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Nederlog


  December
17, 2013
Crisis:  NSA * 2, Snowden * 3, May, Folic acid, vitamins, Angell
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.











Sections
Introduction
  1.  NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional,
        federal judge rules

  2.  '60 Minutes' Blasted For NSA Piece
  3.  Edward Snowden offers to help Brazil over US spying in
        return for asylum
  4.  No amnesty for Edward Snowden, White House insists
  5.  Ruling on Unconstitutionality of NSA Surveillance
        Methods Vindicates His Disclosures

  6.  MPs grill Theresa May over spy chiefs' 'melodramatic
        soundbites' on NSA file
  7.  Folic acid in bread 'could be a health timebomb'
  8.  Vitamin supplements are waste of money, say
        scientists

  9.  an action figure…

About ME/CFS

Introduction

This is another crisis report. Yesterday there was one item I found; today there are eight, plus three health related items, of which at least the first two are of importance to most people.

1. NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules

To start with, an article by Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the US constitution, in the most significant legal setback for the agency since the publication of the first surveillance disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Judge Richard Leon declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was "almost Orwellian" in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be "aghast" at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans' communications data.

The ruling, by the US district court for the District of Columbia, is a blow to the Obama administration, and sets up a legal battle that will drag on for months, almost certainly destined to end up in the supreme court. It was welcomed by campaigners pressing to rein in the NSA, and by Snowden, who issued a rare public statement saying it had vindicated his disclosures. It is also likely to influence other legal challenges to the NSA, currently working their way through federal courts.

I say - well... not really, but this is good and sensible, and shows not all American judges are bought or blackmailed. Yet.

Seriously, this is quite good, although as the next item will show, there also are some difficulties. But first the judge's opinions (from a 68 page judgment, by a judge appointed by Bush Jr), that are also quoted:

“Plaintiffs have a substantial likelihood of showing that their privacy interests outweigh the government’s interest in collecting and analysing bulk telephony metadata and therefore the NSA’s bulk collection program is indeed an unreasonable search under the fourth amendment,” he wrote.

Leon said that the mass collection of phone metadata, revealed by the Guardian in June, was "indiscriminatory" and "arbitrary" in its scope. "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," he wrote, referring to the year in which the US supreme court ruled on a fourth amendment case upon which the NSA now relies to justify the bulk records program.

Yes, indeed: It is illegal; it should never have happened; and it should all be turned back. I quite agree, although it is is unlikely the US government sees it that way, for it is much nicer, for most governors, to be part of a government that is in control of its people, than that the people should be in control of the government.

Now to another item on the same subject, that shows that there are some doubts about the lawyer who brought the case before the judge. This is by The Young Turks, in 4 1/2 minutes of video:

They also cite the judge:



And they quote the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution
They also complain about the attorney that brought the case before the judge, for a father who lost his son, who was an NSA-analyst, but explain as well that these complaints are not relevant to the judgement.

2.  '60 Minutes' Blasted For NSA Piece 

Next, another piece of video by The Young Turks on a recent piece on '60 minutes':

This takes nearly 7 1/2 minutes, but is worth seeing because it outlines the revolving door that supports John Miller, who presented the program: He is a "journalist" - something quite different from a journalist - who spent much of his time as an intelligence officer, which he did before, and will do after doing the piece on the NSA, that indeed was widely blasted as "a puff piece".

3. Edward Snowden offers to help Brazil over US spying in return for asylum

Next, an article by Paul Owen in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden has offered to help Brazil investigate US spying on its soil in exchange for political asylum, in an open letter from the NSA whistleblower to the Brazilian people published by the Folha de S Paulo newspaper.

"I've expressed my willingness to assist where it's appropriate and legal, but, unfortunately, the US government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so," Snowden said in the letter.

"Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out," he said.

Snowden – currently living in Russia, where he has been granted a year's asylum until next summer – said he had been impressed by the Brazilian government's strong criticism of the NSA spy programme targeting internet and telecommunications worldwide, including monitoring the mobile phone of the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.

There is considerably more in the article. Note that Glenn Greenwald lives in Brazil, but also note that it would probably be a lot easier to kidnap Snowden from Brazil than from Russia.

4.  No amnesty for Edward Snowden, White House insists

Next, an article by Dan Roberts in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The White House has dashed hopes that the administration might be considering an amnesty for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, insisting he should still return to the US to stand trial.

Despite mounting acknowledgement that Snowden has raised important matters of public interest through the leaks to the Guardian and other newspapers, a US government spokesman said its position remained unchanged.

“Mr Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information and he faces felony charges in the US. He should be returned to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.

Asked about weekend comments by a senior NSA official suggesting that an amnesty was “worth talking about” if Snowden returned the missing NSA documents, Carney added: “Our position has not changed on that matter – at all. He was expressing he personal opinion; these decisions are made by the Department of Justice.”

There is considerably more in the article. I just want to say that the White House's spokesman has not dashed my hopes: I never had any.

5. Edward Snowden Says Judge's Ruling on Unconstitutionality of NSA Surveillance Methods Vindicates His Disclosures

Next, an article by Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman, that originally appeared in the Guardian but that I found on AlterNet:

This starts as follows: 

Edward Snowden, the former security contractor who leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents, welcomed a court ruling on Monday that declared the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records to be a likely violation of the US constitution.

Snowden said the ruling, by a US district judge, justified his disclosures. “I acted on my belief that the NSA's mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts," he said in comments released through Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who received the documents from Snowden.

Quite so. The article also cites two senators:

Senator Mark Udall, a leading critic of the dragnet collection, welcomed the judgment. "The ruling underscores what I have argued for years: [that] the bulk collection of Americans' phone records conflicts with Americans' privacy rights under the US constitution and has failed to make us safer," said Udall, a Democrat.

Senator Ron Wyden, another NSA critic, also welcomed the ruling. "Judge Leon’s ruling hits the nail on the head. It makes clear that bulk phone records collection is intrusive digital surveillance and not simply inoffensive data collection as some have said."

Again: quite so.

6. MPs grill Theresa May over spy chiefs' 'melodramatic soundbites' on NSA files

Next, we go to Great Britain, with an article by Nick Hopkins in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The home secretary, Theresa May, faced criticism from MPs on Monday for failing to provide evidence to support the "melodramatic soundbites" of Britain's spy agencies claiming that revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden had damaged the UK's national security.

During a 45-minute grilling by the home affairs select committee, May was repeatedly asked whether she had evidence to back up "highly emotional statements" made by the heads of MI5, Andrew Parker, and MI6, Sir John Sawers. They have said stories published by the Guardian were a "gift for terrorists".

Keith Vaz, the committee chair, asked five times whether the home secretary had been given proof to support the agencies' rhetoric. He asked: "These statements are made, but no evidence is put forward. Do you have any evidence today?"

Well... it's something. There's also this:

Michael Ellis, a Conservative member of the committee, asked May why the head of MI5 "feels able to make melodramatic soundbites … and his colleagues made soundbites to get across their points" without providing evidence.

May said the agency chiefs should report primarily to parliament's intelligence and security committee (ISC), which takes a lead on scrutiny of the agencies and has recently been given new powers.

Vaz told the home secretary: "What you have given us today, and what we have heard so far, is only second-hand information. Mr Parker and Sir John are making statements in open session and nobody knows what the follow-up is."

In any case: It seems thinking has started in Great Britain. What its outcome will be is not yet settled, but this is a first step towards rational thought (on the subject of spying on your total population, as if what can be done must be done, also without any say-so of anyone except for the spies themselves).

7. Folic acid in bread 'could be a health timebomb'

Next, we change to the first of three health items. This is from the Daily Mail, that I very seldomly read, and that still - since I last saw it - paragraphs each sentence:

But OK. Here is the beginning of the article:

Adding folic acid to bread supplies may significantly damage the nation's health, food scientists have warned.

A plan to fortify flour with the B vitamin in a bid to reduce birth defects could backfire by increasing cases of bowel cancer and trigger problems for people with leukaemia and arthritis.

But it might take 20 years before the effects of increased consumption by millions of people become known, says the Institute of Food Research.

The IFR's warning will fuel debate over whether the benefits of fortifying flour with folic acid outweigh the health risks.

It comes as the Food Standards Agency has in principle approved putting folic acid in bread flour, although Government ministers have yet to make the final decision.

By boosting the diets of pregnant women, it would cut the rate of defects such as spina bifida in the unborn baby which can cause serious disability.

However, research has suggested the human body might struggle to break down folic acid in even half the amounts proposed for supplementing foods.

In fact, this is mostly correct, although it is not quite correct that folic acid is a B vitamin: It is itself inactive until transformed to levomefolic acid - and some 50% of the population either does not convert most of it (10%) or only converts it partially. The remaining 50% converts it.

My problem with it is that I seem to not convert it (but the Dutch medical men do not wish to research whether I am one of the 50%, though they are quite willing to explain to me for twice the costs of doing the research why they do not want to do the research - and yes, you read that well), while I have taken very many daily doses of folic acid each day with B vitamin supplements and with other vitamins, to many of which it also is added.

In any case: I see no reason to feed the whole population with folic acid if only 50% of the population can deal with it well. Also, I find it odd that it is folic acid rather than levomefolic acid that is added: levomefolic acid can be dealt with by all.

So yes, I think this may be a ticking time bomb, indeed not for all, but for the 10 to 50% who cannot deal well with it.

8. Vitamin supplements are waste of money, say scientists

Next, there is an article in the Guardian without known author, to the following effect:

This starts as follows:

Vitamin supplements almost never have health benefits, are a waste of money and could even be harmful, a group of scientists said in a damning indictment of the industry.

Despite one in three Britons taking vitamins or mineral pills, evidence from studies of almost 500,000 people suggested that "supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults … has no clear benefit and might even be harmful."

The conclusions were drawn by British and US academics at the University of Warwick and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The scientists also suggested that companies selling supplements were fuelling false health anxieties to offer unnecessary cures, according to the Times.

I am sorry, but I do not believe this - and yes, I am using vitamins since 1983, and yes, they have helped me, but have not cured me, and no: I do not know the reasons for this because nearly all the medical "scientists" I met reasoned like these medical "scientists" (which is a proof of fashion, rather than of science or "science").

Besides, I have over the last three years lost nearly all my faith in medical science, since I now know that:

  • many medical articles in medical "scientific" journals are not written by their well-known authors but by ghostwriters
  • many medical data that are the basis for the articles in the medical "scientific" journals are kept secret by the pharmaceutical companies for totally false and dishonest reasons
  • medical "scientists" are among the highest paid professionals
  • medical "scientists" if doctors are now for decades the subjects of personal campaigns, that easily run into tenthousands of dollars per year, so as to make them prescribe expensive pills, that may not work at all or have side-effects that have been suppressed
  • the "science" of psychiatry currently has over 400 "disorders" that nearly all come with very expensive pills, the selling of as many as possible to as many patients as possible seems to be the only reason this "science" - which is a pseudoscience - exists, and
  • the "science" of psychiatry has a general answer to each and any medically unexplained disease: Every patient with a medically unexplained disease has no disease but has one (or more) of the 400+ "disorders", for which there are expensive psychotropic drugs.
  • [two more points on December 18, 2013]

Also, I am ill for 35 years now without having gotten almost any medical help, apart from sleeping pills; the disease I have is massively underresearched for lack of money; and besides, I also have rarely met a truly intelligent medical doctor, though I admit this has happened. (And yes, I do have an IQ over 150, and I have one of the best M.A.s in psychology, all taken while I was ill: These facts do make a difference.)

And I am 63 and have not been seriously ill for 63 years, except that I have ME/CFS, and have one of the very best M.A.s in psychology that was ever awarded, but I never in my life earned more than the most minimal income, because I get no help of any kind, apart from sleeping pills (that I also have to pay myself).

So while I am quite clear that makers of vitamins are in their business to get better of it, all the health care givers I have met in my life gave care because they made a LOT of money that way, and nearly all of the medical health care givers that I have met - 95% at least - were extremely well paid frauds, given what they told me about my complaints, though indeed not all were, and I have seen some good doctors as well.

Therefore I say that medical "scientists" should keep their mouths shut about vitamin and mineral supplements until medical "science" is a real science again, and not a corrupt partial or pseudo science that seems to work mostly as an adjunct of Big Pharma: I simply disbelieve their honesty, their competence, and their integrity, and I also am afraid this is not so much a way of trying to stop people popping useless pills, but a way of trying to convert people to more expensive and more profitable psychiatric drugs.

In case you disbelieve my dotted points, read on:

9. an action figure…

Finally, a piece by 1 boring old man:

Actually, I did not like the article particularly much, for it has a rather strange way of criticizing Marcia Angell (<- my article of June 11, 2013) for "formulating shoulds", as if these are useless, while Angell is one of the few medical scientists who articulated the right kind of shoulds, and who criticized psychiatry in public long before 1 boring old man did so.

But he does quote Marcia Angell, from an article called "Money and medical journals", and that quote you get here, in which the boldings are mine:

Most medical journals that publish reports of clinical research are owned by professional societies. Some are distributed to members for free; others are available by subscription. Some lose money for their owners; others subsidize their owners. The most extreme example of the latter is the New England Journal of Medicine , whose income makes its owner, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the richest medical society in the country. What they all have in common is their dependence on support from the pharmaceutical industry – through ads, through support of meetings, and through the purchase of reprints. This is a huge conflict of interest, even on the face of it. Journals have an obligation to report harms as well as benefits of prescription drugs, yet it is only natural that they would be reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them. I would favor eliminating pharmaceutical ads in medical journals altogether; if they want to carry ads, the ads should be for products unrelated to the practice of medicine.

In addition, the disinterestedness of medical journals is all the more important given the biases introduced by the pharmaceutical industry in the rest of the system. Negative clinical trials sponsored by drug companies are often, maybe usually, not even submitted for publication. Those that are submitted are often designed in such a way to make a positive result likely. These biases reflect the financial conflicts of interest that permeate academic medicine. In a sense, the medical journals are the thin blue line that could help to protect the integrity of clinical research. When they, too, are corrupted by conflicts of interest, there is very little recourse.

We also need to recognize the unusual position of medical journals at the interface between the public and private sectors. The costs of careful peer review and editing are substantial, and journals have a right to recoup that expense in some way. But there needs to be some recognition of the fact that privately owned medical journals often publish publicly funded research, and thus are subsidized by taxpayers. As a consequence, they should make research reports available without charge within a very short time after publication, and their net income should not be excessive compared with their costs.
I agree these are all shoulds. Until these shoulds, and some more, are again practised, as they were before the 1980ies, I am very skeptical of medical science, for almost each medical man is into medicine to make money, and the present practice of medical journals stinks of corruption, for reasons outlined above, and more, while I am totally out on psychiatry: that is a fraudulent pseudoscience, that is: intentionally deceptive lying for money, and the sooner it disappears the better it is for everybody.

Finally, there are good medical people, and there even are a few psychiatrists who do good, but all of them practice for money and nearly all of them are ordinary people, albeit it a bit more intelligent than most, and also rather a lot richer than most, and among ordinary people, including medical men and women, only a few are good or very good, as persons, as scientists, or as clinicians, while most collaborate with the pharmaceutical companies, and indeed are also made the subject of many attentions and lots of salesmanship by the pharmaceutical companies, whose pills they prescribe, often for profit or because of the special attentions given to them by pharmeceutical salesmen (and women).

Medicine is sick these days, although it seems sickest in the US, where also most money is being made, and the reason is the same as that the banks are sick: "Greed is good". Also, it doesn't need to be sick and it wouldn't be sick, apart from psychiatry and a few other specialisms, if only it were better regulated than it is.
---------------------------------
P.S. Dec 18, 2013: I added two more points (by means of a link to Dec 18).
Note

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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