Friday, June 7, 2013

Hope for MS Sufferers

From the frontiers of medical science comes word that a treatment has been developed which may be effective in halting the advance of multiple sclerosis. This will give hope to millions of people who are in various stages of this disease and for whom heretofore there was little chance that the degeneration of their nervous systems would ever be arrested.

What happens in MS is that the sufferer's own immune system attacks the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibers. As these sheaths are degraded the fibers lose the ability to transmit signals which eventually results in paralysis of the limbs.

The new treatment involves programming the immune system to recognize the myelin protein as part of the body and to leave it alone. The treatment also does nothing to alter the immune system in any other way.

It's been tested on mice and it works. If it works as well in humans, which it's expected to do, it'll be a fantastic breakthrough. You can read more on the details of the treatment here.

Big Brother Is Watching You

It appears the dam has broken in Washington and people who otherwise would have kept what they knew to themselves for fear of retribution are now leaking it fast and furiously (sorry). Revelations of Orwellian practices by this government are spilling forth so rapidly it's hard to keep up. No sooner did we learn that the Obama National Security Agency was downloading the data on millions of Verizon users that we learned that the NSA and the FBI have also been monitoring the internet usage of the customers of nine different internet providers.

The Washington Post has the story.
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil. (italics mine)

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
There's much more at the link. The story concludes with a bit of explanation as to how the WaPo got this information:
Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin explains why all of this spying on American citizens is qualitatively and quantitatively different from what the Bush administration was doing. One obvious difference, of course, is that the Bush NSA was eavesdropping on terrorism suspects. The Obama administration is eavesdropping on everyone. Perhaps Mr. Obama considers every American a terrorism suspect.

Even the New York Times seems to have had about all it can stand. At least for now. In an editorial yesterday the Times wrote that the Obama administration has lost all credibilty on its promise to be transparent and accountable. In the opinion of most people, of course, they lost credibility a long time ago, but the Times apparently believes in being fashionably late to the party, unless the party is a Bush bash, in which case they'd be the first to show up with the chips and pretzels.

As I followed the events of the last few weeks I kept thinking of a movie that I urge readers of Viewpoint to watch this summer. The film is titled The Lives of Others and it's about how the East German secret police spied on East German citizens prior to the Berlin Wall being torn down. It's a chilling but superb movie and every American should make it a point, in the age of Obama, to see it.

Please don't think it can't happen here. It is happening here.