Cheney says financial crisis was not foreseen

Cheney defends President BushThe current financial crisis was completely unforeseen by the Bush administration, according to vice president Dick Cheney.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Cheney claimed that people could not place blame for the economy’s collapse on President Bush because "nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out."

When asked whether Bush should apologize for not doing more to prevent the recession, the vice president said, "I don’t think he needs to apologize. I think what he needed to do is take bold, aggressive action and he has."

During the interview, Cheney also defended the methods of interrogation used on suspected terrorists, as well as counterterrorism surveillance programs.

He said that there was no reason for Bush to consider pardoning those who engaged in such measures, as they were legally authorized to do so.

"My view would be that the people who carried out that program … in fact were authorized to do what they did and we had the legal options that in effect said what was appropriate and what wasn’t," Cheney commented.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18966680-ADNFCR

Feinstein introduces privacy bill

A new bill would protect social security numbers from being posted online by the governmentSenator Dianne Feinstein of California has introduced a bill that aims to protect people’s privacy and prevent ID theft by protecting Social Security numbers.

The Protecting the Privacy of Social Security Numbers Act, which is co-sponsored by Senators Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Olympia Snowe of Maine, would amend Title 18 of the U.S. Code to address the misuse of these numbers.

The bill would prohibit governments at all levels from displaying Social Security numbers on public records on the internet, as well as from printing them on government checks.

Secondly, businesses would face limits in regard to the situations in which they can ask customers for this data.

It would also bar prison inmates from taking up jobs which would provide them access to Social Security numbers.

Feinstein’s bill could result in stricter punishment for people who abuse Social Security numbers, similar to the way previous legislation made hacking a federal crime, InternetNews.com reports.

Introducing the bill, Feinstein said that "we must also ensure that government agencies and businesses do their utmost to protect Americans’ Social Security numbers."

The legislation was introduced alongside a separate bill dealing with notification of data breaches.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18966678-ADNFCR

Class offers big pharma tips on avoiding lawsuits

Class advises to be careful about memosPharmaceutical and medical device companies who want to protect themselves against litigation can now take a course offered by a former U.S. prosecutor.

According to a report on Reuters, Nancy Singer – founder of the Medical Technology Learning Institute and Compliance-Alliance – is offering a course on how to avoid "land mines in your FDA records and emails."

Central to the course’s ethos is the idea that external and internal communications should be closely controlled to avoid raising red flags with regulators or litigators.

Singer told the news provider that the class is not intended to promote the cover-up of illegal practices or concealment of negative data.

"To survive in our litigious society, organizations need to have the right communications culture," she explained.

For example, she advises never to use words such as "illegal" or "negligent" but instead phrase sentiments more like "it could be argued that that doesn’t comply with requirements."

Singer also recommends monitoring employee emails and discouraging people from putting their concerns in writing to protect themselves, as these memos will only be used against the company in a lawsuit.

Companies including Merck have found themselves in court confronting leaked internal documents that indicate they were aware their products could cause harm.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18964310-ADNFCR

Washington lawmaker vows fight against RFID

RFID technology has raised privacy concernsRFID technology is being implemented without proper oversight or control, according to Washington representative Jeff Morris.

Jeff Morris has pledged to fight the use of so-called "spy technology" that infringes on people’s privacy, Information Week reports.

Included in his proposals is a ban on scans of people identification documents without first obtaining their consent, except in specific cases.

Morris has also said that all consumer products containing RFID chips should be clearly marked so that people can be in charge of deciding if their personal information should be collected.

"The potential for marketing and convenience is great with this technology. But so is the threat to our privacy and freedom," he said, according to the news provider.

RFID is an automatic identification method in which data is stored and remotely retrieved using devices known as transponders.

It is currently used in the logistics sector for tracking and monitoring inventory, as well as increasingly in consumer products.

This is not the first time Morris has supported limits on the technology. According to Information Week, last year he supported making the intentional surreptitious scanning of a person’s RFID chip without their consent a Class C felony.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18964309-ADNFCR

Real ID faces opposition, funding problems

Opponents of an ID card bring up privacy and financial concernsThe move to increase the security standards on state-issued drivers’ licenses and identification cards is hitting numerous roadblocks, according to a report by Newsmax.

At least 12 states have approved legislation that prohibits implementation of the Real ID act of 2005, which would effectively introduce a national identity card.

As part of the compliance process, states would be required to change the documentation they accept to verify lawful presence in the U.S. before issuing a license or ID. Additionally, the information they gather would be made available nationwide in a database.

Opponents have raised both privacy and financial concerns about Real ID.

Incoming head of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has also stated her opposition to the program, saying that it does not provide adequate federal funding to support states’ implementation.

Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security has estimated that states could be forced to spend up to $17 billion to comply with Real ID.

According to Newsmax, later this month organizations across Virginia will stage a rally in support of legislation to block the act from becoming law, partly due to worries about privacy.

"No one can know who is getting into those databases and for what purpose," Donna Holt of the Campaign for Liberty told the news provider.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18964308-ADNFCR

Adult entertainment industry seeks bailout funds

The adult entertainment industry has seen falling salesIt may boggle the mind, but the adult entertainment industry has become the latest sector to ask the government for money to stay afloat.

Larry Flynt, known for publishing Hustler, and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis have indicated they plan to petition Congress for a bailout.

According to Francis’ spokesperson, they are asking for a similar arrangement to that sought by the Big Three automakers last month.

"Congress seems willing to help shore up our nation’s most important businesses – we feel we deserve the same consideration," Francis commented.

The pair cited statistics showing that their sector has suffered in recent months. DVD sales and rentals fell by 22 percent over the past year, as more people turn to online options, they said.

Flynt suggested that by helping the adult entertainment industry, the government would be making an important investment.

"Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex," he said.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that GM has received its first installment of bailout money, in the form of $4 billion dollars.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18961769-ADNFCR

Antiviral drugs may help spread of bird flu, scientists say

Tamiflu may not be enough to protect against bird fluNew reports about a Beijing woman who died of avian influenza may raise fresh fears about a possible resurgence of the disease, which peaked in 2006.

And new research cautions the U.S. against relying on antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu to protect people against infection.

Scientists at Ohio State University say that evidence shows bird flu became resistant to antiviral agents known as adamantanes, which were used in Asia and Russia.

By 2006, these drugs were considered worthless because 90 percent of strains were resistant.

The researchers then analyzed 700 avian flu genomes isolated from a variety of hosts, discovering that one-third had mutations that allowed these strains to resist adamantane drugs.

"We can’t necessarily say what we’ve seen in adamantanes is predictive of what will happen with Tamiflu, but in the larger dynamic, perhaps it serves as a cautionary tale," commented senior author Daniel Janies.

In 2007, the World Health Organization warned that a strain of avian flu resistant to Tamiflu had been discovered in Egypt.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18961768-ADNFCR

Drug safety concerns help dampen consumer demand

People are spending less on prescription medicationsWorries about the safety of prescription drugs have played a part in reducing customer demand for medications, according to a new report.

Micah Hartman, lead author of the federal report, told USA Today that people may be backing away from purchasing prescription medications as the FDA issues more safety warnings.

In 2007, the FDA issued at least 68 warnings on drugs, including one high-profile warning that diabetes pill Avandia had been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks. This represents a large increase from the 21 warnings issued in 2003.

According to the report, the growth in overall healthcare spending showed the smallest rise in more than 40 years in 2007. Most of this slowdown could be attributed to people spending less on prescription drugs.

Another factor affecting healthcare costs is an increased use of generic drugs, which are generally less expensive.

The report found that 67 percent of all prescriptions filled in 2007 were generics, an increase from 63 percent in 2006.

Meanwhile, last month’s research from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the use of natural supplements is increasing.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18959385-ADNFCR

Federal gas taxes could go up by 50 percent

Gas taxes could be set to riseAs Americans change their driving habits, the federal government has seen a shortfall in the revenue collected from fuel taxes.

This has spurred a discussion about how to make up the shortfall and continue to maintain sufficient funds to repair and build roads, the Associated Press reports.

According to the news provider, the National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing is mulling an increase in gas and diesel fuel taxes by around 50 percent.

This measure would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by between 12 and 15 cents per gallon.

The American Trucking Associations, which supports the tax, suggested that the government change the label given to the tax to give it a more positive spin.

"Instead of calling it a gas tax, call it a carbon tax," ATA chairman Charles Whittington told the AP.

At the state level, similar steps are being considered to make up lost fuel tax revenue. In Oregon, the governor has suggested taxing people on the number of miles they drive instead of increasing the gas tax.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18959382-ADNFCR

In the UK, police can hack private computers

The Home Office says police can access computers without a warrantThe UK’s Home Office has approved new powers for the police and M15 that would allow them to hack into private computers without a warrant.

Apparently, the police have had permission to remotely access home and office computers since the 1990s, but it has been seldom used.

The new proposal, which was encouraged by the European Union council of ministers, relies on the judgment of senior officers to determine whether it is necessary to begin surveillance to investigate a serious crime.

Police would then install a keystroke logger onto the suspect’s computer or use a surveillance van to intercept email traffic.

Shami Chakrabati of human rights group Liberty called the potential to hack personal computers without a warrant "a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy."

"This is no different from breaking down someone’s door, rifling through their paperwork and seizing their computer hard drive," she added.

In the U.S., the Bush administration has come under fire for its warrantless surveillance program, which gave the National Security Agency unsupervised access to phone, email and internet communications as part of the fight against terrorism.

ADNFCR-1961-ID-18959374-ADNFCR

Obama considering $300b tax cut

Obama wants to win over Republicans with a tax cutPresident-elect Barack Obama is reportedly considering giving Americans a $300 billion tax cut to help boost the flagging economy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the move is being mulled as a way to win over Republican support of Obama’s stimulus package, which also includes proposals for billions of dollars of spending on infrastructure and the environment.

One part of the plan involves reductions for those who pay income tax or claim the earned-income credit, which is aimed at helping low and mid-income workers.

This correlates to the $500 Making Work Pay payroll tax credit that was proposed by Obama while he was campaigning for president.

Under the proposals, businesses – including smaller employers – would also receive tax breaks such as a credit for creating new jobs.

Congressional officials said that around 40 percent of the president-elect’s stimulus package could be made up of tax relief measures.

In recent days, top Republican lawmakers have warned Congress not to rush an economic stimulus package without first seeking the approval of the public.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18956984-ADNFCR

Oregon considering taxing miles driven

Some states are looking for ways to recoup lost revenueAs a number of states look at ways to increase revenue, Oregon is looking at an unusual measure: taxing the number of miles driven rather than increasing the gas tax.

Governor Ted Kulongoski has suggested that every new car in the state would be given a GPS tracking device that would keep track of the number of miles a motorist drives.

In this way, the driver ends up paying more for driving further – regardless of whether they have a gas-guzzling SUV or an eco-friendly hybrid.

The move is seen as a way for Oregon to recoup money it is losing from the gasoline tax as residents turn to more efficient vehicles.

Some critics have raised questions about the fairness of punishing people for driving, regardless of their vehicle choice.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders says, "My fear is that my tax dollars will be used to bankroll a scheme to punish me for using roads my tax dollars already paid for, because someday I might own an electric car."

Others have raised privacy concerns about using GPS to track vehicles’ habits, citing it as another example of the creation of a "nanny state."

ADNFCR-1961-ID-18956983-ADNFCR

Cheney denies violating civil liberties

Dick Cheney said the White House has not violated civil libertiesAs the Bush administration enters its last weeks in office, Vice President Dick Cheney has been defending decisions made while he has been in the White House.

Speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cheney told host Bob Schieffer that decisions made by the National Security Agency, CIA and president reflect "one of the great success stories of the intelligence business in the last century."

The Bush administration has repeatedly come under fire for instituting a surveillance program that utilizes warrantless wiretapping. Many groups and individuals have claimed this violates privacy and personal liberties and the legality of the program is still being debated today.

However, the vice president sees it differently, saying that the program is "one of the main reasons we’ve been successful in defending the country against further attacks."

He added, "And I don’t believe we violated anybody’s civil liberties."

Cheney cited various situations throughout history in which presidents took extraordinary actions under the banner of protecting the country against enemies, including those which may be seen as going against the Constitution.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18956982-ADNFCR

Georgia sex offender law raises privacy concerns

Sex offenders in Georgia must surrender passwordsThe difficulty of balancing privacy issues with the need to protect the public has been highlighted by a new Georgia law.

Beginning on January 1st 2009, convicted sex offenders in the state are required to submit their internet passwords, screen names and email addresses to law enforcement officials.

The rule will make it easier for police to track the online activities of sex offenders and make sure they are not behaving inappropriately, said Georgia state senator Cecil Stanton, who authored the bill.

But others question if this is one measure too far. "There’s certainly a privacy concern. This essentially will give law enforcement the ability to read emails between family members, between employers," Sara Totonchi of Southern Center for Human Rights told the Associated Press.

According to the AP, at least 15 states have laws that obligate sex offenders to turn over email addresses and user names to the police, but Georgia and Utah are the only places where passwords are also included.

One criticism that has been leveled at such laws is that they are too broad, as those who have been arrested for crimes including public nudity or underage consensual sex may still be classified as sex offenders.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18954533-ADNFCR

News anchor criticizes big government intervention

Stossel supports small governmentCan economic recovery be achieved while the government is attempting to enact social and economic changes?

That is the question posed by 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel, writing on the Constitution Party’s website to raise questions about the effectiveness of President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus plans.

Stossel raises doubts about the ability of the government to "impose a utopian vision based on the belief that an economy is a thing to be planned from above."

Instead, he describes an economy and a society as being made up of different individuals striving to meet their goals, which cannot be controlled by a larger force.

Stossel points to FDR as an example of another president who opted to reform central tenets of the economy during a time of economic challenge, saying that the result was "long years of depression and deprivation."

During periods in which the government takes a strong role in the economy, investors may back off from risk due to uncertainty about having their efforts undermined, he says.

"Grand interventionist reforms go in precisely the wrong direction," Stossel concludes.

His comments come as some analysts have predicted the cost of Obama’s stimulus package could reach $1 trillion.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18954532-ADNFCR

Bone drug may raise risk of esophageal cancer

Fosamax linked to cancerFosamax, which is commonly prescribed to treat osteoporosis, may raise a person’s risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, according to an FDA warning.

More research should be done to explore a potential connection between bisphosphonate medications and cancer, the FDA’s Diane Wysowski wrote in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fosamax is manufactured by Merck and is used to increase bone mass among patients who have osteoarthritis.

According to Wysowski, a total of 23 people taking Fosamax in the U.S. have developed esophageal tumors and eight have died since the drug hit the market in 1995. Similar numbers have been noted in Europe and Japan.

Meanwhile, a separate study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association this week linked bisphosphonates to osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

Those with ONJ suffer from pain, swelling, infection, loose teeth and exposed bone. Dr. Parish Sedghizadeh of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry said that the condition is much more common than was previously thought among people taking drugs similar to Fosamax.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18954531-ADNFCR

Common-sense money lessons from 2008

Saving trumps spending for financial healthIt is easy to think of 2008 as a terrible year for your finances, but there is a silver lining – lessons learned.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Brett Arends suggests that the past year has caused people to realize that they need to take control of their own wealth, rather than relying on so-called experts.

Investors should always understand the systems in which they are investing their funds, he argues, pointing out that even the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seemed to not completely comprehend their money-making strategies.

"Simple stocks, like Amazon or Anheuser-Busch, rarely embarrass you in this way," Arends writes.

He also points out that 2008 was another year in which some of the most popular investment sectors fell apart, which underscores the principle of taking charge of your own finances – and having the guts to stray from the pack.

Arends suggests that another lesson from the past year is that saving for the future is a better financial strategy than spending beyond your means in the present – something that may sound obvious but has largely been ignored by many Americans for the past several years.

We probably don’t have long to wait to see if 2008’s lessons have an impact on the coming year.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18952411-ADNFCR

Concerns about Napolitano’s use of security technology

What will Homeland Security implement next?Governor Janet Napolitano will soon be stepping into a lead role with the Homeland Security Department, which has caused various civil liberties groups to examine her previous record on the balance between privacy and security.

For example, Alessandra Soler Meetze of Arizona’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter has raised concerns about Napolitano’s implementation of security technology, USA Today reports.

"She sees technology as the panacea of all our law enforcement problems and immigration issues. It’s like she’s embracing these technologies without taking the time to appreciate the privacy implications," she told the news provider.

In the six years that Napolitano has been governor of Arizona, she has encouraged the use of cameras to scan the license plates of moving cars, signed a bill to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for certain crimes and proposed an optional ID – with a radio-frequency chip – for citizens who reside in the state.

The governor said the ID cards, which could be easily scanned by law enforcement officials, would help speed up border crossings.

Arizona John Birch Society president Bryan Turner suggested that the optional cards could lead to situations in which anyone who didn’t have one could be suspected of being illegal.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18952410-ADNFCR

Special interest groups compete for economic stimulus

Who will get a piece of Obama's stimulus money?Ahead of the finalization of President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed economic stimulus bill, a number of groups have been lobbying for a share of the money.

According to an article in USA Today, the high level of interest in bailout funds could create some difficulties for the incoming administration, which has promised there will be no waste included in any stimulus package.

Groups including Taxpayers for Common Sense have questioned how this aim could possibly be achieved with so many groups jockeying for funds.

"When Congress has got a pocketful of walking around money, there’s a lot of people who are trying to take them for a ride," Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense told the news provider.

"If you’re a lobbyist in town and you’re not trying to get a piece of the bailout, you should be fired."

Among those looking for a role in the stimulus plan are the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Natural Resource Defense Council and the National Air Transport Association.

Each group claims that their contribution could help create or protect jobs, boost consumer spending or otherwise benefit the economy as a whole.

Obama has forecast that the entire stimulus plan could cost as much as $775 billion.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18949348-ADNFCR

Food additives linked to tumor growth

Phosphates added to food may promote cancerA diet high in inorganic phosphates – commonly found in processed food – can contribute to the risk of lung cancer among those already predisposed, as well as accelerating tumor growth, new research suggests.

Scientists at Seoul National University say that inorganic phosphates have a strong connection to the development of lung cancer among rodents and that limiting these additives can help treat the disease when it is already present.

In the past few decades, inorganic phosphates have been increasingly added to a number of processed foods, such as meats, cheeses, beverages and baked goods, explained lead researcher Myung-Haing Cho.

"As a result, depending on individual food choices, phosphorous intake could be increased by as much as 1,000 mg per day," he said, adding that in 1990s this level hovered around 470 mg per day.

Phosphates are usually added to food to boost water retention and improve texture.

The findings, which appear in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, indicated that rats with lung cancer who consumed more phosphates had larger and further progressed tumors.

Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology linked high levels of phosphates in the blood with cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18949347-ADNFCR

Gold edges upward

Renewed international concern eases gold upwardGold prices moved past $870 per ounce in Friday trading after a week of steady rises.

Tensions in the Middle East and on the Indian-Pakistani border helped to boost the price of the precious metal – widely viewed as a safe haven investment – during an otherwise quiet week of trading.

Spot prices for February rose quickly from $850 to $870 over the course of Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, concerns for the underlying strength of the U.S. economy – hit hard by growing unemployment and historically weak consumer demand – have led to renewed speculation over the future price of gold.

"Gold is solid as the dollar is under pressure because of a deepening U.S. recession and the Fed policy of keeping interest rates near zero," analyst Tatsuo Kageyama was reported as telling Bloomberg.

Some experts predict prices might rise as high as $2000 in the next year to 18 months in response to the global financial crisis and the possible worsening of relations in international trouble spots.

The resurgence of fighting between Hamas and Israel on Wednesday reinvigorated concern over Middle Eastern stability following the unraveling of a six-month ceasefire between the two sides earlier in the month. ADNFCR-1961-ID-18947604-ADNFCR

Authorities advise over identity theft

Your identity may be at riskFederal agencies released a revised guide this week designed to tackle the ongoing issue of identity fraud.

The brochure – entitled You Have the Power to Stop Identity Theft – contains a number of steps individuals can take to reduce the chances of an invasion of privacy and possible financial loss.

For example, people should never disclose their Social Security number or other potential password over the phone or internet unless they initiated the contact, the guidance states.

"If you are unsure whether a contact is legitimate, go to the company’s website by typing in the site address or using a page you have previously bookmarked, instead of using a link provided by the email," the authorities advise in a reference to so-called phishing attacks.

If you do fall victim to an identity fraudster, contact your financial institution so that a note can be placed on your file. The guidance also encourages you to inform the Federal Trade Commission of any attempted attack.

As many as nine million Americans are the subject of identity fraud each year, according to FTC estimates.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18947596-ADNFCR

FDA takes Coca-Cola to task for nutrition claims

Diet Coke Plus claims to be nutritionalDiet Coke may contain ingredients such as the artificial sweetener aspartame and phosphoric acid, but the Food and Drug Administration is more concerned about its nutritional claims.

The FDA has sent a letter warning the soft drinks manufacturer that its Diet Coke Plus product does not have the appropriate ingredients to warrant the word "plus."

According to the agency’s standards, foods and drinks that carry the "plus" label should contain at least 10 percent more nutrients than similar items on the market. The FDA also said that adding vitamins and minerals to "snack foods" is not appropriate.

Coca-Cola introduced Diet Coke Plus in March 2007. It describes the drink as having extra vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B, zinc and magnesium, according to the Associated Press.

The AP suggests that the move could be part of a larger plan by the FDA to crack down on food manufacturers that exaggerate health claims on their labels.

However, some natural foods advocates have questioned why the agency has been focusing on nutritional claims rather than the testing and regulation of artificial ingredients.
ADNFCR-1961-ID-18947500-ADNFCR