Daily Archives: August 28, 2010

Swine flu vaccine probed over narcolepsy fears


Pandemrix is produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline for vaccination against H1N1 influenza
(AFP)

AFP | Aug 28, 2010

LONDON — The European Medicines Agency said Friday it was probing whether there is a link between the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine and the sleeping disorder narcolepsy amid concerns in Finland and Sweden.

“The European Medicines Agency has launched a review of Pandemrix on the request of the European Commission to investigate whether there is a link between cases of narcolepsy and vaccination with Pandemrix,” the EMA said.

“A limited number of cases was reported, all collected through spontaneous reporting systems, mainly in Sweden and Finland,” the London-based agency added in a statement.

Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare on Tuesday recommended halting the use of Pandemrix until a probe into a possible link to narcolepsy among children is concluded.

Last week, neighbouring Sweden’s Medical Products Agency also opened an inquiry into the Pandemrix vaccine following reports of young people having developed symptoms consistent with narcolepsy after getting their shot.

Narcolepsy is a condition in which sufferers suddenly fall into a deep sleep.

“Its precise cause is unknown, but it is generally considered to be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including infections,” the EMA said.

It added that Pandemrix — produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline — has been used since September 2009 for vaccination against H1N1 influenza for at least 30.8 million Europeans.

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Skeletal body scanner turns Total Recall into science fact

dvice.com | Aug 25, 2010

By Michael Trei

Remember that skeletal body scanner in Total Recall? A group of researchers from Wright State Research Institute wants to turn that little piece of science fiction into real life, with a scanner that can ID terrorists by analyzing their skeletal structure from up to 150 feet away.

Sure we already have facial recognition software, retinal scanners, and those full body airport scanners, but the developers say that this system will be much harder to fool.

The system can scan people as they walk in a moving crowd, and compare each person’s skeletal features against a database of known terrorists. Then using information on bone shape, density, and prior broken bones they can identify any suspect individuals. Beyond airports, they envisage the system being used at sporting events, political demonstrations, and other places likely to draw unfriendly people.

Just how their system gets the images without using massive doses of X-rays isn’t clear, but perhaps we need to start considering a complete suit to go along with that tin foil hat.

Osama bin Laden ‘is a bought and paid for CIA agent’ claims Cuban leader Fidel Castro

Daily Mail | Aug 28, 2010

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro has claimed that Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden is a CIA agent during an interview with a state newspaper. However he did not elaborate further on the claims

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has claimed Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden is a bought-and-paid-for CIA agent.

The country’s former president has said that the world’s most wanted terrorist always popped up when former US President George W Bush needed to scare the world, and argued that recently published documents on the internet prove it.

Castro told state media: ‘Any time Bush would stir up fear and make a big speech, bin Laden would appear threatening people with a story about what he was going to do.

‘Bush never lacked for bin Laden’s support. He was a subordinate.’

Castro said documents posted on the controversial WikiLeaks website ‘effectively proved he (Bin Laden) was a CIA agent.’ He did not elaborate further on the claims.

The comments were published today in the Communist party’s daily newspaper, Granma.

They were the latest in a series of bold and provocative statements by Castro, who has emerged from exile to warn the planet is on the brink of a nuclear war.

Bizarrely, Castro even predicted that global conflict would mean cancellation of the final rounds of the World Cup in South Africa. He later apologised.

And last week, the 84-year-old began highlighting the work of Lithuanian investigative journalist Daniel Estulin, who he was meeting with when the Bin Laden comments came to light.

During the meeting, Estulin told Castro that the real voice of bin Laden was last heard in late 2001, not long after the September 11 attacks.

He said the person heard making warnings about terror attacks after that was a ‘bad actor.’

Mr Estulin, is a well-known conspiracy theorist and wrote a trilogy of books highlighting the Bilderberg Club, whose prominent members meet once a year behind closed doors.

The secretive nature of the meetings and prominence of some members – including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and  senior U.S. and European officials have led some to speculate that it operates as a kind of global government, controlling not only international politics and economics, but even culture.

Fidel Castro fascinated by book on elite Bilderberg Club

In this photo released by the state media Cubadebate web site, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro delivers a speech to members of a Cuban medical brigade who arrived recently from Bolivia, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Cubadebate, Roberto Chile)

AP | Aug 18, 2010

By WILL WEISSERT

HAVANA — Fidel Castro is showcasing a theory long popular both among the far left and far right: that the shadowy Bilderberg Group has become a kind of global government, controlling not only international politics and economics, but even culture.

The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article Wednesday that used three of the only eight pages in the Communist Party newspaper Granma to quote — largely verbatim — from a 2006 book by Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin.

Estulin’s work, “The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,” argues that the international group largely runs the world. It has held a secretive annual forum of prominent politicians, thinkers and businessmen since it was founded in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in Holland.

Castro offered no comment on the excerpts other than to describe Estulin as honest and well-informed and to call his book a “fantastic story.”

Estulin’s book, as quoted by Castro, described “sinister cliques and the Bilderberg lobbyists” manipulating the public “to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self.”

The Bilderberg group’s website says its members have “nearly three days of informal and off-the-record discussion about topics of current concern” once a year, but the group does nothing else.

It said the meetings were meant to encourage people to work together on major policy issues.

The prominence of the group is what alarms critics. It often includes members of the Rockefeller family, Henry Kissinger, senior U.S. and European officials and major international business and media executives.

The excerpt published by Castro suggested that the esoteric Frankfurt School of socialist academics worked with members of the Rockefeller family in the 1950s to pave the way for rock music to “control the masses” by diverting attention from civil rights and social injustice.

“The man charged with ensuring that the Americans liked the Beatles was Walter Lippmann himself,” the excerpt asserted, referring to a political philosopher and by-then-staid newspaper columnist who died in 1974.

“In the United States and Europe, great open-air rock concerts were used to halt the growing discontent of the population,” the excerpt said.

Castro — who had an inside seat to the Cold War — has long expressed suspicions of back-room plots. He has raised questions about whether the Sept. 11 attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government to stoke military budgets and, more recently suggested that Washington was behind the March sinking of a South Korean ship blamed on North Korea.

Estulin’s own website suggests that the 9/11 attacks were likely caused by small nuclear devices, and that the CIA and drug traffickers were behind the 1988 downing of a jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that was blamed on Libya.

The Bilderberg conspiracy theory has been popular on both extremes of the ideological spectrum, even if they disagree on just what the group wants to do. Leftists accuse the group of promoting capitalist domination, while some right-wing websites argue that the Bilderberg club has imposed Barack Obama on the United States to advance socialism.

Some of Estulin’s work builds on reports by Big Jim Tucker, a researcher on the Bilderberg Group who publishes on right-wing websites.

“It’s great Hollywood material … 15 people sitting in a room sitting in a room determining the fate of mankind,” said Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy think tank in New York.

“As someone who doesn’t come out of the Oliver Stone school of conspiracy, I have a hard time believing it,” London added.

A call to a Virginia number for the American Friends of Bilderberg rang unanswered Wednesday and the group’s website lists no contact numbers.

Castro, who underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and stepped down as president in February 2008, has suddenly begun popping up everywhere recently, addressing Cuba’s parliament on the threat of a nuclear war, meeting with island ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry, writing a book and even attending the dolphin show at the Havana aquarium.

Full-Body Scan Technology Deployed In Street-Roving Vans

blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg | Aug 24, 2010

By ANDY GREENBERG

As the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, it’s worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints aren’t the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.

American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

“This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss.

Here’s a video of the vans in action.

The Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, as the company calls them, bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back. Absorbed rays indicate dense material such as steel. Scattered rays indicate less-dense objects that can include explosives, drugs, or human bodies. That capability makes them powerful tools for security, law enforcement, and border control.

It would also seem to make the vans mobile versions of the same scanning technique that’s riled privacy advocates as it’s been deployed in airports around the country. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is currently suing the DHS to stop airport deployments of the backscatter scanners, which can reveal detailed images of human bodies. (Just how much detail became clear last May, when TSA employee Rolando Negrin was charged with assaulting a coworker who made jokes about the size of Negrin’s genitalia after Negrin received a full-body scan.)

Full Story

Secret Mobile Body Scanning Vans…Coming to your City?

allgov.com | Aug 27, 2010

by Noel Brinkerhoff

(photo: American Science and Engineering)

If you thought the use of full-body scanners at airports was a violation of personal privacy, just wait. The same technology is now rolling down the streets of American cities in unmarked vans.

American Science & Engineering (AS&E), a Massachusetts-based company, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners (ZBVs) mounted in vans that allow law enforcement to peer inside nearby vehicles. To date, the biggest buyer in the federal government is the Department of Defense, which has purchased the specially-equipped vehicles for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But a company executive told Forbes that law enforcement agencies are also using the vans to search for car bombs in the U.S. AS&E, which bills its product as “a non-intrusive inspection technology,” also promotes the vans for use against the smuggling of drugs and humans.
In the words of AS&E, “In Stationary Scan Mode, ZBV operators may elect to scan the occupants of the subject vehicle. For this application, AS&E offers a Personnel Scanning option that may better enable the customer to meet any applicable country-specific regulatory requirements.”
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is suing the Department of Homeland Security to stop its use of backscatter scanners at airport checkpoints, arguing the equipment’s use is a violation of the fourth amendment. “Without a warrant, the government doesn’t have a right to peer beneath your clothes without probable cause,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC, told Forbes. “If the scans can only be used in exceptional cases in airports, the idea that they can be used routinely on city streets is a very hard argument to make.”
Z Backscatter Van™ Mobile Screening System (American Science and Engineering)

Van-mounted body scanners coming to a street near you?

Raw Story | August 25, 2010

By Daniel Tencer

US law enforcement agencies are among the customers of a Massachusetts-based company that is selling full-body scanners to be mounted inside vans and used on streets, says a report from Forbes.

American Science & Engineering, based in Billerica, Mass., told Forbes blogger Andy Greenberg that it has sold more than 500 “Z Backscatter Vans,” mobile x-ray scanning units that can be used to detect bombs, contraband and smuggled people inside nearby cars.

The company says its largest customer by far is the US military, which has purchased the machines to search for car bombs and other threats in war zones. But AS&E’s vice president of marketing, Joe Reiss, said US law enforcement agencies have also bought the machines “to search for vehicle-based bombs in the US,” Greenberg reports.

AS&E has not revealed the names of its US law enforcement customers, or how many of the machines they bought. But Reiss describes the van-mounted scanning system as “the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever.”

News of the mobile scanners has alarmed civil libertarians who worry the technology could be used to violate people’s privacy without legal justification.
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“If they are in fact being used on public streets, that would be a major violation of the Constitution,” writes Jay Stanley of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty program. “In fact, it’s hard to believe that any counsel at any government agency would sign off on allowing these vans to be used in that way.”

“The use of this technology constitutes a search, and under the Fourth Amendment, a search can only be carried out with a warrant. There are exceptions to that, but none of them would apply if this technology is being used on public streets,” Stanley writes.

He notes that the courts have created exemptions to the Fourth Amendment protection from undue search and seizure, and law enforcement officers are generally allowed to search cars. But Stanley notes that they have that ability only when probable cause is present — something that would not be the case if body scanners were examining numerous people on public streets.

Stanley speculates that some of the machines bought for domestic use are headed for Customs and Border Protection, where they could be legally used to scan cars crossing into the United States.

AS&E’s Reiss says his company’s machines are not as intrusive as the body scanners being used in airports. He told Forbes’ Greenberg that the machines can’t reproduce images of people’s faces and bodies as clearly as airport machines.

“From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be,” he said.

The body scanners currently being expanded to most major US airports have caused some controversy among privacy advocates. While the Department of Homeland Security initially claimed the machines would not have the ability to store nude images of passengers, the Electronic Privacy Information Center discovered earlier this year that the machines being installed at airports have a setting that allows them to store and transmit the images.

There have been several high-profile cases of screening technology being abused. In one heavily-publicized incident, a TSA worker in Miami who was scanned as part of a training session allegedly assaulted a co-worker who had mocked the size of his genitals.

Recently, the parents of a 12-year-old girl were outraged when she was taken aside for a full-body scan at a Florida airport without her guardian’s consent.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit against the DHS asking for the program to be suspended “pending an independent review.”

While AS&E has not disclosed which US agencies have bought the van-mounted machines for domestic use, the ACLU’s Jay Stanley warns law enforcement agencies not to get carried away with their new technology.

“Unless they have probable cause to search a specific vehicle, government agencies had better not be roaming US streets conducting backscatter X-ray scans of vehicles and their occupants (much less pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) without their knowledge or consent,” he writes. “The Constitution may have taken a battering in recent years, but on this point it remains clear.”