Telecommunications company Vodafone’s report on government surveillance of its customers in 29 countries reveals more than first meets the eye – and is raising questions from Dublin to Delhi about how much spying on email and telephone chats happens in secret.
In Friday’s report Vodafone said most countries required the company’s knowledge and cooperation to hear phone calls or see emails, but at least six governments have given their security agencies the power of direct access.
Vodafone didn’t identify the countries that have tapped into its network, but the report provided some clues. An 88-page appendix reveals that five countries – Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland and Qatar – have provisions that allow authorities to demand unfettered access.
In vague language, the report also indicated similar powers could exist in India and the United Kingdom, too.
In too many cases, Vodafone said, governments kept both the company and wider society in the dark about what was happening, with laws explicitly forbidding government disclosure of any details of its electronic eavesdropping…
Wiretapping of phones and accessing of call records for law-enforcement purposes is a decades-old and accepted practice even in the most open democracies. With backing from courts, police can request cooperation from phone companies to access communications.
But in developing countries such as Congo, Ghana and Lesotho, Vodafone said it cannot support wiretapping, because governments haven’t requested the technology.
Vodafone’s report comes one year after former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden revealed that U.S. and other countries’ intelligence agencies indiscriminately gathered and stored data from phone calls and Internet communications…
Vodafone’s report is also seen as a response to the company’s embarrassing role in the Egyptian protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. As those protests raged, the government forced Vodafone to bombard its Egyptian subscribers with propaganda text messages. The company said it had no choice but to comply, but was severely criticized for its actions.
Here’s the Vodafone report at their website.
If you’re not old enough to recall – there was a time in the United States when courts ruled in favor of the privacy of citizens and Congress and the White House didn’t succeed in sucking info from communications without express judicial permission.
I was part of a class action suit that won victory over the city where I lived, the local police department, the regional phone company – and the FBI – for illegal wiretapping. The creeps even tapped my parents’ phone in case I made any subversive calls when I dropped by for Sunday dinner.
Not anymore, man!
Federal health officials recommended Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk for AIDS take a daily pill that has been shown to prevent infection with the virus that causes it.
If broadly followed, the advice could transform AIDS prevention in the United States — from reliance on condoms, which are effective but unpopular with many men, to a regimen that relies on an antiretroviral drug.
It would mean a 50-fold increase in the number of prescriptions for the drug, Truvada — to 500,000 a year from fewer than 10,000. The drug costs $13,000 a year, and most insurers already cover it…
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long been frustrated that the number of H.I.V. infections in the United States has barely changed in a decade, stubbornly holding at 50,000 a year, despite 30 years of official advice to rely on condoms to block transmission…
Nevertheless, advocates for the drug regimen were elated at Wednesday’s announcement.
RTFA for all the social pros and cons. Something the NY TIMES is all concerned about. Rightly, I suppose.
They also skipped quietly over the question of cost – although looking around on the Web it appears to me the generic made and sold in Asia costs about $800/year or less. Versus $13,000 to Gilead.
Ready to take down illegal suppositories at a moment’s notice
U.S. Marshals seized more than $11 million worth of unapproved drugs marketed by Ascend Laboratories of Montvale, N.J. and distributed by Masters Pharmaceuticals of Cincinnati.
Ascend Laboratories is a subsidiary of Alkem Laboratories, one of the top seven pharmaceutical companies in India. Alkem is a vertically integrated organization with 15 manufacturing plants located throughout India, of which four are U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved…
At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, the U.S. Marshals seized:
— Pramoxine-HC Otic Drops, intended to treat ear infections caused by microbes and to control itching.
— Hydrocortisone Acetate Suppositories 25 milligrams, intended to treat inflamed hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory conditions.
— Urea Cream 39%, Urea Cream 40% and Urea Lotion 40%, intended to treat skin-thickening conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
“None of these products have been proven safe or effective for their intended uses. The FDA recommends that consumers consult a healthcare professional about the continuing use of these drug products”…
The FDA ain’t exactly the most progressive body affecting American healthcare. Still, it’s at least worthwhile to see them following their own regulations about keeping unapproved products off drugstore shelves.
And, then – shall we deal with the creeps who doubtless knew damned well they were importing and distributing unapproved meds, eh?
A woman carries her baby as she walks through a wheat field on her way to a polling station to cast her vote in Shabazpur Dor village, in Amroha district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh April 17, 2014.
We forget – caught up as we are in the historic corruption of our 2-party system of bought-and-paid-for politicians – how difficult, how meaningful it is for the poorest of the poor to vote in other countries. They know corruption from the highest to lowest of elected officials. They may risk death and at the least discrimination for months – for having the courage to vote.
Still they vote. Still they fight however they may to vote and try to change the future for their children and grandchildren.
A street vendor who stole a bag from a local train in India accidentally saved the life of a baby boy concealed inside, investigators say.
Kishor Kale, 20, left the train Monday with the bag in Kurla, a Mumbai suburb, the newspaper MiD Day, reported Tuesday. He opened the bag at the station, hoping to find cash or valuables, and instead a tiny hand poked out.
Kale tried to dump the bag and baby on the platform but was caught by an alert ticket seller. He told police he was hawking nail polish on the train when he spotted the bag on the floor.
Police said the baby is only about 15 days old. While he is in good health, he would probably have suffocated if he had remained in the bag 10 minutes longer.
Jitendra Rathod, a senior officer with the Government Railway Police in Wadala, said investigators are examining security camera footage to verify Kurla’s story of how he came by the bag and to find out who dumped it and the baby.
Phew! Hope his story is verified. Otherwise this dude is up the proverbial body of water without a means of locomotion.
Reaching for freedom in India
There’s been widespread outrage in India’s gay community, which is in shock after the country’s top court reversed a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that had decriminalised homosexual acts.
The court has now left it to parliament to legislate on Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, under which a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.
Opposition to the 2009 ruling had come from more than a dozen political, social and religious groups and petitioners.
They put up an array of arguments, many of them bizarre and, some might say, disingenuous.
One petitioner was a TV astrologer who told the court the ruling “compromises national defence since soldiers will start having sex with each other”…Perhaps most bizarrely, a spokesman for a popular yoga guru opposed the change, telling the court that he could “cure homosexuality through yoga”…
Ranged against this were some four main groups who filed petitions supporting the Delhi court decision.
They included parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with stories of how the colonial-era law had caused trauma to them and harmed their family lives; a group of more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who treat LGBT “patients”; and some distinguished academics and leading Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal…
The 2009 judgement came as a shot in the arm for India’s gay community. More and more of its members had begun to come out. “The verdict is a severe blow to them,” journalist and activist Vikram Doctor tells me. “Once people come out of the closet, they just cannot go back.”
I don’t know why I ever presumed India had left behind all the trappings of British Imperialism. Out-of-date and disfunctional, 19th Century policies are only honored by the truly backwards. Usually on the basis of religion or bigotry.
I had presumed that legal structures at least at the top of law’s pyramid in India would be self-limiting to those individuals genuinely qualified. Wrong, obviously.
One woman dies every hour in India because of dowry-related crimes, women’s rights activists have said.
The National Crime Records Bureau said that 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.
The conviction rate in dowry-related crimes remained a low 32 percent, according to statistics the bureau published last week.
Women’s rights activists and police said that loopholes in dowry prevention laws, delays in prosecution and low conviction rates have led to a steady rise in dowry-related crimes.
Dowry demands have become even more insistent and expensive following India’s economic boom, said Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist.
Suman Nalwa, a senior New Delhi police officer dealing with crimes against women, said dowry practices extended to all classes in society.
“Even highly educated people don’t say no to dowry,” she said.
Though the giving or receiving of a dowry is illegal under Indian law. Another demeaning icon of Indian culture is maintained by ignorance among the populace – and no enforcement, no real effort by the government to lift people up from the past.
Spices grown in the mist-shrouded Western Ghats here have fueled wars, fortunes and even the discovery of continents, and for thousands of years farmers harvested them in the same traditional ways. Until now.
Science has revealed what ancient kings and sultans never knew: instead of improving health, spices sometimes make people very sick, so Indian government officials are quietly pushing some of the most far-reaching changes ever in the way farmers here pick, dry and thresh their rich bounty.
The United States Food and Drug Administration will soon release a comprehensive analysis that pinpoints imported spices, found in just about every kitchen in the Western world, as a surprisingly potent source of salmonella poisoning.
In a study of more than 20,000 food shipments, the food agency found that nearly 7 percent of spice lots were contaminated with salmonella, twice the average of all other imported foods. Some 15 percent of coriander and 12 percent of oregano and basil shipments were contaminated, with high contamination levels also found in sesame seeds, curry powder and cumin. Four percent of black pepper shipments were contaminated…
Mexico and India had the highest share of contaminated spices. About 14 percent of the samples from Mexico contained salmonella, the study found, a result Mexican officials disputed.
India’s exports were the second-most contaminated, at approximately 9 percent, but India ships nearly four times the amount of spices to the United States that Mexico does, so its contamination problems are particularly worrisome, officials said. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India…
Westerners are particularly vulnerable to contaminated spices because pepper and other spices are added at the table, so bacterial hitchhikers are consumed live and unharmed. Bacteria do not survive high temperatures, so contaminated spices present fewer problems when added during cooking, as is typical in the cuisine of India and most other Asian countries.
…Sophisticated DNA sequencing of salmonella types is finally allowing food officials to pinpoint spices as a cause of repeated outbreaks, including one in 2010 involving black and red pepper that sickened more than 250 people in 44 states. After a 2009 outbreak linked to white pepper, an inspection found that salmonella had colonized much of the Union City, Calif., spice processing facility at the heart of the outbreak…
One more example of how “tradition” often means unhealthy. Dedication to clean conditions during harvest and processing for market can make all the difference in the world to the safety of consumers – with no loss of flavor or function.
RTFA for lots of anecdotal info on the raising of many spices. Interesting stuff. You can never have too much knowledge about what you eat.
For nearly three decades, an earnest man named Narendra Dabholkar traveled from village to village in India, waging a personal war against the spirit world.
If a holy man had electrified the public with his miracles, Dr. Dabholkar, a former physician, would duplicate the miracles and explain, step by step, how they were performed. If a sorcerer had amassed a fortune treating infertility, he would arrange a sting operation to unmask the man as a fraud. His goal was to drive a scientist’s skepticism into the heart of India, a country still teeming with gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs.
That mission ended Tuesday, when two men ran up behind Dr. Dabholkar, 67, as he crossed a bridge, shot him at point-blank range, then jumped onto a motorbike and disappeared into the traffic coursing through this city.
Dr. Dabholkar’s killing is the latest episode in a millenniums-old wrestling match between traditionalists and reformers in India. When detectives began putting together a list of Dr. Dabholkar’s enemies, they found that it was long. He had received threats from Hindu far-right groups, been beaten by followers of angry gurus and challenged by councils upholding archaic caste laws. His home state, Maharashtra, was considering legislation he had promoted for 14 years, banning a list of practices like animal sacrifice, the magical treatment of snake bites and the sale of magic stones.
In the rush of emotion that followed Dr. Dabholkar’s death, the state’s governor on Saturday signed the so-called anti-black magic bill into force as an ordinance. But Dr. Dabholkar never put stock in sudden breakthroughs, said his son, Hamid Dabholkar, as mourners filtered through the family’s home. “He knew this kind of battle is fought across the ages,” he said. “The journey we have chosen is one that started with Copernicus. We have a very small life, of 70 to 80 years, and the kind of change we will see during that time will be small.”
RTFA for the whole story.
Of course, on a different scale this could be the United States. Religious nutballs believe in lynchings and murders to “defend” their faith. They tend to restrict their killing to abortion clinics or uppity young Black men; but, the practice is approved by silence as much as assent in public.
No other Western nation is beset by superstition and ignorance as much as the United States. Blather against science is as sacred in Congress as any flat earth-fundamentalist church. So, let’s don’t condemn the nation of India for being a different kind of backwards – when that difference is only one of degree not disagreement.
A speeding train has run over a group of Hindu pilgrims at a crowded station near Dhamara, a small town in Bihar state, killing at least 28 people.
Railways spokesman Anil Saxena said that some of those hit by the express train were Hindu pilgrims who had left two trains.
“Passengers got out of the train, came on the track and they were moving on that track. That is the time they got run over,” Arunendra Kumar, chairman of the Railway Board, told a news conference in New Delhi.
Many railway personnel have run away and left the station completely unmanned, according to officials…
About 40 people on average die every day on India’s vast but decrepit railway network. Some passengers fall off overcrowded commuter trains.
The train was an express – express by Indian standards since it was proceeding at 48mph – not scheduled to stop at the station. The death of the pilgrims was a tragedy though not unusual among folks who apparently think every train stops at every station.
Which logically precedes the vigilante behavior after the accident.