India should not delay enacting a Privacy Act #mustshare


It is time the government stopped twiddling its thumbs and took action
Livemint
First Published: Mon, Jun 10 2013.
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint<br /><br />
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint
By modern standards of civility governments snooping on citizens is considered abhorrent behaviour. The admission by the US government that it has been collecting billions of pieces of information world-wide, especially personal data and emails, has thus been greeted by shock and anger. Indian citizens, too, have been subjected to this sweep, carried out under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or Fisa.
It is time the government of India stopped twiddling its thumbs and took strong measures such as enacting a Privacy Act to protect the rights of citizens.
An 8 June report by The Guardian suggests that 6.3 billion reports were collected from India. The investigation followed reports that the US has been monitoring communications between US and foreign nationals over the Internet for years under a project called “prism”. The Guardian said it has acquired classified documents about a data-mining tool called “boundless informant” that was used by the US National Security Agency that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
Reacting to earlier reports on the same issue, US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, issued a media release on 6 June, stating that The Guardian and The Washington Post articles “contain numerous inaccuracies”, but acknowledged that, “section 702 is a provision of Fisa that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the US…” The US government simultaneously clarified that the usage of such information or metadata (analytics of the humungous amounts of data intercepted) is used only after a due legal process.
Nevertheless, this assurance provides little comfort given that around 40 countries filter the Internet to varying degrees, including democratic and non-democratic governments. YouTube and Gmail (both from Google), BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, WikiLeaks, Skype (now a Microsoft product), Twitter and Facebook have all been censored, at different times, in China, Iran, Egypt and even India.
In April, the Union government began rolling out a central monitoring system, or CMS, which will enable it to monitor all phone and Internet communication in the country. Human Rights Watch in a 7 June media release described CMS as “chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws”.
Cybersecurity experts caution that while US and European Union citizens have recourse to law under their own domestic privacy policies, India has no such safeguard. The obvious agency to take a lead in the design, framing and enactment of such a law is, of course, the Union government. But it is hard to expect the government to take any initiative in the matter as—like any government—it would want to have the capabilities to intercept private communication of citizens. On 25 April 2011, the government in a media release admitted that provisions for authorization of interception are contained in section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, read with Rule 419 (A) of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, as well as in section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, read with the Information Technology (Directions for Interception or Monitoring or Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
The release also pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its order of 18 December 1996, had upheld the constitutional validity of interceptions and monitoring under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, but added that telephone tapping would infringe the Right to Life and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in articles 21 and 19(1)(a), respectively, of the Constitution of India, unless permitted under the procedure established by law.
However, these guidelines are implemented more by way of an exception rather than as a rule.
The trouble here is that while the law is clear, it has multiple exceptions built into it that allow the government to do as it pleases. The safeguards thought of by the judiciary are not sufficient to protect the privacy of citizens. It is too much to hope that the government will adhere to privacy norms on its own. Three things need to happen in case India is ever to have a reasonable chance at a decent privacy law. One, citizen awareness and activism have to assume a much higher level than what prevails now. Two, public representatives—legislators, especially in Parliament—have to realize that privacy is a right that is at par with other rights and should not be trampled at will. Finally, at an appropriate juncture, the higher judiciary should take a look at the issue carefully once again. Continuous judicial scrutiny of the government is, for now, the only viable option to check abuses of privacy.
Does India need a privacy law? Tell us at views@livemint.com

#India – There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the NPR, the CMS, #Aadhaar


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India’s IT Min of State Milind Deora’s Thinks The CMS (India’s PRISM) Is “A Good Tool”

 

 

 

 

 

By  on Jun 11th, 2013  |  medianama.com

 

 
 

Milind Deora, India’s Minister of State for IT thinks that the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which is essentially India’s version of PRISM, “is a good tool” which will “ensure and protect your privacy”. On a Google Hangout last week with him, I asked Deora about the IT Act, the IT Rules, India’s Identity project (Aadhaar), and the CMS and other systems the Indian government is setting up for tracking SMS, GPRS usage, Phone Calls, Location, and what users are accessing and downloading. Please note that this was held a day before the disclosures around PRISM.

 

For those unable to view the video, Deora said that no law is perfect, there are issues with implementation, they’re open to suggestions, but above all, Deora said – bizarrely – that the CMS is being set up to safeguard our privacy from mobile operators,and protects the national security of the country. He said that with processes set up, the officer in charge will not have access to information, politicians will not get access. He did not respond to the question on India’s privacy law.

Apart from that, Deora said I’m misinformed. The context of my questions:

1. India’s IT Act, it’s Section 66a and IT Rules are draconian, the government has promised to amend them (read this), but kept deferring making any changes, despite the issue being taken up by a committee (read this) and Parliament (read thisthis and these notes on a live discussion), and a public interest litigation (read this). They’ve issued an advisory on Section 66a (read this), a clarification on the IT Rules which wasn’t enough (read this) but the law and the rules remain draconian, and susceptible to misuse. The IT Ministry has the power to change the rules, but hasn’t done it so far. In fact, like Deora in the Q&A, it has defended its rules (read this). We’ve repeatedly pointed towards the need for transparency and specificity (read this) as a solution. Despite Deora giving assurances about there being rigor in finalizing the IT Act, it was passed without debate, a knee-jerk reaction in an atmosphere of fear (read this).

One common refrain from this government (and Deora in this Q&A) has been that they’ve used wordings from international laws to draft Indian laws – that is true but misleading because it’s easy to choose selectively to remove safeguards; laws need to be looked at in their totality, not just sentence by sentence.

2. India is setting up a Central Monitoring system (read this) for tracking what we say or text over the phone, write, post or browse over the Internet, getting direct access from telecom operators and ISPs. Last year, we had reported on a home ministry tender for the same (read this). In 2011, we found a Tender Document from the Delhi Police which had details of setting up the CMS (read this)

3. The Mumbai Police has set up a social media monitoring cell, which, strangely, has been tracking torrents (read this).

5. Aadhaar, India’s not quite flawless (read this) unique identity project, created circumventing Parliament as per a Parliamentary committee (read this) will eventually link all your databases together, across government services, and what is worse, the data will be given to private companies – National Information Utilities, with 51% private ownership – read this.

6. All of this is being done before India has passed a Privacy law (read this), and even if a Privacy law does come into place, how safe do you feel, and how likely do you think the government executives, to not circumvent the law, or create loopholes that they can use?

My contention is that there is a legal and technological framework for surveillance that is being created and deployed right now without proper approval of Parliament, and without Parliamentarians in India paying adequate attention to it. Having technological infrastructure is not enough – they can and will be circumvented.

Having legal safeguards is not enough – even if laws are put into place, the government will create loopholes because they want this power (look at the IT Rules and Aadhaar). You can really rely on the government or the police to abuse the power that they give themselves (read this). What prevents the government in power from harassing individuals who challenge them (including those from opposition parties) on the basis of National Security? Where does National Security end and Government Security begin, and what do we do about a trigger-happy CERT-IN blocking dissent without any transparency?

You decide – am I misinformed, or is Milind Deora misinformed or misleading?

The Only Solution

The only solution is what the UK did with its Identity project (read this): dismantle these projects, no matter how much money has been spent on them, because the risks to civil liberties is too great. There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the National Population Register, the Central Monitoring System, change the IT Act and IT Rules, and create a privacy law. It is also bizarre for Deora to suggest that information which the government has access to through mobile networks and ISPs will not also be available these service providers.

So, Milind, I do not agree that this monitoring should be, as you said, “the exclusive domain of the government”, because I don’t trust the law enforcement agencies, this government and the governments to follow.

We’d be happy to publish a response to this post, if you wish to clarify further.

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Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations


The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

• Q&A with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I do not expect to see home again’

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong

Sunday 9 June 2013

guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

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The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”

For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

 

Syria – Extremist group ‘executes’ 15-year-old Syrian boy for heresy


 

Monday, 10 June 2013
The gunmen belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (File photo: Reuters)
Reuters, Amman

Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents on Sunday as punishment for what the group regarded as a heretical comment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mohammad Qataa was shot in the face and neck a day after being seized, said the pro-opposition monitoring group, which is based in Britain and uses a network of observers across Syria.

“The Observatory cannot ignore these crimes, which only serve the enemies of the revolution and the enemies of humanity,” said the group’s leader Rami Abdulrahman.

A photo released by the Observatory showed Qataa’s face with his mouth and jaw bloodied and destroyed, as well as a bullet wound in his neck.

The Observatory, which based its report on witness accounts of the killing, said Qataa, who was a street vendor selling coffee in the working-class Shaar neighborhood, had been arguing with someone when he was overheard saying: “Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down [from heaven], I will not become a believer.”

The gunmen, who belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, took Qatta on Saturday and brought him back alive in the early hours of Sunday to his wooden stand, with whiplash marks visible on his body.

“People gathered around him and a member of the fighting brigade said: ‘Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is a polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this.”

“He then fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy’s mother and father, and got into a car and left,” the report said.

Abdulrahman said the boy’s mother had pleaded with the killers, whose Arabic suggested they might not be Syrian, not to shoot her son. Qataa’s parents said the youth had taken part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Aleppo.

Since last year, large parts of the city have fallen under the control of Islamist brigades, including the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front, as well as other rebel units.

Religion and governance: strange bedfellows #Vaw #womenrights


BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3715 (Published 7 June 2013)

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3715
  1. Anita Jain, India editor, BMJ

Author Affiliations

  1. ajain@bmj.com

An unexpected turn of events saw a woman referred to as Beatriz get a life saving caesarean section, thanks to doctors in El Salvador who supported her cause, and a rousing international movement. She was earlier denied an abortion, it being criminalised in predominantly Catholic El Salvador, with the ensuing imprisonment of women and doctors (doi:10.1136/bmj.f3612). Timely intervention prevented Beatriz going the same way as Savita Halappanavar did a few months back in Ireland. Savita died after being denied an abortion on the grounds that “it [Ireland] is a Catholic country” (doi:10.1136/bmj.f2208). Her death and Beatriz’s struggle for life raise the question: Why does religion interfere?

A parallel conflict between religion and governance is taking place in the Philippines. At the Women Deliver conference I attended last week, it pained me to hear Filipino women with 16 and 22 children talk of how they were tired of having children, of having to provide for them under conditions of extreme poverty, and fearful of dying in the process of childbirth. Senator Pia Cayetano provided an inspirational narrative of having the reproductive health bill passed last year after five congresses and nearly 15 years. Recognised by President Aquino as a “matter of urgency,” the law marks a momentous achievement to make available free contraceptives, sex education, and comprehensive obstetric services (doi:10.1136/bmj.e8535). The struggle is not over however. With a largely Catholic, conservative, and patriarchal hierarchy, the constitutionality of this law has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

In a review of abortion policies worldwide, Sophie Arie reports a threat that countries may be headed towards being more restrictive (doi:10.1136/bmj.e8161). Closer to home, India may laud itself for a progressive abortion law but it continues to have one of the highest rates of unsafe abortions. Suchitra Dalvie, coordinator of the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, shares grim statistics whereby, “every year about 11 million abortions take place [about 700 000 are reported] and around 20 000 women die due to abortion related complications.” Clearly the law has not translated into enabling physical, social, or financial access to these essential reproductive health services (doi:10.1136/bmj.f3159). Contrary to what may be expected, states are further imposing severe curbs on medical abortion pills (doi:10.1136/bmj.f1957). In the latest BMJ poll we look forward to hearing what you think of this.

Signifying a commitment to make comprehensive family planning services a reality globally, the London Summit on Family Planning (FP 2020) laid the ground for collaboration among donors and governments (doi:10.1136/bmj.e4160). At Women Deliver, Kavita Ramdas from the Ford Foundation emphasised, however, that “access to contraceptives” needs to be the message, and not just family planning. The importance of this is immediately evident in a similar conflict between the state and religion in Muslim dominated Indonesia where unmarried women are denied reproductive health services including contraception. Shereen El Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel, shared voices of young unmarried men and women from the Arab region who are “sexually active, but not sexually informed” as “marriage remains the only the only socially accepted context for sex—state-registered, family-approved, religiously-sanctioned.” The needs of this large and growing community of single men and women often tend to be neglected in the discourse on family planning.

Nozer Sheriar, secretary general of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), shared that, with an estimated 21.6 million women worldwide experiencing an unsafe abortion each year and with about 70 000 deaths, it is a silent tsunami knocking door to door. As symbolised by Salvadoran doctors who stood strongly behind Beatriz so she would not die giving birth, there is a role for healthcare providers to support women’s choice on this reproductive right that society is so reluctant to give.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3715

Footnotes

  • Follow Anita Jain on Twitter @ajain247

#India -11 babies die in 2 hours at Bengal hospital, death toll now 13 #WTFnews


HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  Purulia, June 09, 2013

A hospital in West Bengal’s Purulia district, 296 km from Kolkata, reported 11 infant deaths between Friday and Saturday.

“The children who died were brought to the hospital in a very critical condition. The doctors did their best,” said Nilanjana Sen, the hospital super.

“The extension work of the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) is on and when it is completed children will get better treatment, the mortality rate will also come down,” she added.

 

Locals and relatives of the dead children, however, blamed the deaths on the poor infrastructure and lack of doctors at the Special Newborn Care Unit.

A senior doctor with the hospital, who did not want to be named, admitted there was a shortage of doctors in the paediatric unit.

 UPDATE, JUNE 10, 2013

Thirteen infants have died at the Purulia Sadar Deben Mahato Hospital in Purulia since last Friday, the hospital said on Monday.

Most of the infants were in the age group of 0-11 months, hospital superintendent Nilanjana Sen said. While eight deaths were reported on Friday, three infants died on Saturday and two deaths were reported on Sunday, she added.

The infants, who were brought to the Sadar hospital from the block-level hospitals, were suffering from complications such as low birth weight, malnutrition, dehydration and meningitis, the superintendent said.
Citing the difficulties of the Sadar hospital in treating such patients, Sen said the neo-natal unit has only ten beds, which needs to be increased.

 

On an average, 15-20 infants in serious condition are referred to the Sadar hospital from the block-level hospitals daily, she said.

 

Visions of a Nuclear Free World-Ending Atomic Power One Plant at a Time


English: Anti nuclear power movement's Smiling...

 

 

 

by KARL GROSSMAN

 

Southern California Edison’s announcement last week that it will close its troubled twin-reactor San Onofre nuclear power plant—along with other recent setbacks for atomic energy in the United States—marks a downward spiral for nuclear power.

And it could—and should—mean a great advance for the implementation of safe, clean, renewable energy technologies. “We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, after the announcement Friday. “The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with safe and clean energy provided by the sun and wind.”

S. David Freeman, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority and other utilities, at a joint news conference with Pica Friday, said it was a “step in the right direction and another move toward the renewable revolution that’s underway in California.”

Also this week, Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy scrapped plans to build nuclear plants in Iowa. Last month, Dominion Resources announced it was shutting down its Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin. Also last month, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that a partnership between Toshiba and NRG Energy to build two nuclear plants in Texas violated a U.S. law barring foreign control of nuclear plants. Further last month, Duke Energy announced it was scuttling plans to build two nuclear plants in North Carolina. This came after Duke’s earlier announcement that it would close its troubled Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida.

From 104, the U.S. in short order has gone to 100 operating nuclear plants—and most of these are also plagued with safety and financial problems. Many also face strong opposition and

demands they be shut down.

“This industry is on its final trajectory downward,” said Pica Friday. He said that with these events, the NRC should be renamed the Nuclear Retirement Commission.

At the news conference, Freeman said that having a nuclear power-free and greenhouse gas-free world are the two most needed things to be done to “sustain life…on Earth.”

That nuclear power is a threat to life is not a new issue—it’s been central to the battle against nuclear power even before the first commercial nuclear plant in the U.S., the Shippingport plant in Pennsylvania, opened in 1957.

But new in recent decades have been the great advances in safe, clean, renewable energy technologies led by solar and wind, rendering nuclear power unnecessary.  Germany has become a global model in jettisoning nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and is committed to a goal of 100% of its energy coming from clean, renewable sources.

A few hundred miles from the San Onofre plant, in San Francisco last month, a conference—“Pathways to 100% Renewable Energy”—was held serving as an international organizing and strategy event. It was hosted by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute of San Francisco. Experts in energy and finance, political leaders and renewable energy activists spoke on the feasibility of 100% renewable energy.

Study after study have now determined that renewable technologies can provide all the power the world needs.The Renewables 100 Policy Institute presents many on its website (www.go100percent.org) including “A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet With Renewables,” a 2009 cover story ofScientific American, a conservative and most careful publication.

The challenge has been converting this understanding to action, particularly considerng how special interests pushing their energy products—nuclear, oil, gas and coal—have a hold on so many governments around the world. At the conference, a “global alliance” was formed to “build political will among a critical mass of decision makers and set a required goal of 100% renewable energies.”

Also a big problem has been the ignorance in much of mainstream media about energy issues—especially concerning nuclear power. For example, at the news conference Friday, Matthew Wald, who covers nuclear power for The New York Times, demanded most defensively of Pica how he squared eliminating “2,400 megawatts of carbon-free energy” that would be generated by the San Onofre nuclear plant. Wald either doesn’t want to acknowledge or doesn’t know that the “nuclear cycle”—the mining, milling, fuel enrichment and other components of nuclear power—emit greenhouse gases and contribute substantially to global warming, and thus the energy from San Onofre was never “carbon-free.”

The San Onofre plant, built along an earthquake fault, has been an obvious threat to anyone traveling along Interstate 5, the major highway linking San Diego and Los Angeles. Its twin domes sit right next to Interstate 5.

“We are now left with one of the largest, most concentrated nuclear waste piles on the planet,” said Ace Hoffman of Carlsbad, California, who has written extensively about the serious safety problems at San Onofre. “This will be an eternal problem, but thankfully it is no longer a growing problem…It will take millions of years—not just days—to be safe, but at least we are headed in the right direction.” As to the employees of San Onofre, said Hoffman Friday: “I hope they all will find jobs in the solar and wind technology energy sectors.”

Two nuclear reactors amid millions of people will now be shut down permanently. The electricity they would have generated can be replaced, said utility veteran Freeman, an engineer, through energy efficiency and with solar and wind power made available on-demand with a variety of energy storage systems.

And, as Damon Moglen, climate and energy director of Friends of the Earth, said at the conference, with San Onofre’s closing “we will see California move even more decisively” on renewable energy and become “one of the largest non-nuclear economies on our planet .”

That’s a big step in the vision of a nuclear power-free world using energy that people can live with—safe, clean renewable energy.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

 

#India lags in transparency laws on drug firm-doctor dealings #healthcare



Rema Nagarajan,TNN | Jun 10, 2013,=
The trend towards greater transparency in interactions between the healthcare industry and healthcare providers, including doctors, is catching on globally with France being the latest in enacting a law to make disclosures of relations between healthcare professionals and industry.

The French law, dubbed Strengthening of Health Protection for Medicinal and Health Products, was brought into force in the last week of May laying down disclosure obligations, which affect all agreements concluded between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and companies, as well as every benefit in kind or in cash exceeding 10 euros. According to the decree implementing the law, a free public website with all the disclosures will be maintained by a public authority. This law is similar in intent to the US Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which came into force earlier this year.

Several other countries are ramping up their transparency laws regarding payments between healthcare companies and physicians even as India continues to have no laws to regulate companies that give doctors freebies. If caught, only doctors are penalized, not companies.

Disclosure under the French law will include all contracts such as R&D contracts, contracts for clinical trials or observational studies, consultancy agreements for being speakers or on advisory boards and invitations to scientific or medical events for which the costs such as registration fees, travel costs, meals and accommodation expenses are paid by the company. This disclosure obligation applies to every payment and contract issued from January 2012 onward.

The US law requires the healthcare industry to report annually to the secretary of health and human services certain payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. All the information is to be posted on a public website expected to be ready by next year.

Slovakia, too, is reported to have enacted a similar law. Belgium is looking into the possibility of introducing a similar law. Already, in Belgium, companies that have marketing authorisation for medicines have to keep a record of all gifts or benefits offered to doctors.

In Germany, there are no similar transparency laws but insurers are demanding prison sentences of up to three years for doctors who accept bribes or other favours. This demand followed cases of doctors being allegedly paid to prescribe a company’s drugs and the publicizing of many doctors earning huge amounts of money for supposedly conducting observational studies, where pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to observe the side effects of new drugs, often a cover-up for paying them to prescribe certain drugs.

In the midst of this clamour internationally for greater transparency in drug industry ties with healthcare providers, the Indian government continues to ignore recommendations of the parliamentary committee on health, the Medical Council of India and several doctors

“To those who believe in resistance , who live between hope and impatience and have learned the perils of being unreasonable. To those who understand enough to be afraid, and yet retain their fury”

 

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