Monthly Archives: April 2012

7-Year-Old Girl With Cerebral Palsy Gets Agressive TSA Pat-Down; Family Misses Flight


The seven-year-old’s leg braces won’t allow her to pass through metal detectors. (April 25, 2012)

IBTimes | Apr 25, 2012

The ever-controversial screening policies of the TSA are under the microscope again after Dina Frank, a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, was rigorously patted down to the point where her family missed their flight.

“They make our lives completely difficult,” Dina’s father, Joshua Frank, told The Daily, as reported by CBS Washington, referring to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. Dina’s “not a threat to national security.”

Dina’s condition prevents her from being able to go through metal detectors at airports because of her leg braces and crutches, which means TSA agents have to pat her down.

The experience is usually uncomfortable for Dina and her family asks that TSA agents be friendly with her during the pat down.

Mom: TSA agents at Wichita airport treated daughter, 4, like a terrorist

But Monday’s incident did not go as usual for Dina, as the agents were aggressive with her, the Franks said.

The pat-down ordeal caused the Franks to miss their flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to their destination in Florida.

Joshua Frank is the latest to criticize the TSA over their screening policies, joining celebrities such as model Bar Refaeli, who suggested the TSA agent who patted her down must have been a lesbian over the way she was handled by the agent.

But did the TSA reach a new low over Dina’s pat-down?

“They’re harassing people. This is totally misguided policy,” Frank said. “Yes, I understand that TSA is in charge of national security and there’s all these threats. For [Dina] to be singled out, it’s crazy.”

The incident came just three days after Dina was featured on CBS 2 New York after she was able to take her first steps after getting a Botox treatment.

Dina’s mother, Marcy Frank, hailed the new treatment.

“Now she’ll walk around the neighborhood. We don’t need to take the wheelchair anywhere anymore. It’s incredible,” Marcy Frank told the news station.

Dina’s father said the treatment has changed his daughter’s life.

“As a parent, it’s just amazing to be able to see your daughter walk out onto the driveway and onto a school bus instead of having to be put in a wheelchair and having to be lifted onto the school bus is a life we couldn’t have even imagined a year ago,” he said.

Bribe-taking TSA screeners at LAX arrested for drug trafficking


This Jan. 10, 2007 file photo shows Transportation Security Officer Juan Morales at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. Two former and current Transportation Security Administration employees have been arrested and indicted on drug conspiracy charges for allegedly allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through security screening at Los Angeles International Airport last year. Seven people face drug-related charges in a 22-count indictment unsealed Wednesday April 25, 2012, in Los Angeles federal court. (AP Photo/Ann Johansson, File)

TSA screeners charged in LA drug trafficking probe

Associated Press | Apr 25, 2012

By GREG RISLING

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two former and two current Transportation Security Administration employees have been arrested on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges for allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through X-ray machines at security checkpoints in exchange for cash, authorities said.

A 22-count indictment unsealed Wednesday outlined five incidents where the employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at Los Angeles International Airport over a six-month period last year.

“The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation’s security needs,” said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.

Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener.

It wasn’t immediately known if any of the four had retained attorneys.

TSA screeners let drug-filled luggage through LAX for cash

TSA Screeners at L.A. Airport Charged With Taking Bribes

TSA screeners at LAX arrested on narcotics trafficking charges

Authorities became aware of the smuggling scheme last February when Richardson, who began working at TSA in 2002 and White, who was hired six years ago, arranged for co-defendant Duane Eleby, a suspected drug courier, to pass a large amount of cocaine through security screening at LAX.

But Eleby failed to follow instructions provided by White and was arrested after he went to the wrong terminal and another TSA screener found the cocaine, prosecutors said.

Federal agents then set up a sting where informants were able to pass cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints without further inspection. In one case, after nearly four kilograms of meth went through an X-ray machine, Whitfield and an operative met in an airport bathroom where Whitfield was paid $600 for his efforts, court documents show.

In another instance, McKinney let more than 20 kilograms of cocaine to pass through her security checkpoint, authorities said.

Randy Parsons, TSA’s security director at LAX, said the agency is disappointed about the arrests but that it remained committed to holding its employees to the highest standards.

If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison. Whitfield, who has worked at TSA since 2008, and McKinney, a seven-year veteran, are under suspension, authorities said.

There have been a handful of other arrests of TSA employees since the agency was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Last week, former TSA officer Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone for his role in a painkiller trafficking ring. Another former TSA officer, a former New York police officer and a former Florida state trooper have already pleaded guilty.

Antidepressants Do More Harm Than Good, Study Says


The antidepressant drug Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is seen on a table. The side effects of antidepressants far outweigh their minimal benefits, according to a new study. (Photo: Reuters)

ibtimes.com | Apr 25, 2012

By Amir Khan

Antidepressants do more harm than good since patients presume the drugs are safe though numerous side effects are well known, according to a new study.

Harmful side effects of commonly prescribed antidepressants can include stroke and premature death and far outweigh the minimal benefits, according to the study authors.

“We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs,” Paul Andrews, study author and evolutionary biologist at McMaster University, said in a statement. “It’s important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they’re safe and effective.”

One class of antidepressants relieves depressive symptoms by increasing the level of serotonin hormone, a mood regulator that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. The body produces serotonin for other non-neurological purposes such as blood clots, digestion and reproduction, researchers said.

“Serotonin is an ancient chemical,” Andrews said in a statement. “It’s intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it’s going to cause some harm.”

Researchers found that antidepressants hinder serotonin regulation and can cause digestive problems, atypical sperm development, abnormal bleeding, stroke and premature death. Antidepressant manufacturers warn of side effects on drug labels though patients do not always consider how the side effects will affect their lives, according to the study authors.

“It is widely believed that antidepressant medications are both safe and effective; however, this belief was formed in the absence of adequate scientific verification,” the researchers wrote. “The weight of current evidence suggests that, in general, antidepressants are neither safe nor effective; they appear to do more harm than good.”

One in 20 Americans over the age of 12 reported feeling symptoms of depression between 2005 and 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include hopelessness, feeling like a failure, poor appetite, lack of interest in activities and suicidal thuogts.

People with depression miss almost five workdays every three months, according to the CDC. Depression causes 200 million lost workdays every year and costs employers between $17 billion and $44 billion annually, according to U.S. health authorities.

Antidepressants were the most frequently used prescription drug by people aged 18 to 44 between 2005 and 2008, according to the CDC. From 1988 to 2008, antidepressant use increased by almost 400 percent.

Doctors need to re-evaluate the prudence of dispensing antidepressant prescriptions on such a large scale, according to the study authors. The study’s findings will hopefully get clinicians to take a critical look at the drugs’ continuing use.

“It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs,” he says. “You’ve got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects – some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: Does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?”

Opiates killed 8 Americans in Afghanistan, Army records show


56 soldiers, including the eight, were investigated for using, possessing or selling the drugs

More soldiers in the Army overall are testing positive for heroin use

CNN | Apr 23, 2012

By Michael Martinez

(CNN) — Eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports.

The overdoses were revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates.

At the same time, heroin use apparently is on the rise in the Army overall, as military statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010.

Army officials didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment on Saturday. But records from the service’s Criminal Investigation Command, obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, provided glimpses into how soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles, an Afghan interpreter and in one case, an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was eventually fired.

The drug use is occurring in a country that is estimated to supply more than 90% of the world’s opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study. While the records show some soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet, the Army documents show.

Judicial Watch obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act and provided them to CNN. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the documents to CNN on Saturday.

One fatal overdose occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium from a local Afghan outside the base’s entry control point. The first soldier died after consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a cigarette, the documents show.

The reports even show soldier lingo for the drug — calling it “Afghani dip” in one case where three soldiers were accused of using the opiate, the Army investigative reports show.

The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850, including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said his group was interested in soldiers’ drug use partly because the risk was present during the Vietnam War.

“You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan,” Fitton said. “Our concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country?

“There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use,” Fitton added. “Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more.”

The group is concerned that “there hasn’t been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly,” Fitton said.

In one case, a soldier bought heroin and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from five “local national juveniles at multiple locations on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, and consumed them,” one report states. Soldiers also distributed heroin, Percocet and other drugs among themselves, according to the reports.

Another soldier fatally overdosed in December 2010 after taking several drugs, including morphine and codeine, though the drugs were not prescribed for him, the Army documents show.

One female soldier broke into the Brigade Medical Supply Office at Forward Operating Base Shank and stole expired prescription narcotics including morphine, Percocet, Valium, fentanyl and lorazepam, the documents show.

The investigative reports show soldiers using other drugs, including steroids and marijuana, and even hashish that was sold to U.S. servicemen by the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police personnel, the reports state.

Army encourages new way of looking at PTSD


A new Army policy document says symptoms often associated with combat stress — hyperarousal, anger, numbness and sleeplessness — may be signs of illness at home but also responses crucial to survival in a war zone. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / April 25, 2012)

Traditional definitions of post-traumatic stress disorder may not fit in the case of a trained warrior, a new policy document states.

Los Angeles Times | Apr 25, 2012

By Kim Murphy

SEATTLE — In a move to improve treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Army is discouraging the use of traditional definitions such as feelings of fear, helplessness and horror — symptoms that may not be in a trained warrior’s vocabulary. It also is recommending against the use of anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications for such combat stress in favor of more proven drugs.

The changes are reflected in a new policy document released this month, one that reflects a growing understanding of the “occupational” nature of the condition for many troops. For them, the symptoms often associated with combat stress — hyperarousal, anger, numbness and sleeplessness — may be signs of illness at home but also responses crucial to survival in a war zone.

Doctors who adhere strictly to traditional PTSD definitions could withhold lifesaving treatment for those who need it most, Army doctors now warn, passing over soldiers or accusing them of faking problems.

“There is considerable new evidence that certain aspects of the definition are not adequate for individuals working in the military and other first-responder occupations,” such as firefighting and police work, according to the policy, developed by the U.S. Army Medical Command.

“They often do not endorse ‘fear, helplessness or horror,’ the typical response of civilian victims to traumatic events. Although they may experience fear internally, they are trained to fall back on their training skills [and] may have other responses such as anger.”

Charles Hoge of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, who for seven years oversaw the institute’s research on the psychological consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the document reflected work already underway by a committee of the American Psychiatric Assn. to refine the standards for treating PTSD based on an abundance of new research.

Clinicians will continue to use an algorithm of symptoms to help screen for combat stress, but PTSD should no longer be summarily ruled out if a soldier meets most of the definitions but fails to exhibit classic signs of fear or helplessness, he said.

“There is greater recognition now of the occupational context,” Hoge said in an interview. “For me as a clinician, this can change how I talk about the condition with my clients. It kind of normalizes a lot of their experiences and helps them understand why they’re reacting and experiencing things in certain ways.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, called the new policy “an overdue but very welcome step toward improving the diagnosis of the invisible wounds of war … [that] will help standardize Army mental healthcare through the use of proven treatments and assessments.”

The new Army policy document estimates that up to a fourth of all service members who have deployed to combat zones come back with full-fledged PTSD but that only about 20% complete a full course of treatment.

The policy addresses growing concerns over soldiers’ use of powerful psychiatric drugs for the condition, finding that anti-anxiety drugs such as Ativan, Klonopin and Valium may do more harm than good and “should be avoided” unless specific cases warrant their use. Likewise, the new policy advises against the “off label” use of second-generation antipsychotics, especially risperidone, for PTSD because of potential long-term health effects.

The policy endorses both antidepressants such as Prozac and psychotherapy as equally valid methods of treating PTSD.

While there has been criticism of the use of these drugs among young adults because they can in some cases encourage suicidal thoughts, Army officials have long said the benefits outweigh the risks. Hoge said it was not possible to know for sure whether the two forms of therapy were equally effective because not enough studies had been done.

“There are a lot of instances when individuals need to talk through these events,” he said. “So in a lot of cases, individuals get a combination of medications and psychotherapies.”

The new policy on diagnosing PTSD could shed light on an investigation underway at the Madigan Army Medical Center near Seattle. There, about 300 combat stress cases are being reviewed after a number of PTSD diagnoses were set aside by a local Army forensic review team. Some soldiers were accused of faking PTSD symptoms, presumably to receive disability payments.

The new policy says clearly that faking PTSD is not something doctors see often.

“Although there has been debate on the role of symptom exaggeration or malingering for secondary gain … there is considerable evidence that this is rare and unlikely to be a major factor in the vast majority of disability determinations,” the policy says.

Ex-spy: Destroying CIA waterboarding videos purged ‘ugly visuals’


This undated handout photo provided by the CIA shows Jose Rodriguez. In a new book, the retired CIA officer who ordered the destruction of interrogation videos says he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives. The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al-Nashiri. In his book, “Hard Measures,” retired CIA officer Jose Rodriguez writes that, especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, if those videos were to leak out, CIA officers would be in danger.

Associated Press | Apr 25, 2012

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO

WASHINGTON — The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives.

Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama’s administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use.

“I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled ‘torturers’ by the president of the United States,” Rodriguez writes in his book, “Hard Measures.”

The book is due out April 30. The Associated Press purchased a copy Tuesday.

The chapter about the interrogation videos adds few new details to a narrative that has been explored for years by journalists, investigators and civil rights groups. But the book represents Rodriguez’s first public comment on the matter since the tape destruction was revealed in 2007.

That revelation touched off a political debate and ignited a Justice Department investigation that ultimately produced no charges. Critics accused Rodriguez of covering up torture and preventing the public from ever seeing the brutality of the CIA’s interrogations. Supporters hailed him as a hero who acted in the best interest of the country in the face of years of bureaucratic hand-wringing.

The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.

Especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Rodriguez writes, if the CIA’s videos were to leak out, officers worldwide would be in danger.

“I wasn’t going to sit around another three years waiting for people to get up the courage,” to do what CIA lawyers said he had the authority to do himself, Rodriguez writes. He describes sending the order in November 2005 as “just getting rid of some ugly visuals.”

Rodriguez writes critically of Obama’s counterterrorism policies today. With no way to capture and interrogate terrorists, Rodriguez says, the CIA relies far too much on drones. Unmanned aerial attacks alienate America’s foreign partners and make it impossible to question people in the know, he says.

These points could foreshadow Republican attack lines in the presidential race because other former senior CIA officers are advising presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is Obama’s signature national security accomplishment, but Rodriguez writes that valuable intelligence from the CIA’s “black sites” helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden.

The book is published by Threshold, a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster that also published former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir.

Scientists call for research into mobile phone brain cancers


CANCER IN CHILDREN ON THE RISE: The Children with Cancer conference will highlight figures just published by the Office of National Statistics, which show a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumours between 1999 and 2009.

  • Scientists at London conference call for independent research into potential links between using a mobile phone and brain cancer
  • Figures from ONS show 50 per cent increase in brain tumours since 1999
  • Studies ‘are split 50/50’ in conclusions, leaving the issue open for debate
  • But believers fear fall-out from the ‘biggest technological experiment in the history of our species’

Daily Mail | Apr 24, 2012

By Eddie Wrenn

A scientific conference starting in London today will urge governments across the world to support independent research into the possibility that using mobile phones encourages the growth of head cancers.

The Children with Cancer conference will highlight figures just published by the Office of National Statistics, which show a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumours between 1999 and 2009.

The ONS figures show that the incident rate has risen from two to three per 100,000 people since 1999, while figures from Bordeaux Segalen University show a one to two per cent annual increase in brain cancers in children.

Scientists and academics have long argued over the suggestion that radiation from mobile phones causes cancers. Those who believe there is a link say that – with five billion mobile phones being used worldwide – urgent research must be carried out to establish the risk.

But not everyone agrees. While governments, phone companies, and health agencies give precautionary advice about minimising mobile phone use, the Health Protection Agency is likely to conclude in a report due on Thursday that the only established risk when using a mobile is crashing a car due to being distracted by a call or text.

Professor Denis Henshaw, emeritus professor of human radiation effects at Bristol University, is opening the three-day conference in Westminster today.

He has previously advocated cigarette-style warnings on mobile phone packets and urges more independent research.

Professor Henshaw said: ‘Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems – not just brain tumours, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue.

‘The health effects of smoking alcohol and air pollution are well known and well talked about, and it’s entirely reasonable we should be openly discussing the evidence for this, but it is not happening.

‘We want to close the door before the horse has bolted.’

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) rang alarm bells last year when it classified mobile phones as ‘possibly carginogenic’.

Professor Darius Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, said: ‘For the first time a very prominent evaluation report states it so openly and clearly: RF-EMF [radio frequency electromagnetic field] is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) rang alarm bells last year when it classified mobile phones as ‘possibly carginogenic’.

Professor Darius Leszczynski, of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, said: ‘For the first time a very prominent evaluation report states it so openly and clearly: RF-EMF [radio frequency electromagnetic field] is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

CANCER IN CHILDREN ON THE RISE

Speaker Dr Annie Sasco, from the Epidemiology for Cancer Prevention unit at Bordeaux Segalen University, will highlight the one to two per cent annual increase in brain cancers in children.

She has concerns over the effect of radiation on children’s brains.

She said: ‘If the penetration of the electromagnetic waves goes for four centimetres into the brain, four centimetres into the adult brain is just the temporal lobe.

‘There are not too many important functions in the temporal lobe – but in a child the more central brain structures are going to be exposed.

‘In addition kids have a skull which is thinner, less protective, they have a higher content of water in the brain, so there are many reasons that they absorb more of the same radiation.’

Speaking to the Independent about the rise in brain cancer in children, she said: ‘It’s not age, it’s too fast to be genetic, and it isn’t all down to lifestyle, so what in the environment can it be?

”We now live in an electro-smog and people are exposed to wireless devices that we have shown in the lab to have a biological impact.

‘It is totally unethical that experimental studies are not being done very fast, in big numbers, by independently funded scientists.

‘The industry is just doing their job, I am more preoccupied with the so called independent scientists and institutions saying there is no problem.’

‘One has to remember that IARC monographs are considered as “gold standard” in evaluation of carcinogenicity of physical and chemical agents.

‘If IARC says it so clearly then there must be sufficient scientific reason for it, or IARC would not put its reputation behind such claim.’