Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

Common Parasite Can Manipulate Our Behavior

leave a comment »

Gustavo Arrizabalaga and Bill Sullivan report at Scientific American:

Imagine a world without fear. It might be empowering to go about your daily life uninhibited by everyday distresses. You could cross highways with confidence, take on all kinds of daredevilry and watch horror flicks without flinching. Yet consider the prospect a little more deeply, and the possibilities become darker, even deadly. Our fears, after all, can protect us.

The basic aversion that a mouse has for a cat, for instance, keeps the rodent out of death’s jaws. But unfortunately for mice everywhere, there is a second enemy with which to contend, one that may prevent them from experiencing that fear in the first place. A unicellular organism (a protozoan), Toxoplasma gondii, can override a rodent’s most basic survival instincts. The result is a rodent that does not race away from a cat but is instead strangely attracted to it.

Toxoplasma‘s reach extends far beyond the world of cat and mouse. It may have a special relationship with rodent and feline hosts, but this parasite also infects the brains of billions of animals on land, at sea and in the air. Humans are no exception. Worldwide, scientists estimate that as many as three billion people may be carrying Toxoplasma. In the U.S., there is a one-in-five chance that Toxoplasma parasites are lodged in your neural circuits, and infection rates are as high as 95 percent in other countries.

For most people, this infection appears asymptomatic, but recent evidence shows that Toxoplasma actively remodels the molecular landscape of mammalian brain cells. Now some researchers have begun to speculate that this tiny single-celled organism may be tweaking human health and personalities in stealthy, subtle ways.

What the cat dragged in
Researchers first discovered T. gondii in 1908, and by the end of the 20th century they had a good grasp on how people could pick up this parasite. The story starts with cats: for reasons that scientists have yet to unravel, Toxoplasma can sexually reproduce only in the feline gut. The parasite breeds within its feline host and is released from the feline’s tail end. Cats are such obsessive groomers that it is rarely found in their fur. Instead people can become infected from kitty litter or by ingesting it in contaminated water or food.

Within a new host the parasite begins dividing asexually and spreading throughout the host’s body. During this initial stage of the infection, Toxoplasma can cause the disease toxoplasmosis in immunocompromised or otherwise susceptible hosts, leading to extensive tissue damage. Pregnant women are particularly at risk. If a woman is infected with Toxoplasma for the first time during pregnancy, the parasite may invade the developing fetus, cutting through tissues and organs as it spreads from cell to cell. Infection early in pregnancy can result in miscarriage or birth defects.

In otherwise healthy individuals, however, the only symptoms during this period are brief, flulike discomforts such as chills, fever and body ache. Within days the immune system gets the parasite under control, and Toxoplasma retreats into a dormant state. It conceals itself within a hardened wall in the host’s cells, a structure called a tissue cyst.

This stage of the infection has no other discernible symptoms, but individuals with dormant infections who develop compromised immune systems—because of AIDS, an organ transplant or chemotherapy—may experience severe complications. With the body’s defense systems weakened, Toxoplasma can reactivate and grow uncontrollably.

Once infected, a person will remain a carrier for life. Our immune system is apparently incapable of eliminating the tissue cysts, nor can any known drug. Nevertheless, the infection, detectable with a blood test, has long been viewed as relatively benign. After all, many people carry this parasite with no obvious ill effects. Only recently have scientists begun reexamining this belief.

Eat me, Mr. Kitty
In the 1980s researchers noticed unusual behaviors in Toxoplasma-infected mice. The rodents became hyperactive and groomed less. In 1994 epidemiologist Joanne Webster, then at the University of Oxford, observed that rats harboring tissue cysts behaved differently from their uninfected counterparts. Instead of fleeing from cats, the infected rodents moved toward them—making them easier prey.

Webster suspected that this “fatal feline attraction,” as she called it, was a crafty way for the parasite to get back into a cat’s belly to complete the sexual stage of its life cycle. In the years to follow, this idea gained ground: a large body of work now shows that the parasite can indeed manipulate rodents’ behavior by altering neural activity and gene expression.

Several well-controlled experiments have shown that although uninfected rodents avoid areas that have been infused with cat stench, infected rodents do not seem to mind. Even more bizarre, in 2011 neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University, molecular biologist Ajai Vyas of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and their colleagues found that—at least in terms of neural activity—infected rats appeared to be sexually attracted to cat scent.

In the mammalian brain, the “defensive” and “reproductive” neuronal pathways run in parallel. These pathways start at the olfactory bulb, involved in odor detection, and ter-minate at the limbic system, an area critical to basic reactions such as fear and arousal. Their proximity may partially explain how the parasite manipulates rodent behavior. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2015 at 2:26 pm

Be careful what you ask for: GOP Rep asks on Facebook for Obamacare horror stories from constituents

with one comment

And doubtless the answers she received did indeed fill her with horror. Jen Hayden writes at Daily Kos:

mcm
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers posted an image on her official Facebook page, slamming the Affordable Care Act on the fifth anniversary of President Obama signing it into law. She asked constituents to share their Obamacare nightmare stories and well, the response probably wasn’t what she expected. Below are a small sample of the comments constituents left on her page:

My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them. Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy. Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks

With Obamacare, I saved 300 bucks a month premium.. I have more coverage.. I like ObamaCare and can’t wait til we go to the next step… Medicare for ALL.

And now my daughter, diagnosed with MS at age 22, can have insurance. What do you plan to do with her?

My daughter is fighting for her life with stage 3 breast cancer! We are about to enter a second go round of diagnostic procedures and possibly more treatment after two full years of treatment! So yah! The ACA is more than helping! I resent that our rep thinks the only problems involve her personal story!

My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand. The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care. Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected.. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care. Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

Instead of trying to repeal it why don’t you improve it? Our local rural clinics are packed daily with people who have needed healthcare for years!! it is a godsend. It is pitiful this nation does not have healthcare for all and that doesn’t mean the EMERGENCY room!!

Thanks to the ACA, my cousin was able to get affordable insurance despite her preexisting condition. So grateful.

I think we should repeal Obamacare, and replace it … with universal socialized medicine – like the rest of the industrialized nations of the world.

Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers! I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it. It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families.

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can cite an improvement they would like to make to the Act. But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Obama Care saved us when my husband was unemployed and we couldn’t afford coverage. We might have been ruined without it. My husband could not have had the eye surgery needed after an accident. So grateful.

We now have patients that can see a doctor in the clinic on time rather than waiting till they are too ill. ACA is saving lives and you are too stupid to realize that. Get your political view out of the way and see what is happening in our community because you have shown again and again it is not your community. I see that your son has Downs but not everyone in our community has it so get done with this supporting Downs to the neglect of everything else.

My plans are intact, premiums have increased as always, but what seems to be a lesser rate, my plan was not cancelled, I did not lose my doctor, I have not experienced reduced work hours, and it’s actually freed me from the chains of employer based being the ONLY path to coverage. #FEARMONGER

Those are just a small sample of the hundreds or even thousands of comments left on her Facebook page. It is damn clear that her constituents are loving the Affordable Care Act. Will she take their comments to heart and abandon attempts to take insurance coverage away from her constituents?

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2015 at 10:38 am

Teaching evolution at closed minds

with 2 comments

Fascinating article by James Krupa in Orion magazine:

i’m often asked what I do for a living. My answer, that I am a professor at the University of Kentucky, inevitably prompts a second question: “What do you teach?” Responding to such a question should be easy and invite polite conversation, but I usually brace for a negative reaction. At least half the time the person flinches with disapproval when I answer “evolution,” and often the conversation simply terminates once the “e-word” has been spoken. Occasionally, someone will retort: “But there is no evidence for evolution.” Or insist: “It’s just a theory, so why teach it?”

At this point I should walk away, but the educator in me can’t. I generally take the bait, explaining that evolution is an established fact and the foundation of all biology. If in a feisty mood, I’ll leave them with this caution: the fewer who understand evolution, the more who will die. Sometimes, when a person is still keen to prove me wrong, I’m more than happy to share with him an avalanche of evidence demonstrating I’m not.

Some colleagues ask why I bother, as if I’m the one who’s the provocateur. I remind them that evolution is the foundation of our science, and we simply can’t shy away from explaining it. We don’t avoid using the “g-word” when talking about gravitational theory, nor do we avoid the “c-word” when talking about cell theory. So why avoid talking about evolution, let alone defending it? After all, as a biologist, the mission of advancing evolution education is the most important aspect of my job.

TO TEACH EVOLUTION at the University of Kentucky is to teach at an institution steeped in the history of defending evolution education. The first effort to pass an anti-evolution law (led by William Jennings Bryan) happened in Kentucky in 1921. It proposed making the teaching of evolution illegal. The university’s president at that time, Frank McVey, saw this bill as a threat to academic freedom. Three faculty members—William Funkhouser, a zoologist; Arthur Miller, a geologist who taught evolution; and Glanville Terrell, a philosopher—joined McVey in the battle to prevent the bill from becoming law. They put their jobs on the line. Through their efforts, the anti-evolution bill was defeated by a forty-two to forty-one vote in the state legislature. Consequently, the movement turned its attention toward Tennessee.

John Thomas Scopes was a student at the University of Kentucky then and watched the efforts of his three favorite teachers and President McVey. The reason the “Scopes Monkey Trial” occurred several years later in Dayton, Tennessee—where Scopes was a substitute teacher and volunteered to be prosecuted—was in good part due to the influence of his mentors, particularly Funkhouser. As Scopes writes in his memoir, Center of the Storm: “Teachers rather than subject matter rekindled my interest in science. Dr. Funkhouser . . . was a man without airs [who] taught zoology so flawlessly that there was no need to cram for the final examination; at the end of the term there was a thorough, fundamental grasp of the subject in bold relief in the student’s mind, where Funkhouser had left it.”

I was originally reluctant to take my job at the university when offered it twenty years ago. It required teaching three sections of non-majors biology classes, with three hundred students per section, and as many as eighteen hundred students each year. I wasn’t particularly keen on lecturing to an auditorium of students whose interest in biology was questionable given that the class was a freshman requirement.

Then I heard an interview with the renowned evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson in which he addressed why, as a senior professor—and one of the most famous biologists in the world—he continued to teach non-majors biology at Harvard. Wilson explained that non-majors biology is the most important science class that one could teach. He felt many of the future leaders of this nation would take the class, and that this was the last chance to convey to them an appreciation for biology and science. Moved by Wilson’s words, and with the knowledge that William Funkhouser once held the job I was now contemplating, I accepted the position. The need to do well was unnerving, however, considering that if I failed as a teacher, a future Scopes might leave my class uninspired.

I realized early on that many instructors teach introductory biology classes incorrectly. Too often evolution is the last section to be taught, an autonomous unit at the end of the semester. I quickly came to the conclusion that, since evolution is the foundation upon which all biology rests, it should be taught at the beginning of a course, and as a recurring theme throughout the semester. As the renowned geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” In other words, how else can we explain why the DNA of chimps and humans is nearly 99 percent identical, and that the blood and muscle proteins of chimps and humans are nearly identical as well? Why are these same proteins slightly less similar to gorillas and orangu­tans, while much less similar to goldfish? Only evolution can shed light on these questions: we humans are great apes; we and the other great apes (gibbons, chimps, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans) all evolved from a common ancestor.

Soon, every topic and lecture in my class was built on an evolutionary foundation and explained from an evolutionary perspective. My basic biology for non-majors became evolution for non-majors. It didn’t take long before I started to hear from a vocal minority of students who strongly objected: “I am very offended by your lectures on evolution! Those who believe in creation are not ignorant of science! You had no right to try and force evolution on us. Your job was to teach it as a theory and not as a fact that all smart people believe in!!” And: “Evolution is not a proven fact. It should not be taught as if it is. It cannot be observed in any quantitative form and, therefore, isn’t really science.”

We live in a nation where public acceptance of evolution is the second lowest of thirty-four developed countries, just ahead of Turkey. Roughly half of Americans reject some aspect of evolution, believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old, and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs. Where I live, many believe evolution to be synonymous with atheism, and there are those who strongly feel I am teaching heresy to thousands of students. A local pastor, whom I’ve never met, wrote an article in The University Christian complaining that, not only was I teaching evolution and ignoring creationism, I was teaching it as a non-Christian, alternative religion.

There are students who enroll in my courses and already accept evolution. Although not yet particularly knowledgeable on the subject, they are eager to learn more. Then there are the students whose minds are already sealed shut to the possibility that evolution exists, but need to take my class to fulfill a college requirement. And then there are the students who have no opinion one way or the other but are open-minded. These are the students I most hope to reach by presenting them with convincing and overwhelming evidence without offending or alienating them.

Some students take offense very easily. . .

Continue reading.

And Phil Plait in Slate offers some answers to questions asked by creationists:

After writing yesterday about the now-famous/infamous debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, I don’t want to make this blog all creationism all the time, but indulge me this one more time, if you will. On BuzzFeed, there is a clever listicle that is a collection of 22 photos showing creationists holding up questions they have for people who “believe” in evolution.

These questions are fairly typically asked when evolution is questioned by creationists. Some are philosophical, and fun to think about, while others show a profound misunderstanding of how science works, and specifically what evolution is. I have found that most creationists who attack evolution have been taught about it by other creationists, so they really don’t understand what it is or how it works, instead they have a straw-man idea of it.

Because of this, it’s worth exploring and answering the questions presented. Some could be simply answered yes or no, but I’m all about going a bit deeper. With 22 questions I won’t go too deep, but if you have these questions yourself, or have been asked them, I hope this helps.

I’ll repeat the question below, and give my answers.

1) “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”

I’m not Bill, but I’d say yes, he is. More than just giving them facts to memorize, he is showing them how science works. Not only that, his clear love and enthusiasm for science is infectious, and that to me is his greatest gift.

2) “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”

No. In fact, if there is a Judeo-Christian god, that would have fascinating implications for much of what we scientists study, and would be a rich vein to mine. Perhaps a more pertinent question is, “Are you scared there might not be a Divine Creator?” There is more room for a god in science than there is for no god in religious faith.

3) “Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings … Adam created as an adult ….”

It might be internally consistent, even logical, but a bit of a stretch. After all, we can posit that God created the Universe last Thursday, looking exactly as it is, with all evidence pointing to it being old and your memories implanted such that you think you’re older than a mere few days. Consistent, sure, but plausible? Not really.

4) “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 3:26 pm

Army Apologizes for Handling of Chemical Weapon Exposure Cases

with one comment

And yet no officer will suffer any sort of accountability, I am sure. C.J. Chivers reports in the NY Times:

The under secretary of the Army on Wednesday apologized for the military’s treatment of American service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards.

Under Secretary Brad R. Carson acknowledged that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions that had been scattered around Iraq, and vowed improvement. He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart medal for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent, and that he expected more medals would be issued to other veterans after further review.

To me the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” he said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”

Mr. Carson was appointed last fall by Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary, to lead a Pentagon working group to identify service members who had been exposed to chemical weapons and offer them medical screening and other support. The effort was in response to an investigation in The New York Times that revealed that the American military had secretly recovered thousands of old and often discarded chemical munitions in Iraq.

The report found that insurgents had used some of the weapons in roadside bombs, that most of the episodes had never been publicly acknowledged and that many troops who had been wounded by the blister or nerve agents had received substandard medical care and denied military awards.

Mr. Carson said the working group’s new instructions, which were distributed to the military services in recent days, would ensure that hundreds of veterans identified by the services, or who have called a hotline set up at Mr. Hagel’s order, would be screened and properly treated. The steps, Mr. Carson said, would also cover troops exposed to chlorine, which insurgents repeatedly used as a makeshift chemical weapon.

“My ambition, and what I am committed to, is to make sure that any person who was exposed to a weaponized chemical or a chemical weapon is addressed through this process,” he said. . . .

Continue reading.

Bottom line: The Army did everything in its power to cover up the problem and to let the victims simply suffer on their own, offering no help, but when the story began to get out, the Army (VERY belatedly) responded and said it would help. This is what the military means by “honor”: cover up problems and let the troops suffer, but if you’re about to get caught apologize. No one will be punished.

Related coverage, with links in the sidebar of the main article.

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons   OCT. 14, 2014

More Than 600 Reported Chemical Exposure in Iraq, Pentagon Acknowledges  NOV. 6, 2014

A Veteran’s Chemical Burns Expanded Military Doctors’ Knowledge, but His Care Faltered  DEC. 30, 2014

Thousands of Iraq Chemical Weapons Destroyed in Open Air, Watchdog Says   NOV. 22, 2014

Reporters’ Notebook: Examining a Rare Nerve-Agent Shell That Wounded American Troops in Iraq   DEC. 4, 2014

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons FEB. 15, 2015

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2015 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Army, Medical, Military

Interesting factoids about red-haired people

with one comment

Very interesting: they bleed more (in surgery, for example) and also require 20% more anesthesia.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 March 2015 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Your health data are not guarded very well

leave a comment »

And why not? Because the companies housing the data have no reason to spend money on it: if the data are stolen, the company suffers no real loss or penalty. Why spend money to guard data if losing it costs them nothing?

Read this ProPublica article by Charles Ornstein:

It’s hard to keep track of even the biggest health data breaches, given how frequently they seem to be happening. Just Tuesday, health insurer Premera Blue Cross disclosed that hackers broke into its system and may have accessed the financial and medical records of some 11 million people. The intrusion began last May but wasn’t discovered until January and wasn’t shared publicly until this week.

Among the information that may have been taken about the insurers’ members and applicants: names, dates of birth, email addresses, street addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, bank account information, and claims information, which may include sensitive medical details.

Premera’s announcement comes weeks after another health insurer, Anthem Inc., announced that it too had been hacked—and that the records of nearly 80 million people were exposed.

The task of investigating medical data breaches falls to the Office for Civil Rights, a small agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its staff of about 200 investigates thousands of complaints every year, large and small. Last month, ProPublica reported how, as the number of breaches has increased, the office infrequently uses its authority to fine organizations and health providers that fail to safeguard patient records.

The office’s director, Jocelyn Samuels, spoke on Monday to health privacy and security experts gathered in Washington, D.C., for the National HIPAA Summit, named for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This 1996 federal law protects the privacy and security of patient records. Her speech preceded Premera’s public disclosure.

After her talk, Samuels sat down with ProPublica to talk about the current state of health privacy. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. To start off with, the Anthem breach is still at the top of mind for so many people. Does this change the landscape in terms of health data breaches?

A. We won’t know until after we have investigated what the causes of the Anthem breach are or were, or whether there are concerns about HIPAA compliance. But I think that it illustrates both the increasing risks that exist in the cybersecurity space and the need for covered entities [health providers and others subject to HIPAA’s requirements] to continue to update and evaluate their risk analyses to ensure that their risk management plans adequately anticipate all of the kinds of threats they may face.

Q. I received a breach letter from Anthem [informing me that my data was accessed] and I heard from a lot of people who did. One of the things that they say is, ‘I don’t even know what to make of this. What of mine was taken? Will it be used against me?’ How do you advise them what to do?

A. We will be evaluating the kinds of information that was compromised and the source of the breach and the harm that accrued to the different individuals. Those are all question that I think will inform the work that we do in this space and we will have further answers as we learn more.

Q. Since HIPAA was passed in 1996, how would you say the state of play has changed with respect to patient privacy and the security of records? . . .

Continue reading.

The Ornstein article includes an interesting sidebar:

Over 1,100 Health Data Breaches, but Few Fines

Since October 2009, health care organizations and their business partners reported 1,163 large-scale data breaches, each affecting at least 500 people, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, seven breaches have resulted in fines. Explore the app.

And definitely click that link to explore the app. The number of breaches is astonishing, but since the companies don’t have to pay anything, they don’t really bother to protect the data.

Also, Andrea Peterson reports for the Washington Post:

Last year, the fallout from a string of breaches at major retailers like Targetand Home Depot had consumers on edge. But 2015 is shaping up to be the year consumers should be taking a closer look at who is guarding their health information.

Data about more than 120 million people has been compromised in more than 1,100 separate breaches at organizations handling protected health data since 2009, according to Department of Health and Human Services data reviewed by The Washington Post.

“That’s a third of the U.S. population — this really should be a wake-up call,” said Deborah Peel, the executive director of Patient Privacy Rights.

The data may double-count some individuals if they had their information compromised in more than incident, but it still reflects a staggering number of times Americans have been affected by breaches at organizations trusted with sensitive health information. And the data does not yet reflect the hack of Premera, which announced this week that hackers may have accessed information, including medical data, on up to 11 million people.

[Read: Premera Blue Cross says data breach could affect 11 million people]

Most breaches of data from health organizations are small and don’t involve hackers breaking into a company’s computer system. Some involve a stolen laptop or the inappropriate disposal of paper records, for example — and not all necessarily involve medical information. But hacking-related incidents disclosed this year have dramatically driven up the number of people exposed by breaches in this sector.

When Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, announced in February that hackers broke into a database containing the personal information of nearly 80 million records related to consumers, that one incident more than doubled the number of people affected by breaches in the health industry since the agency started publicly reporting on the issue in 2009.

“We are certainly seeing a rise in the number of individuals affected by hacking/IT incidents,” Rachel Seeger, a spokesperson for HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “These incidents have the potential to affect very large numbers of health care consumers, as evidenced by the recent Anthem and Premera breaches.”

And some cybersecurity experts warn this may only be the beginning. “We’re probably going to see a lot more of these happening in the coming few months,” said Dave Kennedy, the chief executive of TrustedSEC.

Health organizations are targets because they maintain troves of data with significant resale value in black markets, Kennedy said, and their security practices are often less sophisticated than other industries. Now that some major players in the market have come forward as victims of cyberattacks other organizations are likely to take a close look at their own networks — potentially uncovering other compromises, he said.

“The information that companies like Anthem and Premera had is more valuable than just payment card information held by retailers or financial institutions,” said Scott Vernick, who heads up the data security and privacy practice at law firm Fox Rothschild. Credit card information has a relatively short shelf life, with new cards issued on a regular basis, he explained. But a health organizations often have complete profiles of people including Social Security numbers and medical health information that is much more difficult if not impossible to change.

[Related: Yes, we’re still using dumb passwords. But not nearly as much as before.]

Some of the data can be used to pursue traditional financial crimes — like setting up fraudulent lines of credit, Kennedy said. But it can also be used for medical insurance fraud, like purchasing medical equipment for resale or obtaining pricey medical care for another person.

This type of scheme is often . . .

Continue reading.

Congress could do something about this except that Congress can’t seem to do anything.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2015 at 4:06 pm

Pot-Smoking Stockbroker Has A Steady Supplier: The Feds

leave a comment »

Very odd, considering that the Federal government steadfastly maintains that marijuana has no medical use—yet the Federal government supplies this man with marijuana for medical use. This sort of blatant illogic and outright contradiction drives me crazy, but the government is full of it (e.g., Obama’s sanctions against Venezuela for “human rights abuses” with absolutely no sanctions against Saudi Arabia, which has MUCH more outrageous human rights abuses: it seems that the Federal government is stupid, or else it thinks we are stupid and will accept whatever cock-and-bull story it makes up.

Evan Halper writes in the LA Times:

The interior of Irvin Rosenfeld’s Toyota 4Runner reeks of marijuana. A tin stuffed with hundreds of joints lies in the trunk, and a bag full of them is stored in the door pocket.

On a recent weekday, the 62-year-old stockbroker stopped at a red light and took a drag. His exhale filled the cabin with smoke. It was his fourth joint that day. It wasn’t yet lunchtime.

“This car has 80,000 miles on it,” Rosenfeld announced between puffs, stray ash landing softly on the battered towel he drapes over his pleated brown trousers and red tie. “I haven’t gotten into one accident.”

Rosenfeld would smoke five or six more joints by day’s end. In between, he would trade tens of thousands of dollars in stocks. Some days, the broker moves millions around, pausing occasionally to steal drags of marijuana from the smokeless vapor pen that tides him over indoors.

Clients have given their blessing to his 10-joint-a-day habit.

So has the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The federal agency at the forefront of the war on drugs is normally unyielding in its view that marijuana has no valid medical use. But it not only gives permission to Rosenfeld to light up any place cigarettes are allowed, but it also acts as his dealer.

Rosenfeld gets that special treatment because he has a rare bone disorder that gives him a lot of pain. He is one of only two people in the nation still actively involved in a federal program that supplies marijuana free to patients suffering from certain diseases.

The government harvests infrequently and Rosenfeld’s current stash came out of the ground six years ago. Not exactly prime bud. But good enough that in three decades he has consumed about 216 pounds — hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth — to ease his pain. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2015 at 1:29 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,685 other followers

%d bloggers like this: