3 Ex-Bankers in Ireland Sentenced for Fraud

     DUBLIN (AP) — Three former senior bankers were sent to prison Friday for their roles in concealing the loss of billions in deposits at the defunct Anglo Irish Bank, the biggest accounting fraud in Irish corporate history.
Judge Martin Nolan told the trio — former Anglo executives Willie McAteer and John Bowe and former Irish Life and Permanent chief executive Denis Casey — they were guilty of committing “sham transactions” designed to inflate Anglo’s deposit levels by 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) in the Dublin bank’s 2008 earnings report.
Anglo’s cost to taxpayers long was estimated at close to 30 billion euros, nearly half the size of Ireland’s own bailout. But Ireland is clawing back billions as its “bad bank” auctions off sites and developments to a revived property market.
Anglo’s two most senior figures, former chairman Sean FitzPatrick and chief executive David Drumm, remain free on bail pending their own trials for fraud and other offenses expected to run separately into 2017 at least. They face dozens of charges connected to a string of accounting scandals.
Drumm fled to the United States in 2009, failed to win bankruptcy protection there after a judge ruled he used his wife to shelter assets, and spent five months in a U.S. jail while unsuccessfully fighting extradition back to Ireland in March.


AT THE BLACK HAT cybersecurity conference in 2014, industry luminary Dan Geer, fed up with the prevalence of vulnerabilities in digital code, made a modest proposal: Software companies should either make their products open source so buyers can see what they’re getting and tweak what they don’t like, or suffer the consequences if their software failed. He likened it to the ancient Code of Hammurabi, which says that if a builder poorly constructs a house and the house collapses and kills its owner, the builder should be put to death.

No one is suggesting putting sloppy programmers to death, but holding software companies liable for defective programs, and nullifying licensing clauses that have effectively disclaimed such liability, may make sense, given the increasing prevalence of online breaches.

The only problem with Geer’s scheme is that no formal metrics existed in 2014 for assessing the security of software or distinguishing between code that is merely bad and code that is negligently bad. Now, that may change, thanks to a new venture from another cybersecurity legend, Peiter Zatko, known more commonly by his hacker handle “Mudge.”


Security Experts

Security can be defined as  the science of things that shouldn’t happen.

Food industry strategies derailing effective sugar regulation in the European Union

A spoonful of sugar How the food lobby fights sugar regulation in the EU
Food industry strategies derailing effective sugar  regulation in the European Union
This report zooms in on food industry strategies derailing effective sugar  regulation in the European Union. It looks at the way the industry lobby uses  channels such as free trade rules and deregulation drives to undermine existing  laws, tries to influence EU regulatory bodies, sponsors not-so-independent  scientific studies, champions weak voluntary schemes, and spends billions on  aggressive lobbying to protect its profits at the expense of European public  health.

SSA Confirmed and Unacceptable: Social Security Administration Cutting Off Users Who Can't Receive Text Messages

Social Security texting snafu underscores customer service woes

The technology snafu started when the SSA added “multifactor authentication” to log on to MySSA customer accounts. It was a well-intentioned move to satisfy an executive order by U.S. President Barack Obama that federal agencies take steps to protect sensitive financial data.  But critics pointed out that many older Americans do not use text messaging, and customers at one major mobile phone service – Verizon – inexplicably found themselves unable to use the new security layer.  Two weeks later, the SSA backpedaled, admitting that the authentication process had restricted site access for some customers and saying it will look for other ways to bolster its online security. For now, account holders can log on with a username and password.  But the texting misstep is part of a broader customer service challenge the SSA faces.
[ NNSquad ]
Lauren’s Blog: “Confirmed and Unacceptable: Social Security Administration Cutting Off Users Who Can’t Receive Text Messages”

Confirmed and Unacceptable: Social Security Administration
Cutting Off Users Who Can’t Receive Text
If you don’t have a cell phone, or some other means to receive SMS
you won’t be able to access your Social Security Administration “My Social Security” online account starting next month.
The SSA is currently sending out emails announcing that SSA online users MUST receive an SMS text message with a two-factor authentication code to access their accounts starting in August.
According to Congressional testimony in May, SSA “expects” to make
other two-factor methods available at some point in the future.
While the “expectation” of additional two-factor options at some
unspecified time down the line is interesting, the move to now block
users who do not have cell phones, or text message capable cell
phones, or do not have text messaging enabled, or do not know how to
access and read text messages — IS UNACCEPTABLE, especially on such
short notice to SSA users.
Two-factor authentication systems are very important, but keep in mind
that SSA by definition is dealing mostly with older users who may have
only recently become comfortable with online services at all, and may
not make any use of text messaging. Many do not have cell phones or
somebody to receive text messages for them.
Additionally — and ironically — text messaging is considered to be a
substandard means of receiving two-factor authentications. And — get
this boys and girls — NIST (the USA’s National Institute of Standards
and Technology) — just a few days ago officially declared that text
messaging based two-factor should no longer be used at all — it’s
simply not safe and secure.
It appears that SSA has really mucked this one up. This isn’t secure
two-factor, it’s a three-ring circus. And it’s going to leave many SSA
users out in the cold.
Lauren Weinstein

The potentially life-saving bacteria in your boogers.

Are Boogers Good For Your Immune System? Researchers Think It Can Treat Staph Infections
Amid the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” scientists are scrambling to develop new drugs that can suppress infections and battle quickly mutating bacteria. The researchers of the latest study hope that Lugdunin may work in the future as a new treatment against antibiotic-resistant strains of Staph. But first, Krismer said that “it is very important to reduce the amount of prescribed antibiotics, to sparingly use last resort antibiotics, and to dramatically reduce the amount of antibiotics in animal breeding.” And for the time being, rest assured that your nose is looking out for you; your boogers may be gross, but they’re there for a reason.

Potentials for exposure to industrial chemicals suspected of causing developmental neurotoxicity

Potentials for exposure to industrial chemicals suspected of causing developmental neurotoxicity
Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Adjunct Professor
Marian Perez, MPH, Project Coordinator
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
This brief report has been developed as an appendix to the article, “Developmental Neurotoxicity of Industrial Chemicals – A Silent Pandemic,” by Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan, published in the November 8 online edition of The Lancet. An expanded search for neurotoxic chemicals revealed that 278 additional chemicals are considered to be neurotoxic by the (U.S.) National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Even with this addition, the true number of chemicals that have caused damage to the human nervous system is likely much greater.

  • Most of the 201 neurotoxic chemicals listed in The Lancet article are commonly used. About half of them are considered high-volume production chemicals. Twenty-one are on the top-50 list of compounds from chemical waste and nearly half are priority substances in regard to releases to the environment. Methodological approaches to screening for neurotoxicity have improved only slowly, but new techniques include tests based on cell lines and brain tissue cultures. The risks to brain development caused by neurotoxic chemicals deserve national and international attention, and an action plan needs to be developed.

Known human neurotoxicants
The Lancet paper1 identified 201 chemicals with the ability to cause neurological effects in humans, as described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Most of this literature deals with clinical poisoning cases, where the cause was obvious, and where the neurological effects were documented. Some of the literature is based on studies of exposed workers, but very little information is from populations with exposures to chemicals from environmental pollution, because attribution to a single toxic chemical is often impossible.
We have further examined published records from the (U.S.) National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on exposure limits for occupational toxicants2. NIOSH provides information on the target organs that are sensitive to these chemicals. By scrutinizing the information on exposure limits, we find that well over 200 substances (not included in The Lancet table) have been assigned an exposure limit to protect against effects that include nervous system damage (often conjointly with effects on other organs). In these cases, NIOSH has considered the evidence sufficient to warn against neurotoxicity if exposure limits are exceeded.
Thus, using less stringent criteria, many additional chemicals with less scientific documentation must be regarded as neurotoxic to humans. The documentation on these substances needs to be further scrutinized and expanded.
Exposures to the known human neurotoxicants
For the chemical compounds listed in The Lancet table, the risks to human health will depend on their likelihood of causing human exposures. The substances have therefore been compared with lists of the chemicals most frequently used in industry and produced in the highest amounts (see table below). The so-called high-volume production (HPV) chemicals (almost 5,000 substances worldwide) are produced in volumes exceeding 1 million pounds per year 3,4,5. Because of their importance in chemical production, they may well cause occupational exposures, releases to the environment, and exposures via consumer products. Almost one-half of the chemicals in The Lancet table are produced in high volumes.
In regard to environmental contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the release to the environment of certain chemicals (Toxic Release Inventory, TRI) must be reported6. Slightly less than half of the substances included in The Lancet table are also priority substances regarding environmental releases.
A small number of the chemicals in The Lancet table are now banned, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). However, this does not necessarily mean that these substances no longer present a hazard. Twenty-one of the chemicals appear among the top-50 hazardous compounds from chemical waste, selected by the (U.S.) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in regard to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)7.
Table 1. Number of industrial chemicals considered toxic to the human brain (total number, 201) and their listing as regulatory agency priorities*

  # Listed in Lancet Table # Not listed in Lancet Table Total
HPV 97 4746 4843
TRI 93 488 581
CERCLA 21 29 50

*HPV, high-production volume; CERCLA, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; TRI, Toxic Release Inventory
This information suggests that the neurotoxic chemicals in The Lancet table are mostly common chemicals, and very few of them, if any, could be considered laboratory oddities or substances of only historical interest. This finding is noteworthy, because the appearance of human poisoning cases, on which the table was based, may have led to stricter prevention. However, as indicated by The Lancet article, regulations to protect against neurotoxicity, especially developmental neurotoxicity, has usually been delayed.
The majority of the 201 compounds are therefore undoubtedly present in the environment, in food, or in consumer goods. Unfortunately, only a small number of these substances are currently included in biological monitoring efforts, such as those carried out by the (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control (CDC’s most recent National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals tested for the presence of 148 chemicals in humans)8. Methods for biological monitoring and other types of exposure assessment are available and, given human exposure to this high number of neurotoxic chemicals, a more inclusive evaluation would seem to deserve immediate attention.
Potential human neurotoxicants
The number of neurotoxic chemicals is likely to be much larger, as indicated by toxicology tests. Twenty years ago, about 750 chemicals had shown neurotoxic effects in laboratory animals9. The number is thought to exceed 1,000 today, although no authoritative estimate of the true number of neurotoxicants is available.
In 1998, the U.S. EPA found that a full set of basic toxicology information was available for only 7% of the HPV chemicals, including developmental/reproductive toxicity. Much of the missing information is now being gathered as part of a multi-national effort. Although developmental toxicity information was available for 654 chemicals (23%), these data may not necessarily include neurotoxicity data beyond crude variables, such as brain weight. Under standard testing conditions, detailed level-3 neurotoxicity testing would be carried out only if indicated by the short-term tests or level-2 testing of subchronic neurotoxicity tests. Although not specifically covered by the U.S.EPA report, very few of the HPV chemicals have apparently been tested this way.
In 1998, the U.S.EPA estimated that developmental neurotoxicity test would cost approximately $150,000. Although this amount is possibly on the low side, better cell-based screening methods have since then been developed that would allow prioritizing of chemicals that need to be examined by full-scale developmental tests.
When a neurotoxicity test shows a positive outcome, a neurotoxic hazard is indicated. In past testing efforts, the proportion of positive tests among substances tested has varied according to the types of chemicals tested10. Perhaps as many as 25% can be expected to show neurotoxic properties. Thus, among the 80,000 to 100,000 chemicals in use worldwide, a substantial number must therefore be suspected of being capable of damaging the human brain, particularly during development.
The way forward
The incomplete information and the associated uncertainties can easily lead to underestimation of the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity. Because of the vast societal importance of optimizing human brain development, we propose immediate action to protect the brains of future generations:

  1. Documentation of chemicals that have caused toxic effects on the nervous system in humans to facilitate targeted preventive action against releases of these chemicals;
  2. Documentation of human exposures to neurotoxic chemicals and identification of subgroups at risk due to residence, occupation, diet, and other factors;
  3. Research on the consequences of developmental exposures to neurotoxic chemicals to expand our understanding of the long-term consequences of such exposures; and
  4. Screening for neurotoxicity of commonly used chemicals to identify those that may present a hazard to brain development.

These efforts will require a substantial research effort, investment in safety by commercial enterprise, coordination of prevention by governmental authorities, and international collaboration. We will attempt to initiate and inspire such efforts.

  1. Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals – A silent pandemic. The Lancet epub 8 Nov 2006.
  2. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Pocket Guide to chemical

hazards.  http://www.cdc.gov/Niosh/npg/npgsyn-p.html

  1. US EPA. High Production Volume Information System (HPIS).


  1. European Chemical Substances Information System. European Inventory of Existing

Commercial  Chemical Substances (EINECS).  http://ecb.jrc.it/esis/esis.php?PGM=ein

  1. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The 2004 OECD List of High

Production Volume Chemicals.  http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/55/38/33883530.pdf

  1. US EPA. Toxic Release Inventory Program. http://www.epa.gov/tri/chemical/index.htm
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. 2005 CERCLA Priority List of

Hazardous Substances.  http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/cercla/05list.html

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Report on Human Exposure to

Environmental Chemicals.  http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/

  1. Anger WK. Neurobehavioral testing of chemicals: impact on recommended standards.

Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol 1984; 6: 147-53.

  1. Boyes WK. Neurotoxicology and behavior. In: Patty’s Toxicology, 5th ed (Bingham E,

Cohrseen B, Powell CH, eds). New York: Wiley, 2001, pp. 55-121.

Hospitals Medicare Rankings

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated 3,617 hospitals on a one- to five-star scale, angering the hospital industry, which has been pressing the Obama administration and Congress to block the ratings.
Hospital General Information
A list of all Hospitals that have been registered with Medicare.

Direct link between sadness and lasting achievements in art.

How Are You, My Dearest Mozart?
Well-being and Creativity of Three Famous Composers Based on their Letters Karol Jan Borowiecki Department of Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark
What he found appears to bear out popular ideas about creativity and melancholy: a link between periods of negative emotions, especially sadness, and artistic brilliance.
Borowiecki’s analysis suggests that negative emotions are not just correlated with creativity but that they actually have a causal effect on it.
Karol Jan Borowiecki, examined the emotional state of three of the West’s most influential composers through the full course of their lives. Using linguistic analysis software that scanned the text for positive and negative emotions, such as joy, love, grief and hurt, he analyzed 1,400 letters written by Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Liszt to their friends, colleagues and loved ones. He then compared that data with the compositions they produced in a given time period, looking in particular at their most influential and transformative works.