World
Nationwide Crackdown in the US on Deceptive Debt Collectors
Married couples' phantom debt collection scheme headlines recent sweep
 
Someone calls to settle a debt that they say you owe, threatening garnishment of wages, arrest or other legal action if left unpaid. You pay hundreds or thousands of dollars toward this so-called debt to stop the harassment. But it turns out you didn’t owe any money at all. 
 
That’s how one married couples’ phantom debt collection scheme swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from consumers, alleged the FTC and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose joint settlement with Aurora, Ill.-based Payday Loan Recovery Group bans the company from the debt collection business and recoups $6.4 million for consumers.
 
“People should not be bullied, intimidated or scared into paying debts that they don’t actually owe, ” Madigan said at a recent press conference where the Payday Loan Recovery Group case headlined 30 new actions against deceptive and/or abusive debt collectors under a nationwide crackdown dubbed Operation Collection Protection.
 
So far this year more than 115 actions have been taken against debt collectors under Operation Collection Protection, according to the FTC (see infographic below). Since 2010, the agency says it’s sued more than 250 debt collectors for breaking the law (which includes harassing or threatening consumers), banned 86 of them, and secured judgments totaling nearly $350 million.

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Pulse Beat
Weight of the Nation
 
Anew film, produced in association with the Institute of Medicine in Washington DC, gives sensible tips about avoiding and preventing obesity which is becoming an epidemic even in our country. In the US, one-third of the population is already obese and the number is growing. Since American junk food is invading India in a big way, this film makes sense. ‘Catch them young’ is the slogan. We must act in childhood to prevent childhood obesity. 
 
Some recommendations in the film are very sensible. All school children must have at least 60 minutes of lessons in physical activity daily. The school lunch should have no junk food and no sugary and preserved food with plenty of salt in it. Sugary drinks should not be sold to children. The same advice holds good for adults.
 
We, in India, will do well to initiate these measures in our schools. India vegetarian food is good for school lunch as well.
 
Cancer Cells To Kill Cancer?
 
The discovery of a rare human antibody has pointed to a way of getting leukaemia cells to kill each other, according to research findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US recently.
 
Researchers have stumbled upon a way to make leukaemia cells kill each other. The cells could be converted into NK (natural killer) cells, the most powerful killer cells in the human immune system. NK cells are a type of lymphocyte (a white blood cell) and a component of the innate immune system. Now, they have been able to convert some acute myeloid leukaemia cells into NK killer cells. Researchers think that this might be a safer method of cancer treatment. Let us wait and see. Early results appear encouraging.
 
Daytime Nap Might Improve Memory
 
University of Geneva in Switzerland researchers have studied daytime nap among 31 men and made a surprising observation: Men who had a daytime nap were found to have a better functioning of hippocampus major that deals with memory. This study needs to be replicated to see if this is a real or an accidental finding.
 
Alcohol Dangerous in Pregnancy
 
The recent study has shown that consumption of alcohol, in even small doses, during pregnancy could be dangerous to the baby. Many birth defects and abnormalities are related to alcohol ingestion during pregnancy. The American Academy of Paediatrics says that no alcohol is acceptable in pregnancy.
 
Sickness-care Industry Booming
 
Economics of the West shows that one industry that is doing very well is the sickness-care industry. The debt load on the US is about a trillion dollars annually only because of sickness care. They cannot sustain it for long. However, Big Pharma is the biggest beneficiary and they are very happy. 28%of American household expenditure goes towards medical insurance costs. Yet, US has the biggest disease load, among the industrialised nations.
 
America has a surplus of doctors also. It is an irony that America, among Western countries, is the worst as far as human health indices go. This is a warning for India which is aping the American way of life. Prevention is better than cure

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How Russia Hid Its Doping in Plain Sight

A World Anti-Doping Agency report alleges widespread, widely accepted doping in track and field

 

On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency issued a report painting Russia's sports programs as doping machines reminiscent of East Germany's erstwhile state-sponsored drug programs.

 

This year we've written about the use of prescription drugs to enhance performance and why it's so hard to catch dopers. But in Russia, there appeared to be no need for ever-more advanced maneuvering to evade positive tests. In Russia, athletes simply needed cash anda culture that rewarded a no-holds-barred drive for champions.

 

WADA's independent commission report recommended that Russian track and field athletes be banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics, and suggested lifetime sports bans for five coaches and five track and field athletes 2014 among them the gold and bronze medalists from the women's 800 meters at the 2012 Olympics. The report contained a litany of cloak-and-dagger offenses that transcend typical doping violations. Among them:

 

  • Russian secret service agents infiltrated and spied on Moscow's WADA-accredited laboratory during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
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  • A secret, second laboratory in Moscow pre-screened drug testing samples before choosing which to send on to the WADA-accredited lab for official testing.
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  • Grigory Rodchenko, head of the WADA-accredited anti-doping lab in Moscow, was involved in the intentional destruction of 1,417 samples before WADA's independent commission could have them retested. The samples were likely from a range of sports, but are now lost forever.
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  • Rodchenko, the report said, was also involved in extorting Russian athletes in order to cover up their positive drug tests.
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  • Athletes regularly bribed doping control officers.
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  • The "Russian State" directly interfered with operations at the anti-doping lab in Moscow and intimidated people who worked there, compromising the lab's independence.
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  • The Russian Anti-Doping Agency failed to follow up on athletes whose samples showed abnormal blood profiles.
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  • Russian secret service agents at times interfered with drug testing samples.
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  • Athletes who were under active sanctions for doping where sometimes allowed to compete.

Thus far, Russian officials have claimed that the report is unfair and politically motivated. The country is set to host the World Cup in 2018.

 

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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