the Murrah Federal Office Building, the media rushed — almost en masse — to the assumption that the bombing was the work of Muslim extremists. ‘The betting here is on Middle East terrorists,’ declared CBS News’ Jim Stewart just hours after the blast (4/19/95). ‘The fact that it was such a powerful bomb in Oklahoma City immediately drew investigators to consider deadly parallels that all have roots in the Middle East,’ ABC’s John McWethy proclaimed the same day.
“‘It has every single earmark of the Islamic car-bombers of the Middle East,’ wrote syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (Chicago Tribune, 4/21/95). ‘Whatever we are doing to destroy Mideast terrorism, the chief terrorist threat against Americans, has not been working,’ declared the New York Times’ A.M. Rosenthal (4/21/95). The Geyer and Rosenthal columns were filed after the FBI released sketches of two suspects who looked more like Midwestern frat boys than mujahideen.”
This lesson is never learned because, it seems, many people don’t want to learn it. Even when it turns out not to have been Muslims who perpetrated the attack but rather right-wing, white Christians, the damage from this relentless and reflexive blame-pinning endures.
(3) One continually encountered yesterday expressions of dread and fear from Arabs and Muslims around the world that the attacker would be either or both. That’s because they know that all members of their religious or ethnic group will be blamed, or worse, if that turns out to be the case. That’s true even though leading Muslim-American groups such as CAIR harshly condemned the attack (as they always do) and urged support for the victims, including blood donations. One tweeter, referencing the earthquake that hit Iran this morning, satirized this collective mindset by writing: “Please don’t be a Muslim plate tectonic activity.”
As understandable as it is, that’s just sad to witness. No other group reacts with that level of fear to these kinds of incidents, because no other group has similar cause to fear that they will all be hated or targeted for the acts of isolated, unrepresentative individuals. A similar dynamic has long prevailed in the domestic crime context: when the perpetrators of notorious crimes turned out to be African-American, the entire community usually paid a collective price. But the unique and well-grounded dread that hundreds of millions of law-abiding, peaceful Muslims and Arabs around the world have about the prospect that this attack in Boston was perpetrated by a Muslim highlights the climate of fear that has been created for and imposed on them over the last decade.
(4) The reaction to the Boston attack underscored, yet again, the utter meaninglessness of the word “terrorism”. News outlets were seemingly scandalized that President Obama, in his initial remarks, did not use the words “terrorist attack” to describe the bombing. In response, the White House ran to the media to assure them that they considered it “terrorism”. Fox News’ Ed Henry quoted a “senior administration official” as saying this: “When multiple (explosive) devices go off that’s an act of terrorism.”
Is that what “terrorism” is? “When multiple (explosive) devices go off”? If so, that encompasses a great many things, including what the US does in the world on a very regular basis. Of course, the quest to know whether this was “terrorism” is really code for: “was this done by Muslims”? That’s because, in US political discourse, “terrorism” has no real meaning other than: violence perpetrated by Muslims against the west. The reason there was such confusion and uncertainty about whether this was “terrorism” is because there is no clear and consistently applied definition of the term. At this point, it’s little more than a term of emotionally manipulative propaganda. That’s been proven over and over, and it was against yesterday.
(5) The history of these types of attacks over the last decade has been clear and consistent: they are exploited to obtain new government powers, increase state surveillance, and take away individual liberties. On NBC with Brian Williams last night, Tom Brokaw decreed that this will happen again and instructed us that we must meekly submit it to it:
“Everyone has to understand tonight that, beginning tomorrow morning early, there are going to be much tougher security considerations all across the country, and however exhausted we may be by that, we’re going to have to learn to live with them, and get along and go forward, and not let them bring us to our knees. You’ll remember last summer, how unhappy we were with the security at the Democratic and Republic conventions. Now I don’t think we can raise those complaints after what happened in Boston.”
Last night on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show, an FBI agent discussed the fact that the US government has the right to arrest terrorism suspects and not provide them with Miranda warnings before questioning them. After seeing numerous people express surprise at this claim on Twitter, I pointed out that this happened when the Obama administration exploited the attempted underwear bombing over Detroit to radically reduce Miranda rights over what they had been for decades. That’s what the US government (aided by the sham “terrorism expert” industry) does in every single one of these cases: exploits the resulting fear to increase its own power and decrease everyone else’s rights, including privacy.
At the Atlantic, security expert Bruce Schneier has a short but compelling article on how urgent it is that we not react to this Boston attack irrationally or with exaggerated fear, and that we particularly remain vigilant against government attempts to exploit fear to impose all new rights-reducing measures. He notes in particular how the more unusual an event is (such as this sort of attack on US soil), the more our brains naturally exaggerate its significance and frequency (John Cole makes a similar point).
In sum, even if the perpetrators of Monday’s attack in Boston turn out to be politically motivated and subscribers to an anti-US ideology, it will still be a very rare event, one that poses far less danger to Americans than literally countless other threats. The most important lesson of the excesses arising from the 9/11 attacks should be this one: that the dangers of overreacting and succumbing to irrational fear are far, far greater than any other dangers posed by these type of events.
While serving as the 3rd president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson discovered a piece of technology that he could simply not live without. And no, it wasn’t this thoroughly gonzo precursor to the home gym.
It was the polygraph (shown on the right): a machine that made direct copies of handwritten letters. The user would write a version on one side of the machine, and by mechanical action, the words would be instantly facsimiled on the other. Being the technophile that he was, Thomas Jefferson purchased two: one for the White House, one for Monticello.
In 1809, he wrote to the portrait artist Charles Wilson Peale raving that “the use of the polygraph has spoiled me for the old copying press the copies of which are hardly ever legible… . I could not, now therefore, live without the Polygraph.”
As it turns out, neither can modern-day presidents.
Yesterday, the president was in Hawaii, rejoining his family on vacation. The recently passed fiscal-cliff deal was in Washington. How could the all important-presidential signature be affixed to the bill to make it law? The solution: Obama signed it via a robot, the autopen, a technological great, great grandchild of the machine Jefferson so loved.
Although the White House won’t tell you how it works, the device essentially makes a copy of the president’s pen strokes and saves them in the system’s memory for future facsimile. Typically, any pen or pencil can be loaded into the machine. It has been reported that George W. Bush prefered Sharpies.
Citing ambiguity in the Constitution (the exact line is “if he approve he shall sign it”), George W. Bush’s Justice Department made the legal case that an autopen is as good as the president’s hand when it comes to signing bills.
"Neither the constitutional text nor the drafting and ratification debates provide further guidance regarding what it means for the President to ‘sign’ a bill he approves," the opinion begins, and then dives into a lengthy legal discussion of what "signing" meant during the early days of the republic (it’s a thrilling read with many footnotes).
Although Bush set up the legal argument for autopen bill signing, he never used the device to enact legislation. Obama was the first to do so, signing an extension of the PATRIOT Act via autopen while in Europe. (Kind of fitting that a robot re-signed into law an act that represents the tenuous nature of technology, privacy, and the role of government.) Some lawmakers objected to the move, but no serious legal challenge to auto-signing bills has ever surfaced.
While Jefferson’s polygraph could only make copies if he was writing an orignial, fully robotized auto pens didn’t arrive until the 1930s. A 1936 article in Popular Mechanics described how the machine recorded a signature on “a master record, comparable to a phonograph,”and was transcribed by a “secret process” to make it difficult to steal one’s signature. There was even a function to scramble the recording, rendering the machine useless for a would-be signature thief. (Modern machines store signatures on SD cards.) Harry Truman is said to be the first U.S. president to use such a robotized machine.
The White House treats the presidential autopen’s security with the secrecy you might expect for the most powerful signature in the world. “I always heard the autopen was the second-most guarded thing in the White House after the president,” Jack Shock, Bill Clinton’s director of presidential letters and messages told the Associated Press in 2011. When the AP pressed the matter to the executive branch, the White House “declined to provide any further details about how many autopens the administration uses, what they look like, where they’re kept, or who makes the machine.”
While there was no signing ceremony for the fiscal cliff legislation, here’s how it probably happened.
(420Times) Eighteen federal legislators are supporting a call for The Obama Administrationto lay off recently passed marijuana legalization measures in Colorado and Washington. Colorado Congressman Diana DeGette plans on introducing a bill that would mirror a letter that her and 17 of her colleagues signed, asking the Justice Department to respect state’s rights.
“We are writing to urge federal law enforcement to consider carefully the recent decisions by the people of Colorado and Washington to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults,” the letter reads in part. “Under the new laws, each state will establish a comprehensive regulatory scheme governing the production, sale and personal use of marijuana. We believe that it would be a mistake for the federal government to focus enforcement action on individuals whose actions are in compliance with state law.”
SAN FRANCISCO: CHIPMAKER Intel has confirmed that it will not provide support for Linux on its Clover Trail Atom chip.
Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processor can be seen in various nondescript laptops around IDF and the firm provided a lot of architectural details on the chip, confirming details such as dual-core and a number of power states. However Intel said Clover Trail “is a Windows 8 chip” and that “the chip cannot run Linux”.
As Intel is pushing Clover Trail into tablets, a category of devices that is dominated by Linux based Android and the Unix BSD based IOS, the firm said it will not support Linux on Clover Trail.
Given that Intel said Clover Trail takes a lot of technology from its Medfield Atom processor, which runs Android on a number of middling smartphones, it seems that Chipzilla is putting up an artificial barrier to try to help Microsoft and its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
While Intel’s claim that Clover Trail won’t run Linux is not quite true - after all it is an x86 instruction set so there is no major reason why the Linux kernel and userland will not run - given that the firm will not support it, device makers are unlikely to produce Linux Clover Trail devices for their own support reasons.
Intel didn’t detail why it won’t support Linux on Clover Trail processors and instead merely mumbled murkily that “there’s a lot of software work that has to go into a chip to support it in an operating system”.
Intel went to great lengths to highlight the new P-states and C-states in which it can completely shut down the clock of a core. The firm said the operating system needs to provide “hints” to the processor in order to make use of power states and it seems likely that such hints are presently not provided by the Linux kernel in order to properly make use of Clover Trail.
Intel’s decision to support only Windows 8 on Clover Trail might work for laptops but seems very risky for tablets, where x86 tablets running Windows 8 look to be priced close to Apple’s Ipad and significantly higher than Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD.
When the PC market speaks, Intel and Microsoft might well find that Clover Trail is a dead end. µ
SAN FRANCISCO: CHIP DESIGNER AMD said its upcoming Hondo processor will be featured only on Windows 8 tablets at launch.
AMD’s Hondo APU is the firm’s first serious attempt to get into the tablet market and as the firm was busy showing hacks that Hondo can be used in devices that are sleek, it also told The INQUIRER that the firm is focusing on Windows 8. However unlike Intel, AMD said there is nothing stopping people from running Linux on its Hondo processor.
Steve Belt, corporate VP of ultra low power products at AMD told The INQUIRER, “This is a Windows 8 product, only. We’re not doing Android on this platform, at least not now. […] It is a conxcious decision not to go after Android. We think the Windows 8 space has a lot of opportunity, there’s plenty of TAM [total addressable market] there for us to go at. So we don’t need to spread ourselves into other markets, we think Windows 8 is a great place to start. Down the road we may look at Android, right now we’re focused on Windows 8.”
AMD is banking on Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets to take up somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the market, and to be fair if AMD can achieve a mid-teens market share in that portion, it will have done well, given its late entry and being hamstrung by Microsoft’s operating system. However unlike Intel, Belt said AMD’s software engineers are working on Linux support, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Android.
Ultimately Intel’s decision not to support Linux on Clover Trail could be costly, and not just in the tablet market. AMD’s Hondo Linux support could come in handy in the low-power server market that Intel is trying to edge into. With AMD’s Hondo GPU the firm could try to differentiate itself from Intel, which has only recently enabled OpenCL support on its integrated graphics cores.
With both AMD and Intel readying Hondo and Clover Trail respectively for Windows 8 and pushing their respective customers to come up with designs at roughly the same time, it will be interesting to see just how many Windows RT tablets will appear at the operating system’s launch. However one thing is clear, neither AMD nor Intel will have Android x86 tablets running with their respective next generation ultra low voltage chips. µ
The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a device that is integrated into pills and let’s doctors know when patients take their medicine – and when they don’t. Adherence to prescriptions is a serious problem, as about half of all patients don’t take medications the way they’re supposed to. But with patients doctors now becoming big brother, that statistic could change drastically.
The device, made by Proteus Digital Health, is a silicon chip about the size of a sand particle. With no battery and no sensor, it is powered by the body itself. The chip contains small amounts of copper and magnesium. After being ingested the chip will interact with digestive juices to produce a voltage that can be read from the surface of the skin through a detector patch, which then sends a signal via mobile phone to inform the doctor that the pill has been taken. Sensors on the chip also detect heart rate and can estimate the patient’s amount of physical activity. More than just a way for doctors to look over their patients’ shoulders, it will allow doctors to better assess if a person is responding to a given dose, or if that dose needs to be adjusted.
After clinical trials that began in 2009, the FDA approval follows approval from European regulatory approval in August 2010. Right now the FDA has only approved the chip for placebo pills, which were used in trials showing the chip to be safe and highly accurate. Proteus hopes to gain approval to use the digestible chip with other medicines. Andrew Thompson, chief executive of Proteus, says the chip has already been tested with treatments for tuberculosis, mental health, heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes.
The company is currently working with makers of metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes and the most commonly prescribed drug in the world. The company also plans on adding a wireless glucose meter to their device so that dosage amount and frequency can be correlated with changes in blood glucose levels.
They would also like to digitize the drugs taken to treat neurological disorders. Disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease often require patients to receive drugs regularly – sometimes several times per day – and for extended periods of time. Ensuring that these patients are adhering to the prescribed regimen could greatly improve quality of life for some.
Transplant patients, who often have to take immunosuppressive drugs for long periods following surgery, could also potentially benefit from digitizing their medicine.
Ingestible body sensors have been discussed for a while now, but Proteus’ digital pills are the first ingestible sensor to be approved by the FDA, according to Nature. This first step toward regulated ingestible sensors will undoubtedly be followed by others. The Programmable Bio-Nano-Chip developed by Rice University scientists can detect heart disease or cancer from a saliva sample. If the chips were ever permanently implanted into the body, they could provide an early alarm system for these diseases long before symptoms are detected by the patient. Scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston are developing a pill-sized robot that is remotely powered by an MRI machine to swim through the gut and look for the molecular signs of gastrointestinal cancer.
The first demonstration involved a placebo, but surely drug companies are eager to digitize their pills – and make sure patients empty out their prescriptions when they’re supposed to. Although possible, it is hard to imagine a complication would arise when the device is used with, say, Lipitor, that did not arise with the placebo. The usual FDA bottleneck could be loosened with the first incorporation into a bonafide drug.
The possible uses for ingestible sensors is as varied as the body itself. As with computer chips, ingestible chips will follow the exponential path of Moore’s Law and be able to sense more with less in the future. The FDA ruling could do much to get the technology on the fast track.
Artificial sweeteners especially aspartame has gotten a bad rap over the years, most likely due to studies showing they cause cancer. But not to worry Ajinomoto the company that makes
Aspartame has changed the name to AminoSweet. It has the same toxic ingredients but a nice new sounding name. And if you or your child happens to be allergic to Aspartame, well don’t take it personally it’s just business.
Despite the evidence gained over the years showing that aspartame is a dangerous toxin, it has remained on the global market . In continues to gain approval for use in new types of food despite evidence showing that it causes neurological brain damage, cancerous tumors, and endocrine disruption, among other things.
Most consumers are oblivious to the fact that Aspartame was invented as a drug but upon discovery of its’ sweet taste was magically transformed from a drug to a food additive. HFA wants to warn our readers to beware of a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing or in this case Aspartame dressed up as Aminosweet.
Over 25 years ago, aspartame was first introduced into the European food supply. Today, it is an everyday component of most diet beverages, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gums in countries worldwide. But the tides have been turning as the general public is waking up to the truth about artificial sweeteners like aspartame and the harm they cause to health. The latest aspartame marketing scheme is a desperate effort to indoctrinate the public into accepting the chemical sweetener as natural and safe, despite evidence to the contrary.
Aspartame was an accidental discovery by James Schlatter, a chemist who had been trying to produce an anti-ulcer pharmaceutical drug for G.D. Searle & Company back in 1965. Upon mixing aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two naturally-occurring amino acids, he discovered that the new compound had a sweet taste. The company merely changed its FDA approval application from drug to food additive and, voila, aspartame was born.
G.D. Searle & Company first patented aspartame in 1970. An internal memo released in the same year urged company executives to work on getting the FDA into the “habit of saying yes” and of encouraging a “subconscious spirit of participation” in getting the chemical approved.
G.D. Searle & Company submitted its first petition to the FDA in 1973 and fought for years to gain FDA approval, submitting its own safety studies that many believed were inadequate and deceptive. Despite numerous objections, including one from its own scientists, the company was able to convince the FDA to approve aspartame for commercial use in a few products in 1974, igniting a blaze of controversy.
In 1976, then FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt wrote a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy expressing concern over the “questionable integrity of the basic safety data submitted for aspartame safety”. FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill believed that a grand jury should investigate G.D. Searle & Company for lying about the safety of aspartame in its reports and for concealing evidence proving the chemical is unsafe for consumption.
The details of aspartame’s history are lengthy, but the point remains that the carcinogen was illegitimately approved as a food additive through heavy-handed prodding by a powerful corporation with its own interests in mind. Practically all drugs and food additives are approved by the FDA not because science shows they are safe but because companies essentially lobby the FDA with monetary payoffs and complete the agency’s multi-million dollar approval process.
Changing aspartame’s name to something that is “appealing and memorable”, in Ajinomoto’s own words, may hoodwink some but hopefully most will reject this clever marketing tactic as nothing more than a desperate attempt to preserve the company’s multi-billion dollar cash cow. Do not be deceived.
Update: As many comments are being posted by readers who are allergic to Aspartame we ask that you please forward this article to as many people as you can.
Earlier this summer, we applauded Google for releasing detailed stats about content removal requests from copyright holders. Now that we know how they are going to use that data, we are less enthusiastic. Today, Google announced that it would use copyright takedown notices made under the DMCA1 as what it calls a “signal” on search results. Specifically, those “signals” will demote certain websites in search results.
We wish we had some more details to illustrate just what that means, but unfortunately the process is pretty opaque. What we know: sites that have a “high number of removal notices” of takedown notices that result in actual takedowns will show up lower in some search results, though they will not be removed. What we don’t know: what is a “high number”? How does Google plan to make these determinations? Oh, and one other thing we do know, one that is particularly troubling: there will be no process or recourse for sites who have been demoted.
In particular, we worry about the false positives problem. For example, we’ve seen the government wrongly target sites that actually have a right to post the allegedly infringing material in question. or otherwise legally display content. In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers.
Takedown requests are nothing more than accusations of copyright infringement. No court or other umpire confirms that the accusations are valid (although copyright owners can be liable for bad-faith accusations). Demoting search results – effectively telling the searcher that these are not the websites you’re looking for – based on accusations alone gives copyright owners one more bit of control over what we see, hear, and read.
Of course, Google is not seizing domain names, as the government does. And it’s not removing sites from its search results altogether at copyright owners’ request, as SOPA would have required. To its credit, Google says that it will respect counter-notices, and won’t demote results based on takedowns that are rightfully disputed. But this is little comfort. Google’s opaque policies not only threaten lawful sites, but they undermine our confidence in its search results.
- 1. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act shields websites against most copyright suits based on material posted by their users, provided that the site takes certain actions, including taking down content when a copyright holder sends a valid request.