Beyond Money
Love & Compassion for Lepers
We don’t have ‘leper’ colonies’ anymore but, a lot needs to be done. Bombay Leprosy Project is one more NGO working in this area
 
The injustice perpetrated against leprosy patients—even by the staff at hospitals where they were treated—left a deep imprint on the mind of Dr Ramaswamy Ganapati, an unusually compassionate doctor. 
 
Around 1976, he decided to establish an independent NGO (non-government organisation) that started work to complement scientific research and high-quality treatment, as well as multi-drug therapy (MDT) programme, on which Dr Ganapati was already working. This led to the creation of the Bombay Leprosy Project (BLP) which has continued to flourish even after his death in 2011. Dr Ramaswamy Ganapati was honoured with a Padma Shri for his work among leprosy patients in 1983. 
 
BLP is an internationally recognised NGO which works towards improving the quality of life of leprosy patients. The organisation has been working tirelessly in implementing the policies of National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) and assisting the government in its efforts. “Our approach has been to work directly in the community rather than undertake hospital-based work for diagnosis and treatment of leprosy. The advantage of a community approach is that leprosy patients continue to live with their families rather than being isolated and ostracised by the society,” says Parul Negi, a senior employee of BLP.
 
Apart from diagnosis and treatment of patients, BLP has been carrying out operational and technical research in the field of leprosy. BLP practises several field-oriented concepts in chemotherapy, disability care, rehabilitation and medical education. BLP has documented its observations through nearly 300 scientific papers published in reputed national and international journals. 
 
BPL has successfully reached 1.95 million people, of whom 60% are from the slums of Dharavi and some municipal wards of Mumbai. It has been able to support the care and cure of over 35,000 patients and helped another 2,500 patients to avoid disabilities that are a part of the disease. It has helped 300 leprosy patients and physically challenged persons through its integrated rehabilitation programme. 
 
It is to the credit of organisations like BPL that leprosy has been largely controlled. In fact, on 31 December 2005, the government declared that leprosy has been ‘eliminated’ from the country. However, a small proportion of the population infected several years earlier will develop clinical disease resulting in the occurrence of new cases, including smear positive cases. 
 
Ms Negi says, “Over the years the prevalence of leprosy has declined drastically with the implementation of MDT strategy. But treatment of leprosy patients with clinical problems and disabilities caused by nerve damage still remains a big challenge before the nation today. This is mainly due to the lack of services by the experts in this field.” BLP provides services for prevention and care of deformity for patients including aids and appliances, like splints, finger loops, dressing kits, etc, under the guidance from physiotherapists and paramedical staff. For the past three decades, BLP has also been fighting for the human rights of the persons affected with leprosy and other related diseases.
 
BLP is running peripheral referral leprosy clinics at several locations in Mumbai including at Bhabha Hospital, Bandra, Bhabha Urban Health Centre, Dharavi, JJ Hospital and BDD Chawl, Worli. It has a mobile unit that goes to the rural areas adjoining Mumbai once a week to reach the services to more leprosy patients. 
 
Ms Negi confesses, “As regards financial resources, there is no single donor to support our entire leprosy relief activities. We, therefore, have to raise donations from multiple sources and pool the funds to sustain the activities.” Donations are exempt from income tax under Section 80G (1) of the Income-Tax Act, 1961; readers are welcome to contribute to the cause.
 
Bombay Leprosy Project 
11 VN Purav Marg, Sion-Chunabhatti,
Mumbai-400022.
Tel 91-22-24054608/24057040
Fax 91-22-24056486

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US FDA Warns Tobacco Brands about 'Natural' Labels
Action called a milestone in FDA regulation of tobacco marketing
 
If you smoke Winston, Natural American Spirit or Nat Sherman cigarettes, the FDA says that you may have been misled on the health risks because of ad claims made by the brands. 
 
The agency recently warned the tobacco companies behind the three brands — ITG Brands, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C., respectively — that advertising their cigarettes as “natural” or “additive-free” violates federal law because the claims imply that the smokes are safer than other cigarette brands. 
 
Companies must obtain a modified risk tobacco product order from the FDA to market their cigarettes as safer than other brands. The FDA says it has yet to issue any such orders. The August warning letters marked the first time the agency used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to take action against companies that push “natural” or “additive-free” claims on product labeling.
 
“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like ‘additive-free’ and ‘natural’ pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”
 
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which was among 28 groups that urged the FDA to take action against the Santa Fe Tobacco Company for its modified risk claims, called the warnings “a critically important action to protect the American public from tobacco industry deception.” He added:
 
There is no question that terms such as ‘additive-free’ and ‘natural’ imply a safer cigarette, as confirmed by consumer research and the industry’s own documents. Consumers buying goods marketed with such terms expect to get a healthier product
 
Letters to Reynolds American-owned Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and ITG Brands note how the companies are both under separate consent orders from another federal agency, the FTC, which require them to run a disclaimer stating “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean safe” in certain advertising. Per a 2010 agreement with attorneys general from 33 states and the District of Columbia, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company must also include this disclaimer in some ads: “Organic tobacco does not mean a safer cigarette.”
 
Read more about Natural American Spirits here. Find more of TINA.org’s coverage of the tobacco industry and e-cigarette industry here
 

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When Big Data Becomes Bad Data
Corporations are increasingly relying on algorithms to make business decisions and that raises new legal questions
 
A recent ProPublica analysis of The Princeton Review’s prices for online SAT tutoring shows that customers in areas with a high density of Asian residents are often charged more. When presented with this finding, The Princeton Review called it an “incidental” result of its geographic pricing scheme. The case illustrates how even a seemingly neutral price model could potentially lead to inadvertent bias — bias that’s hard for consumers to detect and even harder to challenge or prove.
 
Over the past several decades, an important tool for assessing and addressing discrimination has been the “disparate impact” theory. Attorneys have used this idea to successfully challenge policies that have a discriminatory effect on certain groups of people, whether or not the entity that crafted the policy was motivated by an intent to discriminate. It’s been deployed in lawsuits involving employment decisions, housing and credit. Going forward, the question is whether the theory can be applied to bias that results from new technologies that use algorithms. 
 
The term “disparate impact” was first used in the 1971 Supreme Court case Griggs v. Duke Power Company. The Court ruled that, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it was illegal for the company to use intelligence test scores and high school diplomas — factors which were shown to disproportionately favor white applicants and substantially disqualify people of color — to make hiring or promotion decisions, whether or not the company intended the tests to discriminate. A key aspect of the Griggs decision was that the power company couldn’t prove their intelligence tests or diploma requirements were actually relevant to the jobs they were hiring for. 
 
In the years since, several disparate impact cases have made their way to the Supreme Court and lower courts, most having to do with employment discrimination. This June, the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. affirmed the use of the disparate impact theory to fight housing discrimination. The Inclusive Communities Project had used a statistical analysis of housing patterns to show that a tax credit program effectively segregated Texans by race. Sorelle Friedler, a computer science researcher at Haverford College and a fellow at Data & Society, called the Court’s decision “huge,” both “in favor of civil rights…and in favor of statistics.”
 
So how will the courts address algorithmic bias? From retail to real estate, from employment to criminal justice, the use of data mining, scoring software and predictive analytics programs is proliferating at an exponential rate. Software that makes decisions based on data like a person’s ZIP code can reflect, or even amplify, the results of historical or institutional discrimination.“[A]n algorithm is only as good as the data it works with,” Solon Barocas and Andrew Selbst write in their article “Big Data’s Disparate Impact,” forthcoming in the California Law Review. “Even in situations where data miners are extremely careful, they can still affect discriminatory results with models that, quite unintentionally, pick out proxy variables for protected classes.”
 
It’s troubling enough when Flickr’s auto-tagging of online photos label pictures of black men as “animal” or “ape,” or when researchers determine that Google search results for black-sounding names are more likely to be accompanied by ads about criminal activity than search results for white-sounding names. But what about when big data is used to determine a person’s credit score, ability to get hired, or even the length of a prison sentence? 
 
Because disparate impact theory is results-oriented, it would seem to be a good way to challenge algorithmic bias in court. A plaintiff would only need to demonstrate bias in the results, without having to prove that a program was conceived with bias as its goal. But there is little legal precedent. Barocas and Selbst argue in their article that expanding disparate impact theory to challenge discriminatory data-mining in court “will be difficult technically, difficult legally, and difficult politically.”
 
Some researchers argue that it makes more sense to… Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica
 

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