Ebola in US: Where There's Fear, There's Fraud

Three companies warned by federal regulators about advertising claims that products can treat deadly virus


Federal officials have sent warning letters to several companies who are marketing products online as treatments for Ebola.

The letters come on the heels of consumer complaints to government regulators about the products, and as fear of the deadly disease spreads with the Centers for Disease Control confirming Tuesday the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States.

There are no vaccines or drugs approved by the FDA for the prevention or treatment of Ebola, which has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa, according to figures from the World Health Organization.

“When there is a public concern, there’s usually at least a handful of marketers that will try and take advantage of those public fears,” Rich Clelan, assistant director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, said on Monday.

The FDA issued a warning this summer to consumers to beware of products sold online that claim to prevent or treat the virus. In the warning, the agency noted that “there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet.” It also said:

Unfortunately, during outbreak situations, fraudulent products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure a disease all too often appear on the market.

Last week, the FTC and FDA sent a joint warning letter to New-Jersey based Natural Solutions Foundation over Ebola treatment claims, and the FDA issued warning letters to two Utah-based companies, Young Living and doTERRA International, for unapproved Ebola treatment claims about their essential oil products.

The letter states that Young Living made the online claim that viruses like Ebola “are no match” for its essential oils, and also gave treatment advice on (a site that has since been censored): “If I were exposed to Ebola or had reason to believe I could be sick with it, I would use some of these oils every 10 minutes for a few hours, then cut back to every hour for the rest of the first day.”

Online treatment claims that the FDA found in violation of its drug policy on doTERRA’s websites included one on that stated that one of the “primary uses” of an oregano product was for the Ebola virus. But it appears that doTERRA also got the message from the FDA. Here’s what that same website looks like on Oct. 1.

Natural Solutions Foundation touts the medical benefits of Nano Silver, an experimental drug that had been approved for use on some Ebola patients in West Africa, according to a Wall Street Journal report in August.

“Nano Silver leaves the beneficial bacteria and the healthy cells of the patient unaffected but it does kill every pathogen against which it has been tested,” Rima Laibow, one of the two people to whom the Natural Solutions Foundation letter is addressed, said in a video that officials cite as making the unapproved drug claims in violation of Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Natural Solutions Foundation told that it intended to respond in a few days with a plan “to be in compliance with the law.”

However, a scathing retort posted online by the other person to whom the joint FDA-FTC letter is addressed, suggests that the company relished a chance to go to court. Ralph Fucetola, a retired lawyer and trustee at Natural Solutions, wrote:

Nutrients are not drugs! … Supporting the immune system is not “treating” disease. Traditional Natural Remedies do not need FDA approval! In fact, FDA has NO LEGAL AUTHORITY to attempt to approve such things. … FDA has been itching to ban silver and other Natural Remedies for decades because they are cheap, effective, compete successfully with antibiotics, and are safe for everyone. And now they’re giving us a chance to take them to Court! YES! This is the opportunity for which the health freedom movement has been waiting.

Clelan, of the FTC, said it’s “an ongoing process” to weed out companies making Ebola treatment claims. A search found other sites also making treatment claims.
Clelan said the FTC could move quicker to bring action than the FDA. He said his agency could file its own complaint, whereas the FDA would have to go through the Department of Justice. That’s why, he said, the two agencies are working together on this initiative.

For more information about treatment claims click here. Read more here about Ebola.



Your Privacy for a Sweet Treat

When a Brooklyn artist set up shop at a festival offering cookies in exchange for personal data, she expected a torrent of refusals to make her point about privacy in the Internet age. Instead, 380 New Yorkers gave up sensitive personal information — from fingerprints to partial Social Security numbers — to taste her wares.

“Most people – even the people who were skeptical, even the people who made snarky comments – looked at the cookies and were like, ‘Well, OK, I’ll give you something,' " Lois Beckett, who covered the story last week, tells Engelberg and her fellow podcast guests, reporting colleagues Julia Angwin and Justin Elliott.

Like the artist, Risa Puno, ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg was shocked: “How could people not have been aware that, turning over this sort of information -- the next step, generally speaking, is that nude pictures of you appear on the Internet?” he says.

Elliott agrees, asking Beckett, “Did she sort of come to the conclusion that we’re living in a society of ‘sheeple’?” But he acknowledges that the project “dramatizes the decisions that people are making every day and every hour online” and, quite valuably, shows the “remarkable level of deference that people have” to requests for their personal data.

Indeed, although Puno referred anyone with questions to her very long, small-print disclosure form, Beckett says, very few people even read through it before handing over the kind of information many people use as answers to their online security questions.
“If you read all through the terms of service,” Beckett says, “you would see that she had the right to display your information that you gave her, to share the information with other people, to keep it, to store it. She wasn’t making any promises about the security of the data that you gave her.”

Angwin, who’s reported for years on the ways online companies use personal data, agrees with Beckett that people simply aren’t thinking about where their data could end up; they see a nice woman in a hair bow offering them home-baked sweets for what is presumably just an art project.

“And that’s actually the problem of privacy in general,” Angwin says. “We don’t have a good discounting strategy the way we do for buying milk, and you know it’s going to go bad in seven days.”

Google is a perfect example, she continues. “You and I have never written a check to Google, but we use all their services,” allowing our personal information to be repackaged for advertisers. “The truth is, you’re making an exchange of your data, and you have no idea where that data is going to end up.”

Engelberg tries to make sense of it all: Does the younger generation simply not value its privacy?

Beckett says the opposite may be true. “A lot of it is that people already feel like their data has been taken from them, that without their knowledge, it’s suddenly all out here,” she says. “And so why not get something out of it?”

Something like, say, a delicious cookie.

Hear the full podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or read more:

How Much of Your Data Would You Trade for a Free Cookie?



Sensex, Nifty oversold – Tuesday closing report

The recent decline has been on low volumes. But the Nifty may rally only, if it is able to sustain above 7,930.


The Indian stock market opened Tuesday weak after three days of holidays. At the beginning of the session, benchmark indices made an effort of to reach their previous closing level but failed after few attempts.

The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 26,488 while NSE’s CNX Nifty opened at 7,898. The benchmarks hit their high at the beginning of the session at 26,570 and 7,943, respectively. After hitting, the day’s low at 26,250 and 7,843, both the Sensex and Nifty closed near that level. Sensex closed at 26,272 (down 296 points or 1.11%), while Nifty closed at 7,852 (down 93 points or 1.17%). Both the indices closed at its lowest since 14 August 2014.  NSE recorded a volume of 76.91 crore shares. India VIX rose 11.25% to close at 14.4625.

In the twice-a-year South Asia Economic Focus, the World Bank said that India's economy will expand by a real 6% in 2015 and by 6.4% in 2016 compared to 5.4% this year, potentially making it the second fastest growing region in the world after East Asia and the Pacific. The Indian economy, 80% of the region's output, is set to grow by 6.4% in fiscal year (FY) 2015/16 after 5.6% in FY2014/15, the World Bank said. India is benefiting from a "Modi dividend", the World Bank report said, with economic activity buoyed by expectations from the newly elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The CII Business Confidence Index (CII-BCI) for July-Sept quarter of FY15 shot up to 57.4, up from 53.7 in April-June quarter and 49.9 in Jan-March quarter. During the same quarter last fiscal, the index had touched the all-time low value of 45.7. The result of the 88th Business Outlook Survey based on responses from over 150 industry members was declared on Monday.

Growth in services activity picked up pace in September as order books filled up at a faster rate, a business survey showed on Tuesday. The HSBC Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), compiled by Markit, rose to 51.6 in September from 50.6 in August, reversing a slowdown seen in the previous two months. The new business sub-index climbed to 52.4 from 51.9, signalling robust demand. India's annual consumer price inflation eased in August to 7.80% from 7.96% in July. Wholesale prices also rose at a slower clip during that month.

NTPC (1.19%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack. A Memorandum of Understanding has been entered on 1 October 2014 amongst the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, National Institute of Wind Energy and consortium of partners consisting of NTPC (as lead partner), Power Grid Corp, Power Finance Corp, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, PTC India and Gujarat Power Corp. All the partners would undertake development of offshore wind power projects and its evacuation and integration into the grid though a joint venture company.

Hindalco (4.35%) was the top loser in the Sensex-30 stock. In response to the news item regarding cancellation of approval of SEZ of the company's aluminium projects in Orissa, Hindalco clarified that that the company had initiated setting up of two Aluminium Projects under SEZ Scheme but later it was observed that establishing the projects under domestic tariff area was more attractive for the company. Accordingly, it has decided to exit from the SEZ Scheme and established the projects under DTA.

GMR Infrastructure (11.24%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE. The first 685 MW unit of GMR Chhattisgarh Energy Limited’s (GCEL) 1370 MW supercritical coal-based thermal power plant at Raikheda in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur District has successfully achieved synchronisation with the grid on 2nd October, 2014. GCEL is the GMR Group’s first supercritical coal-based thermal power plant.

Den Networks (8.54%) was the top loser in ‘A’ group on the BSE. The stock closed at its lowest since 5 March 2014 today. It continued to fall for the second day today after its CEO, SN Sharma, resigned due to personal reasons with immediate effect.

US indices closed in the red on Monday. Employers added a higher-than-expected 248,000 workers to their payrolls in September, pushing the jobless rate down to 5.9%, the lowest level since July 2008, according to Labour Department data on Friday. The US Federal Reserve will release minutes of its September 16-17 meeting on 8 October 2014.

Asian indices showed mixed performance. Of the indices which were trading today, Jakarta Composite (0.65%) was the top gainer while Nikkei 225 (0.67%) was the top loser.    

The Bank of Japan today kept its policy unchanged as widely expected.

European indices were trading in the red while US Futures were trading lower.

The latest data showed that industrial output in Germany declined sharply in August, marking the second consecutive day of rough economic numbers for Europe's largest economy. In adjusted terms, factory output was down 4% in August. Meanwhile, July's figure was downwardly revised to growth of 1.6% from the 1.9% gain originally reported.


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