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     Remember NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) -- a wonderful agreement that did more damage than good? At the end the only winners were large Transnational Corporations and we all, including environment, have lost. Still that agreement 8 years in making had being reasonably discussed if not given a chance for broad public to express its opinion. Remember, how much was promised -- jobs, prosperity, environmental improvements -- none of it materialized (read report NAFTA at 20 - One Million U.S. Jobs Lost, Mass Displacement and Instability in Mexico, Record Income Inequality, Scores of Corporate Attacks on Environmental and Health Laws.)
          Today monstrous and disastrous deal is in making--Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)--but you probably even did not hear about it. Do not be upset--you are not alone! According to the Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald a survey

by the Australia Institute found 55 per cent of respondents did not know about the TPP, as it is known. Another 19 per cent said ''I'm not sure.''
  Similarly New Zealand's leading news resource for news-makers and the people Scoop.co.nz is reporting that
Senior legislators from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru today issued a joint letter seeking the release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) before it is signed, to enable detailed scrutiny and public debate. The signatories include political party leaders and legislators who currently or previously held senior political office in their national governments.
       As you can see US lawmakers are not among the legislators. The reason is that according to NY Representative in the Congress, Democrat Louise M. Slaughter
the Obama Administration is negotiating a massive new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would threaten American jobs and rewrite laws governing our food safety, access to medicine and intellectual property rights.

Yet the negotiation has been shrouded in secrecy. Special access has been given to corporate lobbyists, but the American people and Members of Congress have been shut out.

      Last year 151 House Dems told President They Will Not Support Outdated Fast Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership
      However, according to New York Times Obama's administration did not lose hope to push fast-track authority through the Congress even it had to postponed it.
     One of the reasons people are not aware of the TPP is that the main American TV and publishing media scarcely publish anything about this agreement. In fact, you can find only part of the draft of TPP on the WikiLeaks site. One of the leaked chapters Environment Chairs Report demonstrates how weak and toothless environmental, bi-diversity and climate protection in the TPP. Slate magazine last year published an articleTPP Trade Agreement Could Make "Bio-Piracy" Worse exposing weaknesses of the proposed agreement for biosphere. WikiLeaks published several analysis of the Environmental impact of the TTP -- TPPA Environment Chapter & Chair's Commentary. Issues for NZ by Professor Jane Kelsey from New Zealand and TPP - Sacrificing the Environment for Corporate Interests WikiLeaks. We all need to learn and have a chance to participate in discussion whether TPP is the treaty America needs. We need US media extensive coverage of the TPP and bring to light all its dark sides. This treaty should serve interests of 99% people not 1%.
       Please read and consider signing petition created by NY US Congress Representative (D) Louise Slaughter  -- Tell the Media: It’s Time to Expose the TPP
Sign the petition Tell the Media: It’s Time to Expose the TPP
Poll

How much do you know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

3%1 votes
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93%31 votes
3%1 votes
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| 33 votes | Vote | Results

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It is not a first time we write about 23andMe -- one of the arms of Google-Shiva and its "Don't be evil" propaganda.  Ethics means nothing if a buck can be made! Yes, 23andMe is not the only one, and No - they are not a victim.
Hopefully Sunday Salon.com article A genetic “Minority Report”: How corporate DNA testing could put us at risk will convince some freedom lovers who do not realize that their genome belongs to them even if they do not have 23andMe or other similar genetic test.

Discuss

Great post by Krugman "Paranoia of the Plutocrats" in yesterday Times. His arguments and economic analysis combined with the clarity of writing superb as usual. Yet, it is not what is most striking in his post. It is Krugman's mentioning of

The example many are buzzing about right now is the billionaire investor Tom Perkins, a founding member of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perkins lamented public criticism of the “one percent” — and compared such criticism to Nazi attacks on the Jews, suggesting that we are on the road to another Kristallnacht.
what made us think about absurdity of Progressive Kristallnacht prophecy.
    It is most amazing that the Wall Street powerful "geniuses" who almost blew-up the world's economy, suffer from the Victimization Complex blaming Occupy the Wall Street for "Kristallnacht". They need urgently talk to their shrinks because when they use their metaphors they sound like lunatics who proclaims themselves as Napoleon.
     If any normal person would use this line of comparison it would be more logically to compare Rupert Murdoch to Joseph Goebbels, Wall Street bankers to arsonists who set Reichstag on fire and then organized Kristallnacht blaming Occupied the Wall Street kids for both the fire and destruction.
Discuss

  When it comes to judges most us would think that it is a pretty selective and privileged group of people in our society where such ugly social injustices like, for example, gender discrimination are none existent.  That is why article published in the Massachusetts Lawyers Bias allegations at DIA reveal agency in turmoil just before Christmas is certainly not usual news. Even the beginning of the article is not what most people would expect to hear from a judge

Administrative Judge Kalina K. Vendetti minces no words in describing the Department of Industrial Accidents(DIA), the agency responsible for resolving disputed workers’ compensation claims in Massachusetts. “I’ve never worked for a more f--ked up organization than the Department of Industrial Accidents. ...
We are the court and are the ones who weed out the malingerers and make a difference in whether people can buy food for their family or pay their rent for the month or get medical care while they’re languishing in pain.
  Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents is a part of the State government - Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. According to the web site its mission is to administer the Commonwealth's Workers' Compensation system. One would expect that the Department own house should be in order before it can effectively to fulfill its mission, but apparently it is not the case. According to the article the most recent problems at the Department began in early 2013 "when judges Vendetti, Cheryl A. Jacques and Cristina Poulter met with the secretary of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the DIA’s director and the department’s senior judge to complain that 2012 appointee Michael E. Williams was being paid more than they were. (A fourth judge, Emily J. Novick, who died of cancer in December 2012, had raised similar concerns and intended to be part of the January meeting.)" Newly appointed Williams received $101,510 annual salary -- $10,000 higher than the starting pay of the DIA’s four female complainants who had the identical positions and were doing the same job as women judges. He was also given a coveted Boston parking spot that women judges claim they were never offered.
     There is nothing new about pay inequality in legal profession where situation very much reminiscent of situation in corporate management world. There are significantly fewer women judges and top female executives than men. Even the most visible example of the US Supreme Court there are twice as many men on the court than women justices. And this is after unprecedented two women justices nomination during president Obama terms. Numerous scholarly articles on the subject such as, for example,  The gender stratification of income inequality among lawyers and Men and Women of Elite Law Firms: Reevaluating Kanter's Legacy, provide the statistical data and the conclusions that are quite clear
Our analysis focuses on the changing structural settings, sectoral movements, and levels of class power that form gender specific mobility ladders for individuals in the profession. Each of these factors plays an independent role in the determination of earnings, usually to the advantage of men over women.
  According to statistics from the American Bar Association Commission on Women from most recent 2013 report women enrollment in the law schools and degree awarded in the recent years was around 47%
   However, the situation even in law schools administration looks heavily tilted towards man in administrative position (see the graph at the bottom of the illustration) -- women hold only about 21% of dean position while represent almost 46% of the faculty and 66% of assistant dean positions!
      It is more striking in the corporate world
as well as in the law firms
   Thus, two infrequently asked, much less answered questions posed by the author of The Gender Stratification of Income Inequality Among Lawyers article
How do women lawyers react to moving closer to the top of the class structure through the practice of law but to still being left behind men in their earnings? And what does it mean that gender discrimination is practiced in a profession that is linked so closely to the value placed in democratic societies on equal treatment?
  seems at least partially have been answered -- women do not like and protest discrimination. However, whether their objection will change the situation still remains to be seen.
    Meanwhile on August 14, 2013 the judges filed complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  In the defense the secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development office, Joanne F. Goldstein,
responded that Williams — who is black — was being paid more because “we don’t have any black judges. ”
In a different meeting, Goldstein reportedly referred to the DIA bench that comprises of 21 judges who in 2012 had 13,479 cases filed at the DIA according to the 2012 report as “too pale, stale and male. ”
    Meantime, judge Jacques’ participation in the suit has made her the target of retaliation. Two weeks after the judges filed with MCAD the DIA Senior Judge Hernandez announced that he was moving forward with Jacques' removal proceedings based on the complaint filed in May of 2013 by an attorney James N. Ellis Sr. accusing judge Jacques of judicial misconduct. The complaint was on hold since May till end of August until the complaint was filed with MCAD. While the whole issue with the complaint against Jacques is a cloudy matter including the fact the her accuser has his own problem with the BAR and pending disciplinary proceedings
Ellis is the patriarch of a well-known family of Worcester lawyers who have been the subject of disciplinary action by the DIA, Board of Bar Overseers and law enforcement. Ellis currently has a disciplinary proceeding pending against him, according to the BBO’s website.
  What is troubling that this is not only alleged retaliation accusations against women judges who objected gender discrimination.
 Vendetti, a 2010 appointee assigned to the DIA’s Fall River office, says Goldstein threatened the three judges that if they went public with their allegations, they would not be reappointed at the end of their six-year terms.
   It remains to be seen whether results of discovery at MCAD or if the case will be transferred in court will bring more facts related to the hiring to light and what the decision in the case will be. What is obvious that gender discrimination is deeply engrained into social psyche and affects even the judiciary that should be unbiased and fair to all. It is remarkable that people who made a decision to hire judge candidate who is black male not just preferred him because he is black male, but offered him financial incentives. It is no less troubling that a judge who supposed to be impartial in administering justice in "the Commonwealth's Workers' Compensation system" readily accepted obviously unfair action towards his fellow women judges when his personal financial interest was at stake. It seems that Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct should look deeper into the matter and investigate the actions by judge Williams and any other administrative judges who were involved in his hiring. It also probably would be the best for the Massachusetts Governor to replace administrators of the Labor and Workforce Development office, including Joanne F. Goldstein, who were involved in this discriminating hiring process.
Poll

Do you think that we need law that women should receive pay equal as men of the same profession and position?

77%7 votes
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22%2 votes
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| 9 votes | Vote | Results

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   On January 3, even before we finished eating leftovers from New Year celebration our "friends" at Fox News began drumming up an new government SCARE -- Portion control -- how the government plans to dictate what's on your dinner table in 2014. Here is the list

1. FDA May Ban or Restrict a Growing Number of Food Ingredients. "oils containing trans fats, an ingredient found in foods like coffee creamers and muffins" and "also likely to propose unprecedented new restrictions on food ingredients like sodium"
2. Raw Milk Bans Drawing Fire.  "Yet the risks of drinking raw milk are similar to those posed by eating a medium-rare hamburger, spinach, cantaloupe or other foods that rightly warrant nothing more than a government warning sticker."
3. New York City’s Soda Ban Not Dead Yet.   "Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s successor Bill DeBlasio has vowed to forge ahead with the soda ban. After two stinging losses, the city has filed a last gasp court appeal that should be decided in 2014."
4. Farm Subsidies Will Prop Up Big Farms, Cost Taxpayers Billions.  
5. FDA’s Menu Labeling Rules Could Be a Colossal Mess. "Even as study after study shows that menu labeling is actually counterproductive, the FDA will have to answer these questions in 2014."
6. Some Cities Still Kicking Food Trucks to the Curb.  "How will food trucks fare in 2014? They still face existential threats from regulators in cities nationwide—including Alexandria, Va., Birmingham, Ala., Lexington, Ky. and San Diego, Calif."
7. Soda Taxes Still Being Pushed in San Francisco.  "San Francisco has proposed a 2014 ballot measure to make its residents “healthier” by adding nearly $1.50 in taxes to the cost of a six-pack of soda."
8.  Rise of Voluntary GMO Labeling. "...mandatory GMO labeling—is that Americans prefer a different approach. As we’ve seen with companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle, some restaurants and grocers are responding to demands from their own consumers that they label or move away from GMO foods on their own."
9. FDA’s Proposed Food Safety Rules Could Hurt Farmers, Raise Food Costs.  "Advocates for small farmers were up in arms in 2013 over proposed FDA food safety rules that could bury them in pointless, costly red tape. Even the FDA admitted the rules, which would cost nearly $1 billion each year, would only make food up to 5.7% safer."
10. Government to Consider Restrictions on Food Marketing to Kids (Again).  "Companies that advertise foods that parents buy for kids are often vilified by a segment of the public health community."
And who is the author of this "infomercial" once again sponsored or produced by FoxNews? - Baylen J. Linnekin is the executive director of Keep Food Legal.
                         Meet Mr. Linnekin and his vision of America
Mr.   Linnekin's organization is the one that was "up in arms in 2013 over proposed FDA food safety rules" (see the point 9) and trumpeted it on the web site Reason.com and which editor, Nick Gillespie, Ph.D., sits on the board of Keep Food Legal.
   Disclosure: Do not confuse Reason.com with Logical Reason, because Reason.com also wants you to believe that 66 Percent of Americans Say People Should Be Allowed to Play Violent Video Games and it is a scientific fact and is accurate because the same poll found
At a recent event, President Barack Obama said the health care law is here to stay and vowed, "We aren't going back.” But 55 percent of Americans say they’d prefer to go back to the health care system that was in place before the Affordable Care Act, while 34 percent prefer the current health care system.
    So what is this organization Keep Food Legal? According to its own mission statement its is like Food Libertarian Union:
We Love Food
Do you love food? If you’re like us, you do.
.........
We Hate Food Bans
If you’re like us, you’ve probably also noticed that there are too many restrictions on our right to procure the foods we love, and that these restrictions are growing.
.............

Our Mission
Does all this regulation make your stomach growl, leave your palate dull, and make your blood boil? Us too. That’s why we founded Keep Food Legal (KFL).
KFL is the first nationwide membership organization devoted to food freedom.

And Mr. Baylen J. Linnekin, President of KFL, most likely think about himself, as Nelson Mandela of Food Apartheid and proclaims it every time he can get
“If you want to buy a Happy Meal with a horsemeat burger, a can of Four Loko, trans fat fried foie gras, and a side of shark fin soup, I applaud your right to make those choices,” says Baylen Linnekin as we sit on his porch in North Bethesda.
The 39-year-old executive director of the nonprofit Keep Food Legal has a decidedly libertarian perspective on food politics.
   If there any science behind it? Not really. If there any logic? Hardly, because if Mr. Linnekin wanted consumers make a choice why would he oppose consumers making an educated choice, such as for example, know from the food label whether it contains GMO ingredients (see point 8) or how much calories are in the product you want to buy (see point 5). While issue whether GMO food is safe to it deserves a separate discussion and actually FDA and USDA approved a lot of genetically modified agricultural products. However, it is worthwhile to mention that point 8 statement that FDA on its own proposing "mandatory GMO labeling" and "that Americans prefer a different approach" directly contradicts to the USA Today article What you need to know about GMOs published on the same day as Mr. Linnekin's infomercial with FoxNews. In the latter article this matter is explained much better
 How can I tell if my food contains GMOs?
Currently, food manufacturers are not required to label whether their products contain GMOs. The FDA only requires that labels are "truthful and not misleading." FDA is considering two citizen petitions it has received asking the agency to require GMO labeling.

GMOs, however, are prohibited in organic products. "This means an organic farmer can't plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can't eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can't use any GMO ingredients," according to the USDA. Additionally, organizations, like the Non-GMO Project, list products verified to be GMO-free. You can also download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide app.

So apparently it is not that difficult and expensive after all, since it is a simple issue "Yes" or "No".
    Similarly, Mr. Linnekin was not forthcoming in the point 5 writing
but what about pizza delivery chains like Domino’s which has 34 million different ways to order a pizza?
meaning that FDA’s Menu Labeling Rules Could Be a Colossal Mess if applied to Domino's pizza. In fact, in his another article  How a Federal Menu-Labeling Law Will Harm American Pizza, written almost a year ago, Mr.  Linnekin wrote:
For one, most have been providing nutrition information for years. The Papa John’s website displays nutrition information under each menu item, for example, while Domino’s website features a tool it calls a Cal-o-Meter. For pizza, the point of purchase is most often online or over the phone.
   Which means that the problem is already solved -- meaning that the pizza outlets already have the information! What is only required now - to make it handy, i.e. print it as a receipt with the order or display to a cashier who takes the order and can tell this info to the customers. It should not be that difficult to automate in the store and should not cost more than couple of pennies per customer, who almost certainly would not mind to pay them.
   Regarding point 2 Mr. Linnekin's argument is
Yet the risks of drinking raw milk are similar to those posed by eating a medium-rare hamburger, spinach, cantaloupe or other foods that rightly warrant nothing more than a government warning sticker.
 Once again Mr. Linnekin refers readers to his own article written couple of years ago, filled with a lot of rhetoric and not much evidence.
   However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently with the restriction on raw milk consumption
Each year, foodborne diseases cause illness in 1 in 6 Americans (or about 48 million people), resulting in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
  While exact costs of treating food poisoning is hard to calculate there should be no doubts that it is in many millions of dollars and that is not counting deaths.  Does Mr. Linnekin have any estimates how much allowing raw milk consumption would cost in healthcare expanses or in human lives? Does he even care about? Obviously not. He, probably believes only in the "survival of the fittest" literally - meaning if a person did not have health insurance or the poisoning was to severe and a person died from food poisoning that is the God's will and nothing could have been done to prevent this untimely death.
    Yet, let's return to the consumption of raw milk. According to the CDC statistics
Among dairy product-associated outbreaks reported to CDC between 1998 and 2011 in which the investigators reported whether the product was pasteurized or raw, 79% were due to raw milk or cheese. From 1998 through 2011, 148 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported to CDC. These resulted in 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths. Most of these illnesses were caused by Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, or Listeria. It is important to note that a substantial proportion of the raw milk-associated disease burden falls on children; among the 104 outbreaks from 1998-2011 with information on the patients’ ages available, 82% involved at least one person younger than 20 years old.
     Also, keep in mind that 21 states allow sale of raw milk, which is more than 50% of the US population because these states include most populous states such as California, Texas and New York. And by the way, the story that Mr. Linnekin made a centerpiece of his article is not exactly correct, because Amish farmer could legally sell his raw milk in Pennsylvania, but Maryland where he was selling it does not allow sale of raw milk.
    So what is left of Mr. Linnekin's points? Really nothing, because, it is well known fact that growth of diabetes and population weight in US correlates with sale of soda. And that New York City’s Soda Ban (point 3) and Soda Taxes Pushed in San Francisco do not ban soda sale outright and not even limit consumption, but create some incentives for more rational consumption of soda. We all still remember how big tobacco companies were glamorizing (they still try, but less successfully) smoking of tobacco and were able to find advocates, similar to Mr. Linnekin, even among physicians who were "informing" public that smoking does not present danger to health. It took serious government intervention to expose the lies of these companies to change public opinion that will undoubtedly increase life expectancy and reduce cost of the healthcare in US in not so distant future (the change cannot be instant because many of former smokers already damaged their health). The same goes about point 10 that Government Possible Restrictions on Food Marketing to Kids (Again) . It is looks too familiar of the big tobacco resistance to reduction of advertizing targeting young people while they were perfectly aware of dangers of smoking and that it is the best to get people hooked on cigarets and other tobacco products while they are young and too often careless and more concerned with coolness than health. It should not be too difficult for you see through other points Mr. Linneken makes. Even when he correctly writes about Farm Subsidies Will Prop Up Big Farms, Cost Taxpayers Billions (point 4) he somehow does not bother to mention small farmers, who actually should be receiving these subsidies without which they cannot survive for long.

   Mr. Linneken does not disclose his generous donors or any corporate donors or sponsors for that matter. However, his choice of media outlets, like FoxNews or forums like American Enterprise Institute hardly leaves room for guessing. In fact, many people at different times suggested that Keep Food Legal has been bought by Monsanto. While this assumption should not surprise anyone most likely Keep Food Legal has several corporate masters, which it loyally serves.
Why not to come clean who's interests Keep Food Legal represents? Because so far food is legal in this country, but what is illegal - it is to conduct false advertizing and manipulate public opinion for personal gain. As a lawyer, Mr. Linnekin should be aware of that.

Poll

Do you believe that government plans to dictate what's on your dinner table and its bad for you?

3%2 votes
8%5 votes
1%1 votes
1%1 votes
4%3 votes
0%0 votes
80%50 votes

| 62 votes | Vote | Results

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    Yesterday, New York Times published editorial Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower providing numerous arguments why President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden for blowing whistle on NSA. MSNBC Adam Serwer echoed in his post today The Snowden Obama Amnesty Double Standard. However, both of these worth reading articles arguing whether Snowden committed a crime and should be punished or whether he fulfilled his patriotic duty, deserved clemency and should be pardon by the President miss one important point -- justice is equal for all as all Americans and the government officials Pledge to the flag and the Nation promising to defend the Constitution. That means if Snowden should be tried and punished for his expose of the illegal actions of NSA officials so the NSA officials who violated court orders, laws and Constitution should also be punished and prosecuted to the fullest extend of the Law as well. Yet, that presents a conundrum -- if the NSA officials broke the law, which most likely they did,  then their actions were illegal and they cannot be declared "secret", thus, Snowden did not violate any laws uncovering these violations! The first issue that should be decided -- whether NSA officials broke the law and the President should make this his first priority, instead of prosecuting Edward Snowden. Snowden, did not "dump" irresponsibly secret documents on the web and did not give them to our enemies. He provided these documents (many of which, with countless additional others were shortly declassified by NSA and the other government officials) to the leading responsible news media organizations that disclosed them in very responsible and limited order. In fact, this is not the first time NSA was caught in violating the Law and FISA Court's orders. How come, then this facts are overlooked and how can we seriously debate that if Snowden did something differently NSA would admit wrongdoing and act to correct it? NSA officials broke the laws before Edward Snowden exposed them and if that is the case they cannot hide behind the curtain of secrecy. On several occasions President Obama acknowledged that he was not aware of some of the NSA actions such as, for example, wiretapping Angela Merkel's cell phone. So far no one at NSA was even reprimanded for any of the violations and illegal actions. Why should then Snowden who exposed these violations should be punished?
   The Article II section 3 of the Constitution states that the President

shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed
Punishing Edward Snowden and letting NSA officials getting away with breaking the Law and violating Court's orders does not look like or is Justice.
Poll

What do you think about Snowden?

51%15 votes
20%6 votes
0%0 votes
10%3 votes
17%5 votes

| 29 votes | Vote | Results

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                        Confused about your privacy rights?-You are not alone.
     It is obvious, some even may say self evident, that unless you are living in a desert or deep in the woods you cannot have privacy. Living in society or even interacting with limited number of people requires to forgo some of the privacy rights in exchange for other social benefits. The question is -- how much of the privacy rights we have to surrender and the answer is -- what is dictated by the Law. However, the Law and its interpretation in the legal system depends on the system of the government. In Orwell's time in dictatorship the government owned your privacy with the approval of the courts and in democracy the government was protecting your rights and courts safeguarded this principal.
     However, if you have been busy last couple of weeks preparing and celebrating holidays with your family that situation must have changed and you better catch up with the most legal developments of privacy rights or prepare one day to be surprised (unpleasantly, of course).

                     Brief history of evasion of privacy
      It did not happen overnight. In the midst of the Prohibition FBI figured out that wiretapping telephone lines and listening to bootleggers and mob conversations can help obtain crucial and useful information necessary for their conviction. However, it was done on a very limited scale and under the courts supervisions. According to the history of telemarketing it began in 1950's by housewives making telephone calls to sell their products. By mid 1960's telemarketing became an industry that reached its highest point in 1970's  and 1980. Commercial use of various consumer data, such as names of particular magazines subscribers, their telephone and street addresses, etc. became a valuable commodity collected, bought and sold by commercial companies. About the same time when telemarketing emerged, on Nov. 4, 1952, the National Security Agency was established and in 1972 was extended with with the addition of the Central Security Service. The Code of NSA/CSS Core Values proclaims "NSA/CSS is unwavering in its respect for U.S. laws and Americans’ civil liberties—and in its commitment to accountability"

     However, it was not too long before the first public scandal involving NSA wiretapping telephone lines in US without proper court authorization became a subject of the Senate investigation. Watch June 9, 2013 episode ABC Thisweek with George Stephanopolous showing documentary footage of the hearing by United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) in 1975.
    In 1991, however, Congress finally passed and President George H. W. Bush signed into law Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 that significantly strengthen consumer protection from telemarketers.

                         War on terror -- everyone is a suspect.
        The 9/11 started a new era in surrendering privacy rights on the mass scale. It happened not only because of the terrorists attacks in US, but because just telephone and cellphone were ubiquitous tools in US and other developed countries, but because by that time Internet broadband, web media news presence, e-mail use, photo sharing, web radio became common, Google was already founded and MySpace and Facebook were only few years away. The fact that information that 9/11 was about to happen was readily available to the various governmental agencies and the president and other  held meetings related to the attacks, but did not act on the warnings. In aftermath of the attack the government needed to demonstrate that it "defends the Nation" and does everything in its power to prevent further attacks. The atmosphere of mass fear was perfect to unleash total surveillance and with the help of the government propaganda that small sacrifice of the privacy rights will secure safety for the country Law was re-written and program was implemented.
     Watch January 10, 2006 interview
or read the transcript of the NSA whistleblower Russell Tice to ABC Nightline.  Nothing had change for the next 7 years, until Edward Snowden did what Russell Tice did not accomplish in his own words -- "gave goods" on NSA.
    Buy 2006 Google also grown up significantly becoming a dominant player among Internet companies making billions of dollars selling users information to advertisers. Despite its motto "Do not be evil" Google could not resist to stay away from collecting additional information from unsuspecting public and users as well as violating other companies software bypassing privacy settings in order to obtain users personal data. Google was found violating users privacy not only in US courts, but in other countries as well.

                          If you are honest person you have nothing to hide.
     Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, during December 3, 2009 interview with CNBC's Mario Bartiromo responding to her question "People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they?" answered

   If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it's important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.
    In other words it is not Google's fault that you sent your e-mail containing some private information via Gmail to your friend or appeared in you own yard or did not secure your wireless network when Google car was passing. You should have assumed that Google was not evil, but just did what it supposed to do -- collect information on you and everyone else. And if it caught you with your pants down or overheard your secrets it is your own fault! But is not all -- do not blame Google for sharing it (or better to say selling this information) with the rest with the world.

                       NSA Spying Program -- Almost-Orwellian Technology
   Since first publications of the documents about NSA blanket wiretapping of the telephones and Internet communications of millions of Americans and foreign nationals, including our European allies, that were provided by Edward Snowden to news media several cases against NSA and other security agencies and officials, including President Obama were filed. Despite obvious violations of the Law some of which were even admitted publicly, everybody was waiting for the Courts' opinions on the subject matter.
   On December 17, 2013 the District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, Richard J. Leon, appointed in 2002 by George W. Bush, ruled that bulk NSA metadata collection is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of Constitution. The plaintiffs who brought the case against Obama, NSA, Verizon and other parties,  

   Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, father of a cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. His son worked for the NSA and carried out support work for Navy Seal Team Six, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden.Guardian, NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules
 Not just once the judge invoked parallel to Orwell's description of totalitarian states. For example, beginning his analysis with "Supreme Court's landmark opinion in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)", judge wrote
   Third, the almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979. In Smith, the Supreme Court was actually considering whether local police could collect one person's phone records for calls made after the pen register was installed and for the limited purpose of a small-scale investigation of harassing phone calls. The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that data for a five-year period, updating it with new data every day in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction.  (emphasis supplied)  MEMORANDUM OPINION December 16,2013 [Dkt. # 13 (No. 13-0851), # 10 (No. 13-0881)]
   Despite the fact that judge stayed his decision allowing government to appeal, for a brief moment it looked as the common sense and legal reasoning prevailed over unrestricted blanked surveillance.

                     If you lost your privacy -- it is your own fault!
    Yet, Snowden's celebratory statement that "judge's ruling vindicates leak of NSA files" was premature.
    On December 27, U.S.District Judge William Pauleyin New York dismissed an ACLU lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's bulk collection phone records, saying that the program is constitutional. What is remarkable that judge Pauley in his decision relied on the same Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979) case that Leon called into question because the technology dramatically or almost-Orwellian scale changed the scope of surveillance. Furthermore, judge Pauley rhetoric clearly demonstrates that he has very poor understanding of issues of technology. He begun his decision with the following statement:

The September 11th terrorist attacks revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaeda plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaeda.
   Even for a judge who did not take any science courses to call al-Qaeda use of airplanes "a seventh-century milieu" and "a bold jujitsu" is too much of metaphor. When judge continued digging into the telephone technology nuances he makes even more ridiculous assumptions:
Prior to the September 11th attacks, the National Security Agency ("NSA") intercepted seven calls made by hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was living in San Diego, California, to an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen. The NSA intercepted those calls using overseas signals intelligence capabilities that could not capture al-Mihdhar's telephone number identifier. Without that identifier, NSA analysts concluded mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas and not in the United States. Telephony metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States. (emphasis supplied)
 What completely escapes the judge that:
1. NSA did not need to monitor all phone numbers in US to have metadata that they could not obtain overseas to conclude whether al-Mihdhar was overseas or in US. NSA analysts should have not "concluded [better to say guessed] mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas", but simply run his name (that NSA seems to know) against the database of the entering and exiting US visas. This way NSA would certainly have known where al-Mihdhar was present during conversation.

2. Judges speculation telephony metadata "might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI")" does not sound as certain fact, but rather as one of the options that was quite far from certain.

3. Discussing bulk collection of metadata judge does not consider a situation that some of the metadata could be false positive because people sometimes misdial a number of connection could be erroneous due equipment malfunctioning. That would certainly lead to unnecessary actions against innocent people.

4.  The judge simply does not realize how long it might take to process all possible bulk metadata collected. In fact, it has never being demonstrated that delay cannot potentially disrupt the investigation. It seems to escape the judge that the time and scope of data collection exponentially increases total amount of data that has to be processed.

5. Finally, judge did not consider that fact that FISA court has to authorize data collection by NSA and as far as we know it never authorized bulk data collection for entire US territory and/or population. In fact, as we all well aware FISA reproached NSA on several occasions for exceeding scope of authorized data collection. Thus, his decision to find NSA actions lawful hardly withstands any logical or legal scrutiny.

       Judge Pauley admitted in his decision that after 9/11 attack the government

launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program-a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.
     This blunt tool only works because it collects everything. Such a program, if unchecked, imperils the civil liberties of every citizen. Each time someone in the United States makes or receives a telephone call, the telecommunications provider makes a record of when, and to what telephone number the call was placed, and how long it lasted. The NSA collects that telephony metadata. If plumbed, such data can reveal a rich profile of every individual as well as a comprehensive record of people's associations with one another.
   It is practically an admission a violation of the Constitution because no law can infringe on the Constitutional rights of all citizens. Yet, the judge does not want to make a conclusion about a constitutionality of the government's decision avoiding even acknowledging it as an issue and replacing it with word "lawful", which is like saying that butter has a buttery taste. Instead judge Paley  turns the matter upside down stating
But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of Government to decide.
                                               What's next
    Well the courts decisions are most certainly are not final. As it has been said the government is appealing decision in the first case and ACLU promised to appeal decision  of judge Pauley. The final word will practically certainly will be come from the US Supreme Court unless the legislature and President will change the current law. If you ever dreaded even to think about possibility to live under surveillance in totalitarian state you have one option to make your voice heard. Write to your representatives in Congress, sign petitions to the Government,  vote for the candidates who oppose bulk surveillance or ... one day you worst nightmare might become a reality.
Discuss

Thu Dec 26, 2013 at 08:23 AM PST

Genetic Road to Happiness

by ScrewedByLawyer

 Our several posts about FDA actions against 23andMe caused, while often one-sided, emotional and heated conversation. So we decided to do a more extended posting hoping that it will explain legitimacy of our concerns and will remove prevailing notion that FDA actions were unusual, selective or motivated by prejudice.
  The cover image of the blog is actually used by another direct to consumer genetic company Graceful Earth Inc. that markets its own saliva test to detect Alzheimer's disease (AD). In fact, the cover of the US News and World Report January 8, 2007 issue and the article Unraveling Your DNA's Secrets where written when the Graceful Earth Inc. company was located in Hawaii and "the Alzheimer's test, sold for $150 by Graceful Earth of Honolulu, examines the APOE gene." Today the company islocated in Florida and the test is priced at $280.00, hardly "cheaper" (many were crediting 23andMe for helping to bring the price of the genetic tests down) then 6 years ago. What is more important is that in 2010 FDA issued a letter to the Graceful Earth Inc. inquiring about company's test
It has come to our attention that you are currently marketing the Graceful Earth Alzheimer's Test, a home-use saliva collection kit, intended to report customary and personal genetic health disposition results for Alzheimer's Disease. The Genetic Health Report appears to meet the definition of a device as that term is defined in section 201 (h) of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.
   Furthermore, aside from the FDA controversy Graceful Earth Inc. was also, as it appears,violating the 3 “method” patents that belong to Duke University and "covering APOE genetic testing." In fact, as the article explains the Duke University patents were exclusively licensed exclusively to Athena Diagnostics that currently offers the AD APOE test and actually is using blood probe rather than saliva.
Direct-to-consumer APOE testing was available March-October 2008 through Smart Genetics. Smart Genetics ceased offering APOE risk assessment for Alzheimer’s disease to consumers in October 2008.3 Direct-to-consumer APOE testing remains advertised through Graceful Earth’s website, and APOE ε4 status is indirectly assessed by at least one of the “personal genomics” firms.
  Perhaps, these inquiries explain why Graceful Earth Inc. relocated to a new location in Florida. Yet even, these problems with the AD test offered by the Graceful Earth Inc. are not the only considerations whether their service should be used because as the US News and World Report article Unraveling Your DNA's Secrets explained
Unfortunately, three of the tests that we analyzed [including the AD APOE test]  that are marketed as gauging the risk of major diseases relied on genes that don't provide a clear view.
......
Our tester, a 41-year-old female, was told that she had APOEe3. Not having APOEe4, the test results said, offered "moderate protection" from Alzheimer's. But half of people with Alzheimer's don't have APOEe4, and many people with it will never get Alzheimer's. "It doesn't have a lot of value to the patient," says William Thies, vice president of medical and scientific affairs for the Alzheimer's Association, which recommends against using APOE for predictive testing. Kenneth Friedenberg, vice president of Graceful Earth, agrees that having APOEe4 doesn't mean that someone will get Alzheimer's. "We've gotten criticism from doctors," he says. "But I think people really want to know, especially if they'd had it in their family." Knowing a person is at increased risk, he says, could prompt him or her to eat healthier. "What is the harm if someone starts increasing their intake of antioxidants? Or fish oils? How is that going to hurt them?"
   Despite quite unflattering description of its test Graceful Earth Inc. company is still using US News and World Report cover on its website. Possibly counting that most people will not get into details.
    Another genetic test and analysis that was actually provided by 23andMe and mentioned by one of the our post commentators was for detection of hemochromatosis. Here is what Unraveling Your DNA's Secrets article stated about this test
DNA Direct's most popular test is its $199 screening for hemochromatosis, which elevates iron in the blood and can lead to liver cancer. Ever since a gene that causes the disease was detected in 1996, doctors have debated widespread screening. Sandra Thomas, president of the American Hemochromatosis Society, encourages people who contact her to use DTC tests and thinks that everyone should be screened for the disease, which killed her mother. But a National Institutes of Health study of almost 100,000 people in 2005 found the correlation between gene and disease not strong enough to be useful as a screening tool. The U.S. News staffer, who took the test through HealthCheckUSA, had no family history and came up negative. "Some people have cirrhosis and liver cancer, and some people have the same genetic profile and don't even have iron overload," says Paul Adams, a gastroenterologist at the University of Western Ontario who led the NIH study.
  In fact, FDA has at least one special page Letters to Manufacturers Concerning Genetic Tests where 14 different companies were inquired about their genetic tests marketed directly to consumers. And this is despite that FDA clearly stated as early as 2007 in the "Pharmacogenetic Tests and Genetic Tests for Heritable Markers" Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff that these test fall into category of medical devices that has to receive an approval from FDA.
   In another US News & World Report article A High-Tech Family Tree published on January 2, 2008 many other direct to consumer genetic test companies, including 23andMe are mentioned. In fact, at that time, in 2008, according to the article 23andMe Genetic scan that calculates health risks and ancestry, and allows sharing with friends and family. was priced at $999 while other companies were offering it at lower prices and some genealogical project were offering test at the price under $200 or even for free. The fact that 23andMe in the next 5 or so years reduced price of its test from $999 to $99 means only that there was intense competition in the market place and not necessarily company's innovation did that.
    Today the excitement and thrill with genetics and genetic testing definitely causes excesses of inappropriate application of this particular technology. For example, the same US News and World Report magazine published another article Romance in a Box? Company Offers Genetic Love Matches about several genetic testing companies that "are promising to match couples based on the DNA testing, touting the benefits of biological compatibility." While this claim is certainly has very little scientific basis (somehow cosmetic scents are not taking into consideration - read the article) and ridiculously far stretched at the time of the publication thousands people tried it. Interestingly enough, it seems that the magic number $99 as price of the test seems what people feel "fair" to pay to give it a try.
... GenePartner, a Swiss company that works with matchmakers and dating sites, has tested more than 1,000 people, according to chief scientific officer Tamara Brown. Some were already coupled and took the test out of curiosity.
The GenePartner Test is $99, and will be offered at the dating site sense2love.com when it relaunches next month.
  GenePartner is still operating today, but thetest cost today is actually higher- $249. It would be probably correctly to guess that they have no shortage of customers.  At the same time several partner sites that were offering GenePartner tests in the past -- Sense2Love, Eventful Dating and SuccessMatch -- are no longer in the business.
    It is not new that people have high hopes for a new technology regardless whether it is snake poison or oil or genetic testing. Unfortunately, often unscrupulous sales people try to take advantage of hopes and vulnerability of consumers who hope to benefit from the new technologies. Some might say that consumers should be saved from themselves while others see nothing wrong in taking advantage of naivete and luck of understanding of the new technologies by consumers regardless whether they are exotic financial products such as mortgages and derivatives or genetic testing. However, the society as whole suffers if the cheating occurs on a mass scale. The inaccurate and misleading genetic tests are much more dangerous than knockoff of designers bags or watches or bootlegged DVDs or CDs. Not only they create unnecessary social anxieties, false and inaccurate diagnoses that lead to significant social costs, but they actually cause disappointment with a particular technology when the ungrounded hopes do not materialize and lead to delays and setbacks of progress.
Poll

Did you change your mind about FDA role in direct to consumer genetic testing?

11%2 votes
11%2 votes
5%1 votes
72%13 votes

| 18 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

  Before drawing any conclusions, asking about motives and grinding an axe, please, note that the title of this posting does not belong to us, but is of the Bloomberg Businessweek article. In fact, the non-scientific notion that "The trouble with law is lawyers" was first suggested by Clarence Darrow, renown attorney and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the aforementioned article based on conclusions in the new book War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires by

Peter Turchin is the vice president of the Evolution Institute and professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Connecticut"

the 30 indicators he developed for tracing the destabilization of societies—the Roman Empire, Imperial China, medieval and early-modern England and France, etc. now point to "the demise of American society". One of this indicators is Lawyer Glut. It is well documented that the army of lawyers grew from 285,933 lawyers in 1960 or 627 people per 1 lawyer to 723,189 lawyers in 1988 or 339 people per 1 lawyer and in 2012 according to American Bar Association there were 1,245,205 attorneys in US or 253 people per 1 lawyer more than in any other country in the world. As professor Turchin explains in his article Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays published in Bloomberg Opinion there was a precedent in American history
From 1830 to 1860 the number of New Yorkers and Bostonians with fortunes of at least $100,000 (they would be multimillionaires today) increased fivefold. Many of these new rich (or their sons) had political ambitions. But the government, especially the presidency, Senate and Supreme Court, was dominated by the Southern elites. As many Northerners became frustrated and embittered, the Southerners also felt the pressure and became increasingly defensive.
As we all well aware this conflict eventually caused the Civil War.    
   While there are other 29 factors identified by professor Turchin that have to be present for the social calamity that brings demise of the society because of political forces fed by lawyers who pursue political ambitions instead of legal is intuitively convincing argument. However, as professor Turchin correctly noted in his blog
 As usual, when writing for popular outlets, one must sacrifice detail for readability. For those readers who are interested in exploring these issues in more detail I collected together the relevant blogs, under three headings.
So if you are interested in learning more, please, read professor's blogs from that list or at least this one Bimodal Lawyers: How Extreme Competition Breeds Extreme Inequality
Discuss
  Yesterday, December 19, 2013, journal Genetics in Medicine published two articles  The Angelina effect: immediate reach, grasp, and impact of going public and Angelina Jolie’s faulty gene: newspaper coverage of a celebrity’s preventive bilateral mastectomy in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom that really go into depth explaining what is wrong with public understanding of complexity decisions based on genetic testing. The scientists were extremely interested in studying public response to Angelina Jolie’s announcement in New York Times Op-ed about her preventive double mastectomy because it explains broad public understanding of the genetic testing and important for communication between physicians and patients.
The story was featured in news and entertainment media of all kinds; Ms Jolie’s picture appeared on the cover of People magazine on two consecutive weeks following her revelation (15 May 2013 and 22 May 2013) and TIME magazine (27 May 2013) as well as a host of European and Asian periodicals. In Britain, Jolie’s picture appeared on the front page of every national newspaper immediately following her disclosure.
The Angelina effect: immediate reach, grasp, and impact of going public
This is not the first time scientists study "celebrity effect" on public understanding of health related personal stories that "have the potential to stimulate public interest and awareness of illness or medical procedures, inspire others to face similar medical issues, and promote public health policy. Media coverage of celebrity cancer experiences has been shown to impact health service utilization and adherence to preventive health guidelines" However, this is a first time this study has a "genetic component" to it. In fact, there is a significant difference in between a story were diagnosis is known and a story preventive action based on genetic test. What the both study have shown that often the message gets garbled in media and/or is not a simple matter to understand for a lay person. The first study, The Angelina effect, was conducted in US using a survey with a representative national online panel of 2,572 adults. The second study analyzed articles published in leading "newspapers in Canada, the
United States, and the United Kingdom. The data set consisted of 103 newspaper articles published in the first month of media coverage."

You can listen to a podcast of the Genetics in Medicine journal with authors of the studies discussing the results and conclusions.

    Here is the summary of the conclusions reached by the authors of these 2 studies.
The Angelina effect: immediate reach, grasp, and impact of going public

   While three of four Americans were aware of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy, fewer than 10% of respondents had the information necessary to accurately interpret Ms Jolie’s risk of developing cancer relative to a woman unaffected by the BRCA gene mutation. Awareness of the Angelina Jolie story was not associated with improved understanding.
    Significant differences in awareness existed across sociodemographic groups with higher recall of the story among women and whites and lower recall among younger, unmarried, less affluent, less educated, and numerate respondents. There were no significant differences in story awareness evident in regard to geographical region and family history of cancer.
    Among respondents aware of the story, almost half (47%) reported her risk within a reasonable range (80–90%) of Jolie’s disclosed estimated risk of 87%. Among respondents who accurately reported Jolie’s estimated risk, fewer than 10% had the information necessary to interpret Ms Jolie’s risk of developing cancer relative to a
woman unaffected by the BRCA gene mutation.
    We found that individuals aware of the story and who reported at least one affected firstdegree relative were less likely to rate their personal risk as higher than the population average relative to those who had similar family health histories and did not know the story (39 vs. 59%; P < 0.05). Perhaps even more striking and worrisome is that about half of all individuals aware of the story and without a family history of cancer rated their cancer risk as lower than the population average relative to those without a family history and unaware of the story (47 vs. 52%, but the difference was not statistically significant).
     Although the story was widely reported, only 3.4% of the respondents who were aware of the story indicated that they had read Ms Jolie’s commentary originally in The New York Times. Most respondents became aware of the story though a national or local television news story (61.2%) or entertainment piece (21.5%). A quarter (25.7%) of respondents reported exposure to the story from two or more information sources.
Angelina Jolie’s faulty gene: newspaper coverage of a celebrity’s preventive bilateral mastectomy in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom
    We found that Jolie’s preventive mastectomy attracted significant attention from the news media in each country. Most coverage occurred within the first 3 days after the breaking news of Jolie’s surgery on 13 May 2013—44 articles (42.5%) were published between 14 May and 16 May: 8 (7.8%) on 14 May; 32 (31.1%) on 15 May; and 14 (13.6%) on 17 May. Subsequent coverage was less frequent, but media attention to the story remained steady in all three countries.
    Results show that the story was prominently featured in the news section of elite newspapers, unlike the more traditional placement of celebrity news in the entertainment or lifestyle sections. Forty articles (38.8 %) were published in the news section, and 5 articles (4.9%) were placed on the front page of newspapers. Furthermore, 32 articles (31.1%) were news stories, 24 (23.3%) were editorial or
opinion pieces, 8 (7.8%) were investigative reports, 9 (8.7%) were columns, 8 (7.8%) were health or lifestyle articles, and 22 (21.4%) were categorized as “other” (e.g., interviews and letters to editor).
      The primary framing of Jolie’s decision in 40 articles (38.8%) was as “brave and courageous,” in 23 articles (22.3%) as “rational, well-informed, and evidence based,” in 13 (12.6%) as “empowering, inspiring, and a role model for other women,” and in 4 (3.9%) as “fearful and made under duress”; only one article framed it as “an act of narcissistic and attention-seeking celebrity”.
     The primary issue concerning BRCA1/2 gene mutations highlighted in 72 articles (69.9%) was the increased risk of hereditary breast/ovarian cancer. Other concerns were the primary focus of 23 articles (22.3%), particularly the low percentage of women who carry BRCA1/2 mutations, the cost of genetic testing, the impact of predictive genetic testing on patients’ mental health, or general discussions about preventive medicine.
      The gene patenting controversy was discussed in 11 (10.7 %) of the news stories, 7 of which were published in the United States, 1 in Canada, and 3 in the United Kingdom. Nine articles suggested that striking down the Myriad patents on BRCA1/2 tests would lower the cost of genetic testing—one in Canada, five in the United States, and three in the United Kingdom. Five articles expressed concerns that a decision by the Supreme Court to invalidate Myriad’s gene patents would stifle innovation in biotechnology—one in Canada, three in the United States, and one in the United Kingdom. Only two articles suggested that invalidating patents of human genes would spur innovation in the biotechnology industry—one in Canada and one in the United States.
   The results of both studies highlighted the complex issue of genetic testing and its practical result. They clearly demonstrated that "over-the-counter" genetic testing is for the future and not for today. Even before these studies the same journal, Genetics in Medicine published other articles on the same subject highlighting complexity of the genetic testing and its practical use. The first of these article/study “Trust is not something you can reclaim easily”: patenting in the field of direct-to-consumer genetic testing served the purpose to "analyze the patent portfolio of this prominent direct-to-consumer genetic testing company (23andMe) and discuss the potential ethical implications of patenting in this field for public participation in Web-based genetic research." The authors of this study published in November of 2012 came to conclusion
An important lesson to be drawn from this ongoing controversy seems to be that any (private or public) organization involved in research that relies on human participation, whether by providing information, body material, or both, needs to be transparent, not only about its research goals but also about its strategies and policies regarding commercialization.
   This is actually was a part of the FDA demands that 23andMe failed to provide.
    The second article Personalized medicine and genetic malpractice
ahead of the aforementioned two studies of "Angelina effect" was predicting some of their conclusions.  
   This so-called “Angelina effect” exemplifies a growing consumer interest and medical uptake of genetic testing in response to the increased availability and utility of clinically relevant genetic data. The advent of next-generation DNA sequencing will further accelerate this trend toward increased reliance on genetic data in the health-care system, and health-care providers, in almost every specialty, will be required to have some familiarity with genetic data.

   The article also addressed another issue that public often tends to miss excited by the general media optimistic and futuristic tone:
... as the use and usefulness of genetic information in clinical decision making continues to expand, the specter of lawsuits against physicians and other health-care entities for genetic malpractice also becomes a reality. Consider the following three cases from the past year, which illustrate three major areas of genetic testing in which potential liability is a growing concern—cancer predisposition screening, prenatal testing, and pharmacogenomic profiling.
     A woman from Connecticut sued her physician for failing to warn that her extensive family history of breast cancer suggested a genetic risk of ovarian cancer. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently upheld a $4 million jury verdict to her after she went on to develop ovarian cancer.
      A couple from Oregon successfully sued their physicians and hospital for negligence in performing and interpreting prenatal genetic testing for Down syndrome. The jury awarded the parents $3 million in damages after the child was born with Down syndrome.
      A woman from California sued her health-care providers for prescribing carbamazepine without first recommending genetic testing as recommended by the label approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients of Asian ancestry.
The woman, who is of Asian descent, developed Stevens–Johnson syndrome after being prescribed the drug. Her case is currently in arbitration.
  While analyzing preparedness of the medical community to personalized medicine and use of genetic testing the authors express the following sentiment
there are likely to be many actual or perceived victims of inadequate or erroneous applications of personalized medicine. Adverse drug effects, for example, are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 100,000 fatalities per year, in addition to more than 2 million hospitalizations.
   The authors emphasize that  
there is a lack of preparation for the genetic era in the provider community. A recent survey by the American Medical Association (Chicago) and Medco (St Louis) found that most medical schools have only recently begun training their medical students in genetics, and only 29% of physicians reported any training in genetics.8 Moreover, 98% of surveyed physicians believed that genetics was important for making clinical decisions, but only 10% were actually using genetic information in their practices. Meanwhile, the number of genetic counselors and physicians with specialty training in genetics is already inadequate (~3,000 nationwide for each category).
    Obviously, there is even bigger gap in public understanding and expectation of the outcomes of the personalized genetic approach and current reality of its application. If anything these news and information should convince consumers and patients to proceed with caution and more rely on the professional medical advise than on do-it-yourself genetic screening.
Discuss

  Today the District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, Richard J. Leon, appointed in 2002 by George W. Bush, ruled that bulk NSA metadata collection is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of Constitution. The plaintiffs who brought the case against Obama, NSA, Verizon and other parties,  

Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, father of a cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. His son worked for the NSA and carried out support work for Navy Seal Team Six, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden. Guardian, NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules
  Not just once the judge invoked parallel to Orwell's description of totalitarian states. For example, beginning his analysis with "Supreme Court's landmark opinion in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)", judge wrote
Third, the almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979. In Smith, the Supreme Court was actually considering whether local police could collect one person's phone records for calls made after the pen register was installed and for the limited purpose of a small-scale investigation of harassing phone calls. The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that data for a five-year period, updating it with new data every day in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction.  (emphasis supplied)  MEMORANDUM OPINION December 16,2013 [Dkt. # 13 (No. 13-0851), # 10 (No. 13-0881)]
  The judge not only very convincingly demonstrated fundamental difference between limited collection of the metadata and a database that contains bulk metadata of telephone and internet communications of hundreds of millions of people that is constantly updated, but clearly showed how intrusive it is and that it violates the Fourth Amendment. The judge, however, ruled
in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, I will stay my order pending appeal.
  The judge also did not address plaintiff's claims that NSA violated their rights under First and Fifth Amendments noting
Because I ultimately find that plaintiffs have made a sufficient showing to merit injunctive relief on their Fourth Amendment claim, I do not reach their other constitutional claims under the First and Fifth Amendments
   Metaphorically speaking the ball is now in the Government's court. Let's see what the Government will pull out for the appeal, but it is clear now that it has fewer supporters that most people have thought.  
Poll

Do you think that judge's decision will lead to a change of the surveillance program?

6%1 votes
18%3 votes
50%8 votes
18%3 votes

| 16 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

  The answer is short - directly to consumer advertising. If you do not know what it is read first the article and watch the video from the Sunday NY Times The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder. Here is the story in the nutshell

When federal guidelines were loosened in the late 1990s to allow the marketing of controlled substances like stimulants directly to the public, pharmaceutical companies began targeting perhaps the most impressionable consumers of all: parents, specifically mothers.
As result
The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, went from no ads for A.D.H.D. medications from 1990 to 1993 to about 100 pages per year a decade later. Almost every full-page color ad was for an A.D.H.D. drug.
Which in its turn lead to this statistics
... the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”
   “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”
So what, you may say, if it helps children and parents? Well, not so fast ...
  Many doctors have portrayed the medications as benign — “safer than aspirin,” some say — even though they can have significant side effects and are regulated in the same class as morphine and oxycodone because of their potential for abuse and addiction. Patient advocacy groups tried to get the government to loosen regulation of stimulants while having sizable portions of their operating budgets covered by pharmaceutical interests.
 Even Roger Griggs, the pharmaceutical executive who introduced Adderall in 1994, said he strongly opposes marketing stimulants to the general public because of their dangers. He calls them “nuclear bombs,” warranted only under extreme circumstances and when carefully overseen by a physician.

   Psychiatric breakdown and suicidal thoughts are the most rare and extreme results of stimulant addiction, but those horror stories are far outnumbered by people who, seeking to study or work longer hours, cannot sleep for days, lose their appetite or hallucinate. More can simply become habituated to the pills and feel they cannot cope without them.

Do not forget that we are often talking children in their teens and nobody knows statistics and side effects for long-term use of these medications because they have been around for less then 20 years.  
   So what is the connection with 23andMe? Very simple -- direct advertising to the consumers who want a miracle to happen and are unaware of potential problems. Here is the article from Monday's Los Angeles Times -- 23andMe's genetic tests are more misleading than helpful.
  Personal genetic testing has been building toward a craze for some time, as evidence mounts that certain genes or mutations can affect individuals' health profiles. Consumer interest often spikes with news events: Anne Wojcicki, the founder and CEO of 23andMe, says inquiries poured into her office in May, after actress Angelina Jolie disclosed that she'd undergone a precautionary double mastectomy upon learning she carried a gene that predisposed her to breast cancer.
What Anne Wojcicki did not mention that the test Angelina Jolie used is most likely a patented test developed by the company Myriad Genetics and this case is patented, which means 23andMe could not use it. That's not all -- the test is very expensive about $3,000 (maybe it slightly less because of this year Supreme Court Decision) and while, according to the company, it is covered by most insurances co-payment is still $100 or even as high as $375. Is 23andMe test approved by FDA? Obviously not, and most likely is not covered by insurances.
  That is not all. 23andMe is using direct advertising
Another reason is its aggressive national advertising, for which it budgeted $5 million for 2013 alone. But that was before the FDA swooped down; the TV ads have been taken off the company's YouTube channel.
Yet you can still see this slick commercial featuring Mohammed Ali

and many others.

  "Any reasonable interpretation would assume this is news you can use, until you get to the disclaimer," says David Hunter of the Harvard School of Public Health, a critic of direct-to-consumer marketing of genetic testing. "The problem is we are notoriously poor at estimating risk and communicating relative and absolute risk."
 In the previous posting we warned you that technology is still very young and interpretations of the test or to be more exact rush to conclusion could be extremely misleading. Here is the perfect example of 23andMe conclusions.
 In a fawning recent profile of Wojcicki, for example, the magazine Fast Company reported that Google's Brin changed his lifestyle after a 23andMe test revealed that he carries a genetic mutation associated with a higher risk of Parkinson's disease — "30% to 75%, compared to 1% for the general population," the magazine reported.
   That sounds like a horrific near-certainty that Brin will succumb. But it actually means that if Parkinson's affects 1% of the population, Brin's risk is 1.3% to 1.75% — based on his genetic profile alone, and leaving aside the role of environmental factors in Parkinson's. Nor do the raw figures explain that the incidence of Parkinson's rises sharply with age, with as little as 4% of all cases appearing before the age of 50.
  That is why our statement that genetic testing is still to early to make over-the-counter supported by many physicians.
  The problem with the service provided by 23andMe and its competitors — and the root of the FDA's concern — is that raw genetic information is very hard for a lay person to interpret. "The technology is just not ready for prime time," says David B. Agus, a USC cancer specialist who co-founded Navigenics to market professional genetic testing services.
  Or, for example, another article What Do Doctors Think About 23andme? from Forbes magazine.
    The "public" outcry provoked by some media talking heads and techno-libertarians is not by any means justified. Do not fall victim to techno propaganda and paranoid distrust to the government. There are plenty of honest people who worked for the government as well. And FDA, if anything, is the best and most efficient part of the government driven by principal Primum Non Nocere - First Do No Harm.
  That is why we created petition supporting FDA actions regarding 23andMe and urging you to consider signing it and help spreading the word and ask your friends to do likewise.
Poll

Do you still believe that FDA deprived you from your "genetic information" or protected you from misleading advertising?

29%11 votes
16%6 votes
37%14 votes
16%6 votes

| 37 votes | Vote | Results

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