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Interesting Links: July 1, 2015

July 1, 2015 1 comment

Here are links to a couple of long and interesting news articles that I came across today. They are about two issues which appear to be unconnected, but in reality are just two diverse manifestations of the same basic problem- which I hope to write about in my upcoming posts.

Link 1: XKEYSCORE- NSA’S Google for the World’s Private Communications

XKEYSCORE allows for incredibly broad surveillance of people based on perceived patterns of suspicious behavior. It is possible, for instance, to query the system to show the activities of people based on their location, nationality and websites visited. For instance, one slide displays the search “germansinpakistn,” showing an analyst querying XKEYSCORE for all individuals in Pakistan visiting specific German language message boards. As sites like Twitter and Facebook become increasingly significant in the world’s day-to-day communications (a Pew study shows that 71 percent of online adults in the U.S. use Facebook), they become a critical source of surveillance data. Traffic from popular social media sites is described as “a great starting point” for tracking individuals, according to an XKEYSCORE presentation titled “Tracking Targets on Online Social Networks.”

The NSA’s ability to piggyback off of private companies’ tracking of their own users is a vital instrument that allows the agency to trace the data it collects to individual users. It makes no difference if visitors switch to public Wi-Fi networks or connect to VPNs to change their IP addresses: the tracking cookie will follow them around as long as they are using the same web browser and fail to clear their cookies. Apps that run on tablets and smartphones also use analytics services that uniquely track users. Almost every time a user sees an advertisement (in an app or in a web browser), the ad network is tracking users in the same way. A secret GCHQ and CSE program called BADASS, which is similar to XKEYSCORE but with a much narrower scope, mines as much valuable information from leaky smartphone apps as possible, including unique tracking identifiers that app developers use to track their own users. In May of this year, CBC, in partnership with The Intercept, revealed that XKEYSCORE was used to track smartphone connections to the app marketplaces run by Samsung and Google. Surveillance agency analysts also use other types of traffic data that gets scooped into XKEYSCORE to track people, such as Windows crash reports.

Given the breadth of information collected by XKEYSCORE, accessing and exploiting a target’s online activity is a matter of a few mouse clicks. Brossard explains: “The amount of work an analyst has to perform to actually break into remote computers over the Internet seems ridiculously reduced — we are talking minutes, if not seconds. Simple. As easy as typing a few words in Google.” These facts bolster one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by The Guardian on June 9, 2013. “I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge to even the president, if I had a personal email.” Indeed, training documents for XKEYSCORE repeatedly highlight how user-friendly the program is: with just a few clicks, any analyst with access to it can conduct sweeping searches simply by entering a person’s email address, telephone number, name or other identifying data. There is no indication in the documents reviewed that prior approval is needed for specific searches. In addition to login credentials and other target intelligence, XKEYSCORE collects router configuration information, which it shares with Tailored Access Operations. The office is able to exploit routers and then feed the traffic traveling through those routers into their collection infrastructure. This allows the NSA to spy on traffic from otherwise out-of-reach networks. XKEYSCORE documents reference router configurations, and a document previously published by Der Spiegel shows that “active implants” can be used to “cop[y] traffic and direc[t]” it past a passive collector.

Link 2: Cruel and All-Too-Usual

Cell extractions are supposed to be a last resort—say, when an inmate is attempting suicide. In a well-run facility, a staff member will knock on the door and attempt to reason with a prisoner who is not following orders. But Steve J. Martin, a corrections consultant, explained that with militarized teams on call, supervisors became accustomed to using them for minor matters, too. Refusal to return a food tray, for instance, is a surprisingly common reason cited by prisons. In a bad facility, “staff like to do cell extractions because it’s an excuse to kick the crap out of inmates,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, a correctional consultant who has advised prisons on disciplinary policies. “There is no question that many cell extractions are unnecessary and avoidable.” Schwartz called the procedure used against Jamie “wrong and clearly dangerous.” “The female inmate is choking as they first put her down on the bunk, and she is also yelling for them to get off of her,” he said. “The staff should have stopped what they were doing and gotten a medical staff member to the scene immediately.” Pressing the spit guard over her face, he added, increased the chance that Jamie could “have a panic attack” or “vomit and asphyxiate with vomit in her airways.”

In November 2013, months after PREA implementation began, Michigan interviewed teenage inmates held at Thumb Correctional to see if they felt safe. In affidavits collected by Michigan as part of the lawsuit, most said they did. However, one said that in September, a guard had told him he would “rape my fat ass if I wasn’t 17.” Another 17-year-old inmate said, “[A]bout three weeks ago, an officer … told me that he was going to make sure I go up North to be fucked in the ass.” Overall, reported assaults by staff are rarely penalized. Between 2010 and 2013, Michigan received 1,122 allegations from inmates of staff sexual harassment. They substantiated 10 of them.Some kids later signed affidavits saying that they had been pressured by Michigan to participate in the interviews and even threatened with isolation. (An attorney for Michigan called the claims of intimidation “absolutely false.”) One wrote to his lawyer, “I sign a paper without reading it and was mad because I didn’t realize he was using [his] power to trick me.” Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist who reviewed the interviews for the plaintiffs, said that the state violated “every single point in the protocol” for interviewing sexual assault survivors and was “very unlikely to uncover the truth.”

On May 1, I went to see Max again. He had been removed from the housing unit with the dogs and sent to solitary for punching an inmate, an assault he said he didn’t commit. (His accuser told me in a letter, “He hit me soo hard,” although another inmate on the scene testified that he hadn’t seen Max fight with anyone.) His lawyers said they believe evidence will show that Max has been retaliated against for his participation in the lawsuit and willingness to speak to the press, and plan to address the matter in court. When Max found out he was going back to segregation, he lost it. He lashed out against staff members, earning more misconduct tickets. In separate lawsuits filed against Max’s facility last year, two inmates allege that after they reported officer wrongdoing, they were targeted with numerous forms of retaliation, including “unprovoked beatings, gassings, forced cell extractions, food and water deprivation, extended deprivation of basic hygiene and health care, and fabricated misconduct tickets.” MDOC responded in a legal filing that “the injuries and damages sustained by Plaintiffs, if any, were solely or partly a result of their own conduct.” On April 14, as the video below shows, he was forcibly put on suicide watch for “making threats of self harm.” He refused to submit to a strip search—he told me that taking his clothes off in front of the guards gives him flashbacks to his sexual assaults—and was gassed with chemical spray. When I saw the video, I could hardly believe it was the same person. In our conversations, he was calm and straightforward, chatting about playing basketball and football growing up. In the video he is naked, yelling and crying, the burly officers eyeing him like a wild animal.

What do you think? Comments?

NSFW Links: June 27, 2015

June 27, 2015 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW.

Nubile Cuties: June 27, 2015 – Beautiful and smooth cuties.

More Nubile Cuties: June 27, 2015 – More beautiful and smooth cuties.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

Interesting Links: June 25, 2015

June 25, 2015 Leave a comment

Here are links to some interesting news articles that I came across today. They are mostly about the continued decay of living standards for everyone but the super rich and their flunkies.

Link 1: Buying a car could soon be a thing of the past, and Ford is desperate to find what’s next

Ford last month sent letters to 14,000 of its American drivers with an unusual suggestion: For extra cash, they could rent their cars to fellow urbanites wanting a cheap ride. America’s second-biggest auto giant wouldn’t directly sell any additional cars or trucks off the arrangement; it wouldn’t even take a cut. But it would put Ford closer to the front of a movement in which cars are shared, ignored or Uber-ed — not bought. The “peer-to-peer” rental experiment is only the latest weird move for America’s auto powerhouse, maker of the F-150 and Model T. Last month, Ford launched a pay-as-you-go network of shareable, on-demand cars in London, called GoDrive.

The car-sharing program, running now through November, will cover cars, trucks and SUVs in six of America’s younger cities: Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and Washington. The Ford-financed vehicles are rented to pre-screened drivers through Getaround, an Airbnb for cars, for anywhere between $5 and $9 an hour. Getaround takes a 40 percent cut, but Ford gets a few perks, too: The car owners get more money to pay off loans, and the renters take a test drive that could persuade them to buy a Ford, if they ever buy a car at all.

Link 2: Jailed for Being Broke

A little over a week ago, a 23-year-old construction worker in the Bronx named Jeff Rivera got in an argument with his wife, from whom he is separated. During the argument, he struck her door, pushing in the screen. Rivera was arrested and brought to court, where he was charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, for pushing in the screen door. Though the sentence for being convicted of a misdemeanor offense like criminal mischief is hard to predict, the more immediate question for Rivera was whether or not he’d be jailed before trial. Rivera had no reason to expect that he’d have to post bail to stay out of jail. Not only was the offense relatively minor, but he has no criminal history, is employed, and has a child and every reason in the world to show up for his trial. Judges are only supposed to set bail for two main reasons: if the defendant is a flight risk, or if he or she is a danger to the community.

“Bail is for guaranteeing that a person appears at trial. It’s not a punishment,” says Rivera’s lawyer, Alexandra Bonacarti of New York County Defender Services. “There’s absolutely no reason to set bail on someone like Jeff who has a job, a child, no criminal history, no history of missing a court date, and is not charged with a violent crime.” But Rivera was unlucky. He went to court and stood before a judge who decided to set bail of $500 in his case. Rivera didn’t have the money, which means he’d essentially committed two crimes, the second more serious than the first: he’d pushed in a screen door, and he didn’t have $500.

What people forget is that those who’ve merely been charged with crimes aren’t officially guilty yet. And not-yet-guilty people aren’t supposed to go to the hole, except under very narrowly defined sets of circumstances – for flight risks or for threats to the community. It’s certainly not supposed to be a punishment for not having $500. But it works out differently in practice. In the era of “Broken Windows” and community policing, a crime-prevention strategy designed to generate vast numbers of minor arrests, more and more people are ending up in jail for what amounts to the crime of not having money. The bail issue is only just starting to get some profile in the press, which of course has focused quite a lot on criminal justice and inequality issues in the last year.

Link 3: Bryan Stevenson on Charleston and Our Real Problem with Race

The whole narrative of white supremacy was created during the era of slavery. It was a necessary theory to make white Christian people feel comfortable with their ownership of other human beings. And we created a narrative of racial difference in this country to sustain slavery, and even people who didn’t own slaves bought into that narrative, including people in the North. It was New York’s governor — in the 1860s — that was talking about the inferiority of the black person even as he was opposed to slavery. So this narrative of racial difference has done really destructive things in our society. Lots of countries had slaves, but they were mostly societies with slaves. We became something different, we became a slave society. We created a narrative of racial difference to maintain slavery. And our 13th amendment never dealt with that narrative. It didn’t talk about white supremacy. The Emancipation Proclamation doesn’t discuss the ideology of white supremacy or the narrative of racial difference, so I don’t believe slavery ended in 1865, I believe it just evolved. It turned into decades of racial hierarchy that was violently enforced — from the end of reconstruction until WWII — through acts of racial terror. And in the north, that was tolerated.

And even moving closer to the present day, even the era of the civil rights movement — in my judgment — has been recast as moments where great heroism and courage took place that we can all celebrate. Everybody gets to celebrate the courage that it took to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, everybody gets to celebrate the march on Washington, everybody gets to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and Rosa Parks, and no one is accountable for all of the resistance to civil rights, all of the damage that was done by segregation. I hear people talking about the civil rights movement and it sounds like a three-day carnival. Day One: Rosa Parks gave up her seat on the bus. Day Two: Dr. King led a march on Washington, and Day Three: we just changed all these laws. And we tell our history as if it’s the true history when in fact that’s not the true history. The true history is that for decades, we humiliated black people in this country every day. For decades we did not let them vote, we did not let them get full education, we did not let them work for pay, we did not let them live as full human beings with dignity and hopefulness, we denied all of these basic opportunities to African Americans, and we’ve never really talked about the consequences of that era of apartheid and segregation.

When did the narrative of racial difference end? What date did people fully embrace and accept, internalize, act on, believe that there is no difference between races? When did that happen? It did not happen when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 because every state in the South has been fighting it until the present day. It did not happen in the 1970s when people were violently resisting the idea of integration in schools. It did not happen in the 1980s when some people were suggesting that there ought to be affirmative action for people who have been denied historic opportunities. It did not happen in the 1990s when we saw police violence being directed at blacks like Rodney King, and saw the rate of attacks on young men of color increase and we constructed this whole apparatus of mass incarceration that has targeted and menaced black and brown people in ways that are epidemic. It didn’t happen at the beginning of this 21st century when for the first time, one in three black males born in this country were destined for jail or prison because we think that your race makes you presumptively dangerous and guilty. So what date did it happen?

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015 1 comment

Here are links to some interesting news articles that I came across today. They are about the actions (and true nature) of “national security agencies” of supposedly democratic western countries.

Link 1: Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online propaganda and Psychology Research

The spy unit responsible for some of the United Kingdom’s most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit focuses extensively on traditional law enforcement and domestic activities — even though officials typically justify its activities by emphasizing foreign intelligence and counter-terrorism operations. Documents published today by The Intercept demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams. Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online.

While some of the unit’s activities are focused on the claimed areas, JTRIG also appears to be intimately involved in traditional law enforcement areas and UK-specific activity, as previously unpublished documents demonstrate. An August, 2009 JTRIG memo entitled “Operational Highlights” boasts of “GCHQ’s first serious crime effects operation” to shut down internet forums and to remove websites identifying police informants and members of a witness protection program. Another was “used to facilitate and execute online fraud.” The document also describes GCHQ advice provided “to assist the UK negotiating team on climate change.” Particularly revealing is a fascinating 42-page document from 2011 detailing JTRIG’s activities. It provides the most comprehensive and sweeping insight to date into the scope of this unit’s extreme methods. Entitled “Behavioral Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online Humint [Human Intelligence] Operations,” it describes the types of targets on which the unit focuses, the psychological and behavioral research it commissions and exploits, and its future organizational aspirations. It is authored by a psychologist, Mandeep K. Dhami.

Link 2: Popular Security Software came under Relentless NSA and GCHQ Attacks

The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, have worked to subvert anti-virus and other security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The spy agencies have reverse engineered software products, sometimes under questionable legal authority, and monitored web and email traffic in order to discreetly thwart anti-virus software and obtain intelligence from companies about security software and users of such software. One security software maker repeatedly singled out in the documents is Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, which has a holding registered in the U.K., claims more than 270,000 corporate clients, and says it protects more than 400 million people with its products. British spies aimed to thwart Kaspersky software in part through a technique known as software reverse engineering, or SRE, according to a top-secret warrant renewal request. The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.

Another way the NSA targets foreign anti-virus companies appears to be to monitor their email traffic for reports of new vulnerabilities and malware. A 2010 presentation on “Project CAMBERDADA” shows the content of an email flagging a malware file, which was sent to various anti-virus companies by François Picard of the Montréal-based consulting and web hosting company NewRoma. The presentation of the email suggests that the NSA is reading such messages to discover new flaws in anti-virus software. Picard, contacted by The Intercept, was unaware his email had fallen into the hands of the NSA. He said that he regularly sends out notification of new viruses and malware to anti-virus companies, and that he likely sent the email in question to at least two dozen such outfits. He also said he never sends such notifications to government agencies. “It is strange the NSA would show an email like mine in a presentation,” he added. The NSA presentation goes on to state that its signals intelligence yields about 10 new “potentially malicious files per day for malware triage.” This is a tiny fraction of the hostile software that is processed. Kaspersky says it detects 325,000 new malicious files every day, and an internal GCHQ document indicates that its own system “collect[s] around 100,000,000 malware events per day.”

Link 3: Spies Hacked Computers Thanks to Sweeping Secret Warrants, Aggressively Stretching U.K Law

British spies have received government permission to intensively study software programs for ways to infiltrate and take control of computers. The GCHQ spy agency was vulnerable to legal action for the hacking efforts, known as “reverse engineering,” since such activity could have violated copyright law. But GCHQ sought and obtained a legally questionable warrant from the Foreign Secretary in an attempt to immunize itself from legal liability. GCHQ’s reverse engineering targeted a wide range of popular software products for compromise, including online bulletin board systems, commercial encryption software and anti-virus programs. Reverse engineering “is essential in order to be able to exploit such software and prevent detection of our activities,” the electronic spy agency said in a warrant renewal application. But GCHQ’s hacking and evasion goals appear to have led it onto dubious legal ground and, at times, into outright non-compliance with its own procedures for staying within the bounds of the law. A top-secret document states that a GCHQ team lapsed in following the agency’s authorization protocol for some continuous period of time. Meanwhile, GCHQ obtained a warrant for reverse engineering under a section of British intelligence law that does not explicitly authorize — and had apparently never been used to authorize — the sort of copyright infringement GCHQ believed was necessary to conduct such activity.

One document describing the warrant, a 2008 warrant renewal application, identifies numerous commercially available products in which GCHQ identified vulnerabilities through reverse engineering. These include widely used encryption software such as Exlade’s CrypticDisk and Acer’s eDataSecurity. Exlade’s products are used by “thousands of companies and government agencies,” including tech giants IBM, Intel, GE, HP and Seagate, according to the company’s website. Also successfully targeted were popular web forum services vBulletin and Invision Power Board. VBulletin says its users include Sony Pictures, NASA, Electronic Arts and Zynga. Invision Power Services, the maker of Invision Power Board, said around the time of the warrant renewal application that its users included Yahoo, AMD and Sony. GCHQ also targeted CPanel, software used by large hosting companies like GoDaddy for configuring servers, and PostfixAdmin, used to manage Postfix, popular email server software.

What do you think? Comments?

Garfunkel and Oates: Frozen Lullaby

June 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Just in time for Father’s Day this year (June 21, 2015). While you may, or may not, like the song- it is hard to deny its accuracy.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: LOL, YouTube

Interesting Links: May 16, 2015

June 16, 2015 3 comments

Here are links to some interesting news articles that I came across today. They are about some of the less obvious, but very important details, behind the currently hot Rachel Dolezal story.

Link 1: Rachel Dolezal grew up in strict, cult-like Christian family, brother writes in memoir

The two siblings, born just two years apart, were raised in tiny Troy, Mont., by Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal, ex-hippies who turned to religion for life’s answers. Their zealot father spoke in tongues and made them wait to eat dinner every night while he read a chapter of the Bible, the memoir said. The family of evangelists had no TV and little contact with the outside world. Joshua Dolezal wrote in a memoir that he and her sister Rachel Dolezal were raised in a cult-like Christian home where her father spoke in tongues and the kids were banned from watching TV and reading books. Joshua Dolezal wrote in a memoir that he and her sister Rachel Dolezal were raised in a cult-like Christian home where her father spoke in tongues and the kids were banned from watching TV and reading books. Larry Dolezal delivered both his children at home, and put on the birth certificates that Jesus Christ was the witness, Joshua Dolezal wrote.

Link 2: Inside The Alleged Abuse Scandal That Destroyed The Dolezal Family

The criminal case that Rachel Dolezal said led her parents to spitefully reveal that the former president of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP is biologically white involves charges that her older brother sexually abused their adopted black sister — allegations her parents told BuzzFeed News were fabricated. As first reported by the New York Daily News, Joshua Dolezal, 39, is facing four counts of sexually assaulting a child in Colorado after being arrested in March 2014. He was released on a $15,000 bond after his arrest and works as an associate professor of English at Central College in Pella, Iowa. According to a Colorado affidavit and arrest warrant reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the alleged abuse occurred in the Dolezal home between 2001 and 2002. The documents state that the alleged victim was age 6 or 7 when the abuse was allegedly carried out by Joshua, who court documents said was 19 years older than the alleged victim. The documents obscure the identity and gender of the victim, but Rachel Dolezal previously told the Spokesman-Review of a “Colorado lawsuit filed by her sister against their brother.”

Rachel and Josh’s parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that their adopted daughter Esther had made the criminal complaints, but said the allegations were “absolutely untrue.” BuzzFeed News has contacted both Esther and Joshua Dolezal for comment. Dolezal would follow [redacted] into bathroom and would make [redacted] undress and would touch [redacted] and [redacted] area on [redacted] skin. This happened over 20 times,” according to an affidavit prepared by Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office Detective Al Billinger. According to the affidavit, the alleged victim told police Joshua Dolezal repeatedly made her touch his penis and perform oral sex on him. He allegedly threatened his victim with harm if she spoke out. The affidavit also says the victim told her adoptive mother, who did not believe her “lies.” However, the alleged victim was eventually placed in “a home for abused children,” according to the affidavit. The affidavit also claimed “that Joshua Dolezal had victimized [redacted] older sister” — a possible reference to Rachel.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015 3 comments

Here are links to three interesting news articles (one recent + two older) about the same basic issue, namely the results of unrestricted profit-seeking in medicine under the guise of professionalism. Note that american-style frauds are usually a mix of self-delusion, image control and finding compliant underlings.

Link 1: Whistle-blower: How doctor uncovered nightmare

Fata’s Michigan Hematology and Oncology Inc. (MHO) was the state’s largest private cancer practice in 2013, with clinics in seven cities, its own pharmacy and diagnostic center, and 1,700 patients, virtually all of them assigned to Fata, the tireless physician. Those who needed proof of Fata’s dedication could look to the doctor’s work ethic — he often labored past midnight — or to the Swan for Life Foundation, a charity Fata established to help cancer patients and their families. Today, MHO is gone and Fata is behind bars, awaiting sentencing for at least $34 million in fraudulent Medicare billings and a kickback scheme with a hospice. The criminal counts only hint at the human suffering behind the financial damages and raise questions about how Fata’s schemes could go undetected so long, despite his many contacts, doctors, and huge roster of patients.

Maunglay was stunned by what the hospital chart suggested. A cancer-free patient being given chemotherapy wasn’t negligence; it was an atrocity. “It’s oh my God, if he can do this to a person who has nothing. …” he said one recent Saturday afternoon. “For me, one case like this was enough. How could a doctor do this? My father died of cancer. For most of us” — he waved his arms — “cancer is personal.” As a cancer specialist, he had a special understanding of the horror he was witnessing, its cruelty. Fata’s choice of myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, bespoke a certain shrewdness, because of the subjectivity of diagnosis. It was a clever niche for false doctoring. “You cannot fake lung cancer,” he says. “You cannot fake a tumor …” But with this disease, a malevolent doctor could plausibly use the treatment itself as a smokescreen to obscure future questions.

Link 2: Detroit-area doctor pleads guilty to widespread cancer treatment fraud

A Detroit-area cancer doctor accused of putting people through unnecessary treatments and then billing insurers for millions of dollars pleaded guilty to fraud Tuesday, admitting that he knew his patients often didn’t need chemotherapy. Dr Farid Fata pleaded guilty to 16 charges, including money laundering and conspiracy, without the benefit of a plea deal with prosecutors. US Attorney Barbara McQuade said she would not negotiate such a “shocking” case and will seek a sentence of life in prison. “We weren’t interested in bargaining anything away,” McQuade said. “His conduct was so egregious,” she told The Associated Press on the courthouse steps. “It wasn’t a matter of stealing money but torturing patients by lying to them about having cancer. … Chemotherapy is poison intended to kill cancer cells.”

His cancer clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology, had seven offices and a related business that performed tests to look for cancer. The government says Fata submitted about $225m in claims to Medicare over six years, about half for chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Medicare paid more than $91m, and private insurers were billed, too.

Link 3: Special Report: Behind a cancer-treatment firm’s rosy survival claims

CTCA is not unique in turning away patients. A lot of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers in the United States decline to treat people who can’t pay, or have inadequate insurance, among other reasons. What sets CTCA apart is that rejecting certain patients and, even more, culling some of its patients from its survival data lets the company tout in ads and post on its website patient outcomes that look dramatically better than they would if the company treated all comers. These are the rosy survival numbers that attract people like the Hilborns.

“They market hope,” Gail Robison, a staff nurse at the Zion hospital from 2003 to 2007, said of CTCA. The marketing typically features CTCA’s state-of-the-art care and holistic approach. Ads note that featured patients might not be representative: “You should not expect to experience these results.” The ads also challenge viewers to “compare our treatment results to national averages.” Doing so, on the company’s website, shows that CTCA’s reported survival outcomes regularly beat those averages. Experts in medical data who reviewed CTCA’s claims for Reuters say those claims are suspect because of what they called deviations from best practices in statistics – in particular, comparing its carefully selected patients to those nationwide. “It makes their data look better than it is,” said Robert Strawderman, professor and chairman of biostatistics at the University of Rochester. “So the comparisons used to suggest that CTCA has better survival rates are pretty meaningless.”

CTCA also excludes from its survival calculations thousands of patients it does treat but who did not receive “treatment at CTCA for the duration of their illness.” “‘The duration of their illness’ is a very big and very red flag,” said MD Anderson’s Berry. CTCA’s patients will “tend to be healthier” than those in the general population from which SEER draws its data, he said, adding: “Ability and willingness to travel is an independent factor” associated with longer survival. No federal or state law requires hospitals to report their cancer outcomes, let alone mandates how to do the calculations. But many healthcare providers voluntarily err on the side of inclusion.

What do you think? Comments?

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