Compromised Code Names, Operations and Equipment / Recent and in progress ( Updated 12:37PM PST / 27OCT2013 )

Editors Note: (Ralph Turchiano) Requested Repost from the archives (Oct 2013)

EEV: Recently Compromised or exposed Code names, Operations, Software and facilities. The list is in no particular order and is being updated frequently. These are just the discoveries from the past 2 years.

* Details of ALL operations can be found through inputting the codename in the search bar. (Being Updated, will be formatted for easy access in the near future _ The most recently compromised will be at the top (for the first week) after 26 OCT 2013

Compromised Code Names, Operations and Equipment

_______________________ Recent

MUSCULAR – The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data  links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British  counterpart, GCHQ.

 Einstein antenna system –  Can intercept cell phone signals while simultaneously locating people of interest.

 Birdwatcher Program – intercepts microwave and millimeter-wave signals. Some programs,  deal primarily with encrypted communications in foreign countries and the search for potential access points. Birdwatcher is controlled directly from SCS headquarters in Maryland.

Quantum –  NSA controls a set of servers that sit on the Internet backbone, and these servers are used to redirect targets away from their intended destinations to still other NSA-controlled servers that are responsible for the injection of malware.

FoxAcid –  NSA server that selects from a toolkit of exploits in order to gain access to the user’s computer. Presumably this toolkit has both known public exploits that rely on a user’s software being out of date, as well as zero-day exploits which are generally saved for high value targets.

Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the branch  of the US National Security Agency (NSA) which deals with cyber-attacks


Opus Dei – International Roman  Catholic order, founded in 1928 and championed early by Spanish  dictator Francisco Franco, is dedicated to establishing its members in high  political, corporate, and religious offices all over the world.

Rossotrudnichestvo exchange program – Alleged exchange program used to recruit Americans to train as Russian spies

Shenguang (“Divine Light”) – China’s laser project for inertial confinement fusion, which aims to use high-powered lasers to produce a sustained nuclear fusion reaction ( lasers designed to damage or destroy US satellites )

Apstar-7 satellite (  APT Satellite Holdings )  – Chinese Satellite the Pentagon leases to oversee communications with its African bases

Operation Socialist – An assault on Belgacom’s “core GRX routers”

“Man in the Middle” or “MiTM” operations “ –  highly-sophisticated deception which allows a third party to intervene in an electronic conversation and pretend to be each of the other two parties, obtaining valuable information or spreading disinformation without the targets realizing

US-985D – Text messages France

Unit 61398 –  Engages in harmful ‘Computer Network Operations’,” is located in Shanghai’s Pudong district, China’s financial and banking hub, and is staffed by perhaps thousands of people proficient in English as well as computer programming and network operations. Is considered a Chinese State Secret. The unit has stolen “hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations across a diverse set of industries beginning as early as 2006.

Apalachee – EU/ UN Tapping

Bumblehive – NSA Storage Facility

Boundless Informant – NSA Data Mining program

CHAMP ( Counter-Electronics High Power  Microwave Advanced Missile Project ) Boeings missile with  electromagnetic pulse capability

Codeword – Currently Unkown

Swag Security – China’s hack group U.S. Medicaid system / Nuclear Codes ( Ironically also a Bank of America Code Word )

Tailored Access Operations – NSA Special Targets

Flatliquid – Tap Diplomatic Communications

Whitetamale – Mexico e-mails

Lugar Research Center – U.S. Top Secret Biologics lab ( Republic of Georgia )

Special Collection Service – Secret eavesdropping posts in 80 US embassies and consulates around the world.

DishFire – Text message filtering / the intelligence agency collects information on credit card transactions from some 70 banks worldwide.

Sophia – Industrial Control System Computer Networking Fingerprinting Tool ( Powergrid )

Visdom – Competing Industrial Control System Computer Networking Fingerprinting Tool ( Powergrid )

FunVax – Biological pacification of individuals through vaccination

Section 6103 – IRS abuse

IceFog – Advanced Persistent Threats ( China ? )

Tel Shahar – Where the state-of-the-art facility to host the new ballistic-missile  defense system (  Arrow 3 ) in Israel – Accidentally disclosed by the Penatgon

Privacy & Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) – Board set up to oversee domestic spying whose meetings and members are difficult to confirm and may not exist

Spearfishing – Emailed viruses

Hidden Lynx – Chinese Haking Group / Cyber-Mercenaries

Operation Aurora – General mass espionage

NetTraveler – Espionage Program

Red October  ( Rocra ) – Espionage campaign against military personnel in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and dozens of other nations (U.S., Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and the UAE.) . Features include an advanced cryptographic spy-module designed to lift data from Acid Cryptofiler, which is known to be used by NATO, the European Union, European Parliament and European Commission since the summer of 2011 to encrypt classified information.

DarkSeoul – Hacker Group (North Korean / China ? )

Shadow Network – Chinese Espionage Group

Team Cymru – Monitor Criminal Activty ( non profit )

Follow the Money – Financial Intelligence division NSA

SWIFT – European Financial Network

GHCQ Cheltenham – Processes Middle East  emails, telephone calls and web traffic

XKeyscore – spying program is used to skim regional data from the Visa network

SOD ( Special Operations Division )- Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

Total Information Awareness ( TIA ) – Pentagon intelligence gathering

ThinThread – Software correlated data from emails, phone calls, credit card payments and Internet searches and stored and mapped it in ways that could be analysed.

TrailBlazzer – Relaced Thinthread Software to correlated data from emails, phone calls, credit card payments and Internet searches and stored and mapped it in ways that could be analysed.

Going Dark -FBI initiative to extend its ability to wiretap virtually all forms of  electronic communications.

International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator  ( IMSI ) – These devices allows the government to electronically search large areas for a particular cell phone’s signal—sucking down data on potentially thousands of innocent people along the way.

Stingrays – Another name for International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator

Tripwire or Trapwire – information collection software OR lines in the sand which, if crossed, cover  personnel levels, security measures, and in this case, the extreme step of  suspending operations.

Voice Grid Nation ( VoiceGrid program ) – is a system that uses advanced algorithms to match identities to voices. Brought to the US by Russia’s Speech Technology Center, it claims to be capable of allowing police, federal agencies and other law enforcement personnel to build up a huge database containing up to several million voices.

Prism ( Discovered prior to Snowden ) – NSA direct access to the servers of nine prominent Internet companies, enabling the spy agency to track e-mails, photographs, and video, among other forms of digital communications .

Bullrun ( Edgehill GHCQ version ) –  NSA’s abilities to defeat the encryption used in specific network communication technologies. Bullrun involves multiple sources, all of which are extremely sensitive.” The document reveals that the agency has capabilities against widely used online protocols, such as HTTPS, voice-over-IP and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), used to protect online shopping and banking.

Cheesy Name –  aimed at singling out encryption keys, known as ‘certificates’, that might be vulnerable to being cracked by GCHQ supercomputers.

Humint Operations Team (HOT) Humint, short for “human intelligence –  Information gleaned directly from sources or undercover agents.The old fashion way.

Sigint [signals intelligence] enabling – The program “actively engages US and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products’ designs”

Kimsuky – North Korean Hacking group

GENIE –  US computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious US control.

WABASH – Tapping French offices U.N.

Blackfoot – Tapping French offices New York

Tempora – GCHQ’s Tapping transatlantic  fibre-optic cables

Sensitive relationship teams – Staff that were urged in one internal guidance paper to disguise the origin of “special source” material in their reports for fear that the role of the companies as intercept partners would cause “high-level political fallout”.

Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire – NSA intercept station

Atlas International Trading – Company in the Pentagon’s Foreign Materiel Acquisition and Exploitation program

Advanced Persistent Threat Groups – Nitro, Aurora, ElderWood, Sykipot, Comment Crew (APT1), NightDragon, FlowerLday, Luckycat, Pitty Panda.

Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP – Compromise U.S. Politicians – Dark Money – Major campaign bundler to the Obama campaign Shanghai based domain owned by Robert  Roche with strong  commercial ties to the  Chinese government. He has made 19 visits to the  White House since 2009, including a personal meeting with Obama.

Stuxnet , Duqu , Wiper, Flame – Tilded Platform malware used for cyberespionage and cybersabotage in the Middle East.

WildSage – NSA database. The system “provides a mechanism for cybersecurity centers to share signatures at the SECRET classification level

Port reader software – FBI desire to harvest information on users’ “dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information associated with a target’s communications”. And, as the FBI stated, this information will only include source, destination IP addresses and port numbers.

Dynamo – Dutch name in COMINT

Richter – German name in COMINT

One-End Foreign (1EF) solution – system, the NSA is able to direct more than half of the internet traffic it intercepts from its collection points into its own repositories

EvilOlive – NSA’s attempt to broaden 1EF Doubling its capacity

ShellTrumpet – NSA’s processor

MoonLightPath – Metadata collection for  Special Source Operations

Spinneret – Metadata collection for  Special Source Operations

Transient Thurible -GHCQ headquarters that manages  XKeyScore (XKS) and Deep Dive metadata collections

Project Riverside – found that rich individuals and private companies had been hiring unscrupulous private detectives to obtain sensitive information on targets for years.

QinetiQ North America (QQ/) – Hi-Tech U.S. defense contractors, which are the favorite target of Cyberpillaging

Acoustic vector sensor – sensor measures the movement of air, disturbed by sound waves, to almost instantly locate where a sound originated. It can then identify the noise and, if required, transmit it live to waiting ears.

‘Prepare for Chinese invasion’, says Jacqui Lambie

The Australian |
August 20, 2014 12:00AM

AUSTRALIA must build missile systems and defence shields to prepare for an invasion from China even if it costs $60 billion a year, Palmer United Party senator Jacqui Lambie has warned in a dramatic escalation of her party’s claims about the rising threat from Asia. Senator Lambie issued the alert in a move to support party leader Clive Palmer as he faced a barrage of rebukes for claiming “Chinese mongrels” were trying to take over the country. Continue reading “‘Prepare for Chinese invasion’, says Jacqui Lambie”

FACTBOX: Russia’s Imports from Countries that Imposed Sanctions

MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Wednesday, banning for a year imports of agricultural and food products from countries that imposed sanctions on Russia. The government is expected to announce the complete “black lists” of imports on Thursday. Below is the list of Russia’s major imports from the countries that imposed sanctions against Moscow.


Meat, including poultry, makes the basis of the imports from the United States.


Among the Canadian goods imported to Russia are products of animal and plant origin, ready-made foods and drinks, fats and oils of animal and plant origin, and mineral commodities.


Russia primarily imports frozen and refrigerated cattle meat from Australia.



The Russian imports from Austria are mainly made of commodities, particularly crude rubber, certain types of chemicals, as well drinks and tobacco goods.


The main Russian imports from Belgium include foods, particularly meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, baked goods and fats.


Russia mainly imports grape wines, as well fruit and nuts from Bulgaria. Continue reading “FACTBOX: Russia’s Imports from Countries that Imposed Sanctions”

Belgium must pay for asylum-seeking families to rent on the private market when federal housing facilities are full

–  the EU high court noted that respect for human dignity requires providing asylum seekers with housing, food and clothes, regardless of the cost to the state.

european union stars
european union stars (Photo credit: notarim)

EU Touts Human Dignity for Asylum Seekers



(CN) – Belgium must pay for asylum-seeking families to rent on the private market when federal housing facilities are full, Europe’s highest court ruled Thursday.

After the Saciri family came to Belgium in 2010, they found themselves unable to find public housing and could not afford to rent a private home. Welfare agents rejected the family’s request for financial aid, saying they should have stayed in a federal reception facility – the same facility officials said was full when the family first arrived in Belgium. Continue reading “Belgium must pay for asylum-seeking families to rent on the private market when federal housing facilities are full”

How fast is YOUR 4G phone? US has second slowest speeds in the world, new study reveals – while Australia tops the table

  • US average data rate dropped to 6.5Mbps from 9.6 megabits over last year
  • T-Mobile had the best data rate at 11.2Mbps
  • AT&T rated 8.9Mbps, Verizon 7.6Mbps, and Sprint 4.2Mbps

By Mark Prigg

UPDATED:          13:22 EST, 21 February 2014

4G data speeds on mobile devices are dropping at an alarming rate in the US, a new study has warned.

In the February 2014 report, the United States ranked 15th of 16 countries for download speeds, as the average data rate dropped to 6.5Mbps from 9.6 megabits per second in the February 2013 report.

The authors say US networks ‘uniformly perform poorly’ for speed – increasing claims the technology has not yet lived up to the hype surrounding its launch.

Global speeds: The United States ranked 15th of 16 countries for download speeds, as the average data rate dropped to 6.5Mbps from 9.6 megabits per second in February 2013.

Global speeds: The United States ranked 15th of 16 countries for download speeds, as the average data rate dropped to 6.5Mbps from 9.6 megabits per second in February 2013. Continue reading “How fast is YOUR 4G phone? US has second slowest speeds in the world, new study reveals – while Australia tops the table”

7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas

By Rachel Tackett

Lifestyle Dec. 05, 2013 – 06:20AM JST ( 24 )


Here’s a collection of seven observations that Japanese people made while doing business in foreign countries.

1. The lack of overtime

In Germany and Spain, there is practically no overtime. Spending time with the family is paramount. Work does not infringe on a person’s personal life. In Australia, people go home precisely at the end of their work hours. They can be somewhat lax when it comes to meeting other deadlines, but if their work day lasts until five, then at five sharp they are out the door.

Continue reading “7 things that surprise Japanese people working in offices overseas”

Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens

• Secret 5-Eyes document shows surveillance partners discussing what information they can pool about their citizens
• DSD indicated it could provide material without some privacy restraints imposed by other countries such as Canada
• Medical, legal or religious information ‘not automatically limited’
• Concern that intelligence agency could be ‘operating outside its legal mandate’


, and,              Sunday 1 December 2013 19.20 EST

Man typing on a computer keyboard
The secret document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share citizens’ “medical, legal or religious information”. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.

“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.”

The agency acknowledged that more substantial interrogation of the material would, however, require a warrant.

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Continue reading “Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens”

Football match-fixing: World Cup matches may have been rigged

Alleged fixer covertly recorded boasting that World Cup qualifiers were rigged

4:00PM GMT 28 Nov 2013

World Cup qualification matches may have been fixed by the international   gambling syndicate at the centre of the British football scandal.

The alleged fixer arrested earlier this week claimed he fixed World Cup games   and matches in Europe and Australia.

During a secretly recorded meeting earlier this month, he said “I do Australia, Scotland. Ireland. Europe. World Cup. World Cup qualifier”.

He claimed to control the entire team for one African country, which cannot be   named for legal reasons.

The Telegraph understands that the National Crime Agency (NCA) which has   launched an investigation into match fixing in Britain’s lower leagues is   now co-operating with other international law enforcement agencies following   this week’s arrests.

Indonesia halts Australia drills as protesters call for ‘war’

Joint exercises halted as Indonesian hackers claim responsibility for cyber attacks on Australian Federal Police and Reserve Bank of Australia websites

Agence France-Presse in Jakarta


Anti-Australia protesters shout slogans while holding a placard, reading ‘expel Australian diplomatic members’, during a rally in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Indonesia’s military halted training with Australia as a decision to suspend co-operation over spying claims took effect, while angry demonstrators in Jakarta declared on Thursday they were “ready for war” with Canberra.

In the Australian capital, the scandal took an embarrassing twist for Prime Minister Tony Abbott when one of his party’s strategists described someone reported to be the Indonesian foreign minister as resembling “a 1970s Filipino porn star”.

Continue reading “Indonesia halts Australia drills as protesters call for ‘war’”

Scientists discover ‘Lost World’ of unknown creatures in Australia

Monday, 28 October 2013

On the second day of a four-day trek to Cape Melville a team led by Dr Conrad Hoskin, from James Cook University, and Dr Tim Laman, from Harvard University, discovered a “bizarre” looking leaf-tailed gecko, a golden-coloured skink and a boulder-dwelling frog — species that have been isolated from their closest cousins for millions of years.

“We’re talking about animals that are ancient — they would have been around in the rainforest of Gondwana… rainforest that’s been there for all time,” said Dr Hoskin.

Accessible only by helicopter, the upland plateau area is a 1.8 by 1.8 mile patch which sits on a “monstrous wall” of “millions of giant, piled up boulders the size of houses and cars”. The whole mountain range is around nine miles long and three wide.

Having known of the range for more than a decade, Dr Hoskin’s interest was reignited when the advent of Google Earth allowed him to view it from above. But nothing could prepare him for finally setting foot there and seeing an “incredible rainforest” with “good earth” and “clear, flowing streams”.

“I was just walking around along the ridge line and there was this small lizard, a skink, that was something completely new,” he said.

While its evolutionary relatives sneak around in leaf litter, this particular skink, golden in colour, hunts insects by jumping around on mossy boulder fields.

Later that day the team made their second discovery, “beautiful blotched frogs with orange in their legs”, something Dr Hoskin had fleetingly seen previously but had been unable to identify.

Named the Blotched Boulder-frog, the small creature lives in cool and moist conditions deep under the boulder-field during the dry season, before emerging during the wet summer season to feed and breed in the rain. But it needs no pond — it can lay its eggs in the moist cracks of rocks, where tadpoles develop into fully formed froglets before hatching.

“And then, coming back by night, we saw an incredible leaf-tailed gecko.”

It was the discovery of the trip. “This thing was mind-blowing, completely bizarre. It’s really big, around eight inches with long spindly legs and huge eyes.”

Patrick Couper, Curator of Reptiles and Frogs at the Queensland Museum, and collaborator on the gecko’s description, said the newly-named Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko was the “strangest new species to come across my desk in 26 years working as a professional herpetologist”.

“That this gecko was hidden away in a small patch of rainforest on top of Cape Melville is truly remarkable. What makes it even more remarkable is that two other totally new vertebrates were found at the same time,” he said.

‘Wendi Deng was a Chinese spy’: Eccentric Australian mogul makes bizarre claim on TV about Rupert Murdoch’s wife

  • Multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, 59, made the claims on  a television show
  • ‘She’s been  spying on Rupert for years,’ Mr Palmer claimed
  • Palmer is  renowned for his plans to construct a replica of the Titanic
  • He is  planning to sue Murdoch for a newspaper article about his  health

By  Richard Shears

PUBLISHED: 11:03 EST, 5  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:49 EST, 5 September 2013

An eccentric Australian businessman who is  contesting this weekend’s general election claimed today that Rupert Murdoch’s  ex-wife Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy ‘and that’s why Rupert got rid of her.’

Multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, 59, renowned  for his plans to construct a replica of the Titanic in conjunction with a  Chinese company and for his dreams of creating an animated Jurassic Park in  Queensland, also said today that he was planning to sue Mr  Murdoch.

He was furious about an article in a Murdoch  newspaper, The Australian, which questioned his wealth and whether he was a  university professor and a mining magnate, as he claims.


Claims: Clive Palmer, an eccentric Australian  businessman who is contesting this weekend’s general election claimed today that  Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy ‘and that’s why Rupert got  rid of her’

In his attack on Mr Murdoch he did not  exclude the media magnate’s former wife, Miss Deng – who will be remembered for  her defence of her husband when she prevented a protester from smashing a pie  into his face during the hacking inquiry before the House of Commons Select  Committee in July 2011.


‘You know Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng is  a Chinese spy and that’s been right across the world,’ he claimed during an  interview on the Channel Nine tv network.

‘She’s been spying on Rupert for years,  giving money back to Chinese intelligence.

Outspoken: Multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, 5 also said today that he was planning to sue Mr Murdoch 

Outspoken: Multi-millionaire Clive Palmer, 5 also said  today that he was planning to sue Mr Murdoch

Standing by her man: Wendi Deng (wearing pink jacket) is famous for punching the man who threw a pie at her husband's face during a parliamentary committee hearing 

Standing by her man: Wendi Deng (wearing pink jacket) is  famous for punching the man who threw a pie at her husband’s face during a  parliamentary committee hearing

‘She was trained in southern China. I’m  telling you the truth.

‘Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy and that’s why  Rupert got rid of her.’

It is not the first time that the allegation  has been made against Miss Deng, prompting Mr Palmer to tell another interviewer  on the ABC network that his ‘proof’ was on the internet and could be found by  Googling her.

Shortly after Mr Murdoch filed for divorce  earlier this year claims emerged that Miss Deng had connections to the People’s  Liberation Army and its General Political Department.

In June Pan-China Network quoted ‘insider  news’ from Beijing that claimed Miss Deng was absorbed by the Political  Department in her freshman year of college to be trained as a spy in Hong  Kong.

Mr Palmer, 59, is renowned for his plans to construct a replica of the Titantic in conjunction with a Chinese company and for his dreams of creating an animated Jurassic Park in Queensland 

Outlandish: Mr Palmer is renowned for his plans to  construct a replica of the Titantic in conjunction with a Chinese company and  for his dreams of creating an animated Jurassic Park in Queensland

Along with his claims, Mr Palmer, who insists  his Palmer United Party will win ‘a lot of Senate seats and a lot of House of  Representative seats’ in the upcoming election, said he was going ahead with his  determination to sue Mr Murdoch for the article attacking his  credibility.

The Australian newspaper said that ‘contrary  to the flim-flam and spin, Clive Frederick Palmer is not a professor, not an  adviser to the G20, not a mining magnate, not a legal guru and not an advocate  for freedom of speech. He’s probably not a billionaire.’

He accused Australian-born Mr Murdoch, who is  now a US citizen, of ordering his reporters what to write and said the media  magnate needed to be brought to account.

‘Murdoch will be sued by me today and will be  brought to Australia to answer these questions in the Supreme Court,’ he told  the Seven Network. ‘It’s time this fellow was brought to account, this foreigner  who tries to dictate what we do.

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Oz defence department: We don’t have a ban on Lenovo kit

EEV: Really are they this Dumb?



Nobody said you did, sunshine

By       Phil Muncaster

Posted in Security,               31st July 2013 02:59 GMT      

Update The Australian Department of Defence has issued an official statement denying it banned the use of Lenovo computers over concerns they contained backdoor vulnerabilities.

A report from the Australian Financial Review last weekend claimed that the ban applied to top secret networks run by the intelligence and defence services of the “Five Eyes” allies – US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

the report claimed to have obtained confirmation of a written ban by “multiple intelligence and defences sources” in the UK and Oz, and further added that an Australian Department of Defence spokesman confirmed that Lenovo kit had “never been accredited” for such networks.

However, the DoD released the following short statement on its site today:

Reports published on 27 and 29 July 2013 in the Australian Financial Review allege a Department of Defence ban on the use of Lenovo computer equipment on the Defence Secret and Top Secret Networks.‪ ‪

This reporting is factually incorrect. There is no Department of Defence ban on the Lenovo Company or their computer products; either for classified or unclassified systems. ‪

That statement calls into question whether the other Five Eyes members ever had similar bans in place. GCHQ, MI5, MI6, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and the NSA were all named as observing the now-discredited ban.

The original report had claimed that serious backdoor vulnerabilities in Lenovo hardware and firmware had been discovered in testing in the mid-2000s – vulnerabilities which could allow attackers to remotely access a device without the owner’s knowledge.

For its part, Lenovo on Monday said it was surprised by the news as it has good working relationships with public and private sector clients around the world.

“We have not received word of any sort of a restriction of sales so we are not in a position to respond to this question,” it added. ®

Updated to Add

Of course the original report never said there was an Australian defence-department-wide ban on Lenovo kit, just that the secret intelligence and security agencies of the five Anglophone nations – many of which do not belong to their parent countries’ defence departments, in any case, but to other arms of government – do not use Lenovo equipment to handle highly classified data.

That fact is not denied by the Australian defence-department statement mentioned above, which contradicts an assertion that nobody actually made. The Register has since received confirmation that what was actually reported – that the allied security/intelligence community doesn’t use Lenovo gear to handle sensitive data – is correct.

As usual, the use of the term “factually incorrect” by a press officer has turned out to mean that the story was true. -Ed

Never-before-seen GIANT virus found that’s so unusual it may have come from Mars

  • The  Pandoravirus is one micrometre big – ten times the size of other  viruses
  • It is found  underwater but is not considered a threat to humans
  • The virus  has been spotted off the coast of Chile and in an Australian  pond
  • Only six  per cent of its genes resemble those seen before on  Earth

By  Emma Innes

PUBLISHED: 04:53 EST, 19  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 10:41 EST, 19 July 2013

Scientists have found a new virus thought to  be the biggest ever seen on Earth.

The virus, dubbed Pandoravirus, is one micrometre big – up to ten times the size of  other viruses – and only six per cent of its genes resemble anything seen on  Earth before.

This has led French researchers to believe  the virus may have come from an ancient time or even another planet, such as  Mars.

Scientists have found a new virus, Pandoravirus (pictured), which is the biggest ever seen on Earth. It is found underwater and is not thought to pose a serious risk to humans 

Scientists have found a new virus, Pandoravirus  (pictured), which is the biggest ever seen on Earth. It is found underwater and  is not thought to pose a serious risk to humans


Pandoravirus lives underwater and was found  off the coast of Chile and in a pond in Australia.

It is thought to have emerged from a new  ancestral cellular type that no longer exists.

It is about one micrometre meaning it is big  enough to be seen under a normal microscope.

The virus lacks the regular shape normally  associated with viruses.

Its genetic code is twice the size of the  Megavirus, the biggest virus previously found.

Only six per cent of its genes resemble genes  seen before on Earth.

The giant virus is only found underwater and  is not thought to pose a serious risk to humans.


However, the researchers, who published their  findings in the journal Science,  believe that the virus opens up a range of  questions about the history  of life on Earth.

Dr Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille  University in France, who found the virus, told NPR: ‘We  believe that these new Pandoraviruses have emerged from a new ancestral cellular  type that no longer exists.’

Many traditional viruses range in size from  around 10 nanometres (nm) to around 500nm.

The Pandoravirus is around one micrometre big  and there are 1,000nm in a micrometre.

This means the Pandoravirus is big enough to  be seen under the most basic microscopes.

Dr Claverie explained that because the virus  is very big and lacks the regular shape normally associated with viruses, he  initially thought it was a small bacterium.

His team went on a hunt for giant viruses  after a survey identified signs of them in seawater.

The scientists who found the Pandoravirus believe that it could have originated on Mars. Only six per cent of its genes resembled genes seen before in other organisms on Earth 

The scientists who found the Pandoravirus believe that  it could have originated on Mars. Only six per cent of its genes resemble genes  seen before in other organisms on Earth

They took sediment samples from the coast off  Chile and from a pond in Australia.

They took the samples to their  laboratory  and put them in a solution packed with antibiotics in an  attempt to kill any  bacteria present.

The Megavirus, pictured, was previously thought to have been the biggest virus on Earth at 440nm - half the size of the new Pandoravirus 

The Megavirus, pictured, was previously thought to have  been the biggest virus on Earth at 440nm – half the size of the new  Pandoravirus

These bacteria-free samples were then exposed  to amoebas knowing that if they died, there must be something else in the  samples killing them.

This proved to be successful and large  amounts of Pandoravirus were spawned.

When the team studied them they found that  their genetic code was twice the size of the Megavirus, which was previously the  biggest virus ever found at around 440nm.

However, they were in for more of a shock as  only six per cent of its genes resembled genes seen before in other organisms on  Earth.

Dr Claverie told NPR: ‘We believe that those  new Pandoraviruses have emerged from a new ancestral cellular type that no  longer exists.’

He went on to explain that it is possible  that they have come from another planet, such as Mars.

The researchers do not yet know why this  cellular form became a virus but they speculate that it could have evolved as a  survival strategy.

Alternatively, its unusual genome could have  developed as a result of it picking up genetic material from its  hosts.

The researchers say that they now expect to  find more giant viruses.

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Short-term antidepressant use, stress, high-fat diet linked to long-term weight gain

Contact: Jenni Glenn Gingery 301-941-0240 The Endocrine Society

SAN FRANCISCO—- Short-term use of antidepressants, combined with stress and a high-fat diet, is associated with long-term increases in body weight, a new animal study finds. The results were presented Sunday at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

“Our study suggests that short-term exposure to stress and antidepressants, rather than a high-calorie, high-fat diet alone, leads to long-term body weight gain, accompanied with increased bone and spleen weights,” said study lead author Suhyun Lee, a PhD candidate in the medical sciences at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Antidepressants are among the most prevalent medications today, accounting for millions of prescriptions each year. In the United States, physicians wrote more than 1.5 million prescriptions for antidepressants in 2009, while physicians in Australia wrote more than 12 million of these prescriptions in 2008.

At the same time, obesity rates are climbing in developed countries worldwide. Among adults in both the United States and Australia, two-thirds are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for many serious diseases, including heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States and Australia.

Unfortunately, weight gain is one of the main side effects associated with antidepressants. The amount of excess weight varies between patients, but some have reported increases as high as 7 percent of the amount they weighed at the start of their antidepressant treatment.

In this study, male rats treated with the antidepressant fluoxetine after induced stress had significantly increased body weight compared to control animals. In addition to greater overall body weight, animals in the antidepressant group also developed greater bone and spleen weights, compared to animals in the control group.

“These findings may implicate different pathophysiological mechanisms in stress and antidepressant related obesity when compared to obesity that is solely diet-induced,” Lee said.

During the follow-up, investigators also compared behavior between the drug and control groups. This comparison showed that the antidepressants reduced anxiety among the animals in response to induced stress. After the stressful periods, which involved physical restraint, the fluoxetine-treated animals exhibited significantly fewer symptoms of anxiety, compared to the control animals.

The study involved a two-week period of repeated restraint stress, combined with antidepressant treatment among one group of animals, and saline administration among the control group. After the two-week period, both groups of animals received a high-fat diet for 295 days.

The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University funded the study.



Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology.  Today, The Endocrine Society’s membership consists of over 16,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in more than 100 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at Follow us on Twitter.

Has China hacked into Australia’s new spy HQ – before it’s even finished being built?

TV investigation claims important government departments were also hacked

James Legge, Agencies

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Australian officials have refused to confirm or deny a report that Chinese hackers stole blueprints for the country’s new spy agency headquarters.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has reported that the plans for the new Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) HQ – which allegedly included the building’s cable and server layouts and security systems – had been illegally accessed by server in China, which had hacked a building contractor’s system.

The programme further alleged that the Prime Minster’s Office, the Defence Ministry and the Department of Foreign Affairs had been hacked, but did not identify the source of its information.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “China pays high attention to cybersecurity issues, and is firmly opposed to all forms of hacker attacks,” according to The Guardian.

He added: “Groundless accusations will not help solve this issue.”

The building, in Canberra, has so far cost 630 million Australian dollars (£401 million) from an original budget of 460 million dollars, and is nearly finished.

The Greens party – which the ruling Labour party needs to support its minority government – has called for an inquiry into the breach.

Des Ball, an Australian National University cybersecurity expert, said China could use the blueprints to bug the building.

Ball told the ABC that given the breach, ASIO would either have to operate with “utmost sensitivity” within the building or simply “rip the whole insides out and … start again.”

Foreign Minister Bob Carr did not comment directly on the claims, but said the government was “very alive” to cybersecurity threats and the allegations didn’t affect relations with China – the country’s biggest trading partner.

He said: “I won’t comment on whether the Chinese have done what is being alleged or not.

“I won’t comment on matters of intelligence and security for the obvious reason: we don’t want to share with the world and potential aggressors what we know about what they might be doing, and how they might be doing it.”

But he said the report had “no implications” for a strategic partnership. “We have enormous areas of co-operation with China,” he said.

Earlier this year, hackers from China were thought to be behind an attack on the Reserve Bank of Australia, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the minister in charge of ASIO, also refused to confirm or deny the report. He later said the building did not need to be redesigned, and that the agency will move in this year.

“This building is a very secure, state-of-the-art facility,” he said, adding that the ABC report contained “unsubstantiated allegations.”

“I’m not going to comment on operational matters involving the Australian Security Intelligence Organization or any security matters,” he said.

Questioned about the alleged security breach in Parliament, Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the ABC report as “inaccurate” but refused to go into detail.

Calling for an inquiry into the building’s future, Greens leader Christine Milne said: “It is time that we had an independent inquiry into the whole sorry history of the ASIO building and the extent to which the current hacking has compromised its capacity to ever be the building and serve the purpose for which it was intended.”

Dreyfus didn’t immediately respond to the Greens’ call for an inquiry.–before-its-even-finished-being-built-8634291.html#


Young people who undergo CT scans are 24 percent more likely to develop cancer compared with those who do not, a study published today on suggests

Contact: Emma Dickinson 44-020-738-36529 BMJ-British Medical Journal

Small cancer risk following CT scans in childhood and adolescence confirmed

But the absolute excess for all cancers combined is low

The researchers say that in a group of 10,000 young people, they would expect 39 cancers to occur during the next 10 years, but if they all had one CT scan, up to six extra cancers would occur.

CT (computed tomography) scans have great medical benefits, but their increasing use since the 1980s has raised some concerns about possible cancer risks, particularly following exposures in childhood. Most previous studies have estimated risks indirectly, and some radiation experts have questioned the validity of these estimates.

There is currently much uncertainty and as such, researchers from Australia and Europe carried out a study comparing cancer rates in patients exposed to CT scans at ages 0-19 years compared with unexposed persons of a similar age. All participants were born between 1985 and 2005 with total follow-up ending at the end of 2007. This is the largest ever population-based study of medical radiation exposure.

Data were taken from Australian Medicare records and from national cancer records. The main outcome of the research was to identify cancer rates in individuals exposed to a CT scan more than one year before any cancer diagnosis. Mean length of follow-up was 9.5 years for the exposed group and 17.3 for the unexposed group.

The cohort included 10.9 million people, 680,211 of whom were CT-exposed at least 12 months before any cancer diagnosis. 18% of these had more than one scan.

By the end of 2007, 3150 of the exposed group and 57,524 of the unexposed group had been diagnosed with cancer. The incidence rate was 24% greater in the exposed group after adjusting for age, sex and year of birth. Risk increased by 16% for each additional CT scan.

For brain cancer, although the incidence in the exposed group declined with time since first CT-exposure, brain cancer incidence was still significantly increased more than 15 years after first exposure. For other solid cancers (tumours as opposed to cancers of the blood or bone marrow) the absolute excess cancer incidence increased significantly with time since first exposure.

For all cancers combined, although the proportional increase declined with years since first CT scan, it was still increased at 15+ years after first exposure.

For brain cancer, the highest risk was seen in children exposed before the age of five years and this risk decreased with increasing age at first exposure. However, despite this decrease, risk for all cancers combined remained significantly increased in the oldest age at exposure group (15-19 years).

For solid cancers other than brain cancer, the proportional increase in risk was somewhat greater in females: 23% compared with 14% in males.

The researchers say that almost 60% of CT scans were of the brain and recognise that “in some cases the brain cancer may have led to the scan rather than vice versa”. They add that they “cannot assume that all the excess cancers […] were caused by CT scans” and they “cannot rule out the possibility of some reverse causation, particularly for some cases of brain cancer”.

Nevertheless, they conclude that the “increased incidence of many different types of cancer […] is mostly due to irradiation”. They point out that because the cancer excess was still continuing at the end of follow-up, the “eventual lifetime risk from CT scans cannot yet be determined”. They recommend that practitioners will need to weigh the benefits against the potential risks to justify each CT scan decision.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Sodickson from Harvard Medical School says it is important to recognise that the incidence of cancer in children is extremely small and so “a 24% increase makes this risk just slightly less small”. He says that there are many methods to manage radiation dose and with further validation of risk models, “more accurate risk assessment “can be performed to “better inform imaging decisions”.

No idle chatter: Study finds malaria parasites ‘talk’ to each other – It Changes everything

Contact: Liz Williams 61-405-279-095 Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Melbourne scientists have made the surprise discovery that malaria parasites can ‘talk’ to each other – a social behaviour to ensure the parasite’s survival and improve its chances of being transmitted to other humans.

The finding could provide a niche for developing antimalarial drugs and vaccines that prevent or treat the disease by cutting these communication networks.

Professor Alan Cowman, Dr Neta Regev-Rudzki, Dr Danny Wilson and colleagues from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in collaboration with Professor Andrew Hill from the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology showed that malaria parasites are able to send out messages to communicate with other malaria parasites in the body. The study was published today in the journal Cell.

Professor Cowman said the researchers were shocked to discover that malaria parasites work in unison to enhance ‘activation’ into sexually mature forms that can be picked up by mosquitoes, which are the carriers of this deadly disease.

“When Neta showed me the data, I was absolutely amazed, I couldn’t believe it,” Professor Cowman said. “We repeated the experiments many times in many different ways before I really started to believe that these parasites were signalling to each other and communicating. But we came to appreciate why the malaria parasite really needs this mechanism – it needs to know how many other parasites are in the human to sense when is the right time to activate into sexual forms that give it the best chance of being transmitted back to the mosquito.”

Malaria kills about 700,000 people a year, mostly children aged under five and pregnant women. Every year, hundreds of millions of people are infected with the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. It is estimated that half the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria, with the disease being concentrated in tropical and subtropical regions including many of Australia’s near neighbours.

Dr Regev-Rudzki said the malaria parasites inside red blood cells communicate by sending packages of DNA to each other during the blood stage of infection. “We showed that the parasites inside infected red blood cells can send little packets of information from one parasite to another, particularly in response to stress,” she said.

The communication network is a social behaviour that has evolved to signal when the parasites should complete their lifecycle and be transmitted back to a mosquito, Dr Regev-Rudzki said. “Once they receive this information, they change their fate – the signals tell the parasites to become sexual forms, which are the forms of the malaria parasite that can live and replicate in the mosquito, ensuring the parasites survives and is transmitted to another human.”

Professor Cowman said he hopes to see the discovery pave the way to new antimalarial drugs or vaccines for preventing malaria. “This discovery has fundamentally changed our view of the malaria parasite and is a big step in understanding how the malaria parasite survives and is transmitted,” he said. “The next step is to identify the molecules involved in this signalling process, and ways that we could block these communication networks to block the transmission of malaria from the human to the mosquito. That would be the ultimate goal.”


This project was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Howard Hughes Medical Research Institute and the Victorian Government.

So that’s what Assange has been doing inside the embassy! WikiLeaks releases 1.7m US diplomatic and intelligence reports covering every country in the world

  • Wikileaks  releases database of U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to  1976
  • Henry  Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State and National Security  Adviser
  • Julian  Assange worked on project inside Ecuadorian Embassy in London
  • Australian  Wikileaks founder, 41, sought refuge at the embassy last  June

By  Mark Duell

PUBLISHED: 20:00 EST, 7  April 2013 |  UPDATED: 20:00 EST, 7 April 2013


Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks today published more than 1.7million U.S. records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.

The data released today includes more than  1.7million U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 – covering a traffic of  cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.

WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US  Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S.  confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.

Collection: The data released today includes more than 1.7million US diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 

Collection: The data released today includes more than  1.7million US diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976

Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks  founder Julian Assange, 41, during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London,  where he has been staying since last summer.

The Australian sought refuge at the embassy  last June over fears that he would be sent to the U.S. if he was extradited to  Sweden to face sexual offence claims by two women – charges he  denies.

The Ecuadorian Government has granted Mr  Assange political asylum and has repeatedly offered Swedish prosecutors the  chance to interview him at the embassy in Knightsbridge, central  London.

Mr Assange said the information showed the  ‘vast range and scope’ of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence activity around the  world.

On the inside: Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer 

On the inside: Much of the work was carried out by  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in  London, where he has been staying since last summer

Records database: WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world's largest searchable collection of U.S. confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications 

Records database: WikiLeaks described the Public Library  of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S.  confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications

Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State  and National Security Adviser during the period covered by the collection, and  many of the reports were written by him or sent to him.

Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS  (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret  or confidential.

Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had undertaken a  detailed analysis of the communications, adding that the information eclipsed  Cablegate, a set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by  WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year.

These documents were released after being  anonymously leaked, detailing U.S. foreign policy over the last  decade.

Across Africa: Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or sent to him 

Across Africa: Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of  State and National Security Adviser during the period covered by the collection,  and many of the reports were written by him or sent to him

The collection published today has not been  leaked, but Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to  analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the U.S. national archives  before releasing it in a searchable form.

Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had developed  sophisticated technical systems to deal with ‘complex and voluminous’  data.

Top secret documents were not available,  while some others were lost or irreversibly corrupted for periods including  December 1975 and March and June 1976, said Mr Assange.

He added that his mother, who lives in  Australia, had told him he was being kept at the embassy ‘with nothing to do but  work on WikiLeaks material’.

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Scientists have rediscovered a centuries-old procedure for supercharging your brain

Spark of Genius

A new technology promises to supercharge your brain with electricity. Is it too good to be true?

By |Posted Monday, April 1, 2013, at 2:30 PM

Scientists have rediscovered a centuries-old procedure for supercharging your brain. Depending on how it’s used, it could improve anything from focus to motor control to mathematical or even moral reasoning. It’s simple. It’s relatively cheap. The known side effects are minimal. And it’s so easy that you can do it in your own home, anytime you want. All you need are a pair of electrodes and a power source.

Happy April Fools’ Day, right?

Maybe. Incredible as it sounds, though, every claim in the paragraph above has been supported by experimental evidence. The procedure is called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, and the idea has been around for 200 years, though it languished in disrepute until recently. The setup: You attach one electrode to your scalp above the part of the brain you’re trying to stimulate, and another electrode on the other side of your head, to complete the circuit. Then you turn on a milliampere or two of juice, and watch the mental sparks fly—figuratively, if you’re doing it right.


Almost every expert who talks about tDCS will tell you, “Don’t try this at home.” But a lot of people are starting to do just that. And it’s no wonder, given the parade of amazing results that researchers have reported achieving on subjects in the lab. It seems like you can make people better at just about anything if you just put the electrodes in the right place. To name just a few of the findings:

The potential applications for tDCS (and a related technology called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses magnets to induce a current) range from healing to educating to killing. Doctors are experimenting with tDCS to treat severe depression and help stroke victims regain their speaking skills. Students in theory could use it to solve math problems or pick up Russian. Air Force researchers are using it to make people better at guiding killer drones, and DARPA has found it could improve snipers’ marksmanship.

A few studies claim results that are even more jaw-dropping. In Neuroscience Letters last year, Australian researchers reported applying tDCS to 33 people as they tried to solve the notoriously tricky “nine-dot” logic problem. Not one was able to crack it without stimulation, or with “sham” stimulation (in which electricity is applied only briefly to mimic the feeling of tDCS). With current coursing between their left and right anterior temporal lobes, 40 percent solved it.

You might suspect the procedure would be painful or unpleasant. Many subjects report a tickling or burning sensation from the electrodes, and some say they feel different when the current is flowing, with time seeming to pass quickly. But far from finding it painful, an editor at New Scientist who tried it out during a marksmanship test described tDCS as “the most powerful drug I’ve ever used in my life” and “a near-spiritual experience.” The editor, Sally Adee, wrote:

“When a nice neuroscientist named Michael Weisend put the electrodes on me, what defined the experience was not feeling smarter or learning faster: The thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut up. …  I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.”

Oh, and she nailed the target.

Exactly how all of this works is not yet fully clear. But the process appears to make neurons in the stimulated area more malleable, so that new connections form more readily while under the influence of the current. It remains to be seen whether those changes are short-lived or enduring, but at least one study has found positive effects persisting for up to six months. The beauty of it, in theory, is that the electric current doesn’t rewire the brain on its own—it just makes it easier for the brain to rewire itself.

At this point it seems obvious that this is far too good to be true. So what’s the catch?

The catch is that we don’t know what the catch is. And to Peter Reiner, a neuroscientist at University of British Columbia, that’s a biggie. If tDCS can so quickly change the brain in ways that we can easily measure, he says, there’s a good chance it could also change the brain in ways we can’t easily measure—or that researchers so far haven’t tried to measure. Scientists often assume they can target the effects of tDCS by stimulating only the part of the brain relevant to the task that the subject is concentrating on. But most would admit there’s some guesswork involved, since brain topography can vary from one person to the next. And Reiner warns that there’s no guarantee the subject’s mind won’t wander, say, to “something horrific that occurred earlier today.” What if tDCS ends up forging traumatic connections along with useful ones?

Less dramatically, it seems plausible that researchers are overlooking subtle drawbacks of tDCS. One of the first papers to identify downsides to the procedure was published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience, titled “The Mental Cost of Cognitive Enhancement.” Subjects who had their parietal lobes stimulated during a numerical-processing task performed better than those who received fake stimulation. But a week later, they struggled to apply the newly learned techniques to a different task. “They had trouble accessing what they’d learned,” study co-author Roi Cohen Kadosh of Oxford told Wired. Subjects who had a different region of their brain stimulated during the task showed the opposite effect, performing slowly at first but better at week’s end.

As for the amateur applications, you don’t need to be an Oxford professor to deduce that building your own tDCS kit and sticking electrodes onto your head willy-nilly might have some adverse consequences. All you need are some YouTube videos, like the one in which a teen describes his first forays into electrical brain stimulation. “I’ve been experimenting on where, which places on my head would improve memory—more specifically, visual memory,” the young DIY-er says in the video. “So I’ve been thinking, OK, does the left dorsal, uh, prefrontal cortex—which I thought would be around, about, left side, right here (points to head)—and that would be where the cathode goes, and the anode would go right up here. Well I put it on, and after about five minutes, I felt really angry and depressed. So … I guess that wasn’t a good idea.”

An observant YouTube commenter pointed out that the young man had reversed the anode and the cathode, a mistake akin to putting the wrong jumper cables on your car battery. “Flip it around and try again,” the commenter suggested.

The fact that tDCS may pose unknown risks, that its benefits and drawbacks are not yet fully understood, that it can be dangerous in the wrong hands—none of these arguments should keep scientists from carefully exploring its potential. Having spent the better part of two months immersed in the vertiginous world of human enhancement, I’ve become convinced that societal and academic taboos against the use of technology to give healthy people extraordinary powers are, on the whole, counterproductive. College students are already popping Adderall in droves. Body hackers are implanting microchips in their bodies. Entrepreneurs are hawking tDCS kits for $99 online. Some athlete, somewhere, is probably experimenting with gene doping. The riskiness of some of these behaviors makes it tempting to simply outlaw them all and expect everyone to comply. But that’s as unrealistic as it is blinkered.

This isn’t a call to legalize everything and let God or Darwin sort ’em out. It’s a plea to lawmakers, the media, academics, and those who fund academic research to take seriously the growing availability of and demand for human-enhancement technologies. Only by acknowledging and researching their potential benefits as well as their risks can we hope to craft mature policies that promote public safety and welfare. If that means continuing to classify Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance until we’re even more convinced that it doesn’t pose long-term health risks, so be it. But here’s where we’re going astray: One university professor who studies ADHD drugs told me he has learned that every public-health research paper “has to have a certain (cautionary) tone to it” in order to be accepted for publication. “I know what I have to write, and it has to be, basically, ‘Drugs are bad.’ ”

Maybe he’s wrong. But I’ve talked with enough academics over the past two months who flat-out refused to even discuss the potential use of various medical technologies for human enhancement—or to even have their name attached to an article that discusses them—to suspect that there’s some legitimacy to his paranoia. Too many people seem to think that humans are fine the way we are, and that the only proper use of these technologies is to restore “normal” human functions to people with disabilities.

Why is that short-sighted? As Duke philosophy professor and bioethicist Allen Buchanan told Ross Andersen in the Atlantic:

“The list of design flaws in human beings is pretty long, as it is in other organisms, and so to think that somehow we’re at the summit of perfection and that we’re stable is to have the wrong idea of human nature. The misleading assumption is that if we don’t interfere, we’re going to continue the way we are, and of course that goes completely contrary to everything we know about evolution. In fact it might turn out that the only way to prevent us from going extinct, or to prevent some great worsening of our condition, is to enhance some of our capacities.”

I’m skeptical of a lot of the advertised merits of tDCS as a wonder tool for cognitive enhancement. After all, the modern field is still young, and it’s always easier to get research published and publicized if a result is dramatic. Already one study has cast doubt on the use of “sham” stimulation as an effective control for tDCS experiments. Perhaps it will take a backlash like the one against ADHD drugs to spur studies that debunk some of the more outlandish positive results.

But we should resist the urge to demonize either technology just because they feel wrong, or like cheating, and so to close the door to progress. What if it turns out that something like a tDCS “thinking cap,” goofy as it sounds, could not only make us sharper but help us to exercise greater self-control or make better decisions under pressure? Is that really possible? Would it be safe? Let’s find out! And until then, I’ll join the chorus: Kids, don’t try this at home.

You won’t bee-lieve it! Could manuka honey beat drug-resistant superbugs?

By  Nick Mcdermott

PUBLISHED: 20:53 EST, 15  March 2013 |  UPDATED: 05:55 EST, 17 March 2013


Strong stuff: Manuka honey could fight drug-resistant superbugsStrong stuff: Manuka honey could fight drug-resistant  superbugs

It is a natural medicine used for thousands  of years to clean wounds and fight bacteria.

Now, however, honey could hold the key to  combating the very modern threat of drug-resistant superbugs.

A study has shown that manuka honey can fight  back on two fronts. Not only can it help to kill MRSA and other superbugs, it  can also prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics.

The danger of the rise of bugs which do not  succumb to drugs was outlined this month by the Chief Medical  Officer.

Professor Dame Sally Davies described it as a  ‘ticking timebomb’ which could leave millions vulnerable to untreatable germs  within a generation.

But a study in Australia offers a solution.  At the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), tests were carried out on manuka,  kanuka and clover honeys to find which was best at treating bacteria commonly  found in chronic skin wounds

Researchers looked at key ingredients known  to inhibit bacterial growth.

The best at doing this was Comvita  medical-grade manuka honey, made by bees foraging on New Zealand’s manuka  trees.

When combined with common antibiotics, the  treatment hampered the spread of bacteria on wounds.

Crucially, scientists found the honey  prevented the bugs from developing any resistance to the  antibiotic.



  • Apitherapy, the use of  honey as a medicine, has been practised since the  times of Ancient Greece  (2,000BC – 600AD)
  • Honey from the manuka, an  evergreen shrub originating from New Zealand, was used by Maoris and settlers as  medicine
  • The honey has an  anti-bacterial level four times greater than standard  antiseptic
  • It is used to clean  wounds, heal  stomach ulcers and treat eczema, acne and insect  stings

Professor Liz Harry, of UTS, said: ‘Manuka  honey should be used as a first resort for wound treatment, rather than the last  resort, as it so often is.’ The  research, in the journal PLOS ONE, follows a previous study which found that the  honey was effective against more than 80 types of bacteria, including  MRSA.

Commercial honey bought at shops is not  suitable as it needs to be sterilised to make it medical grade.

Infections are becoming more difficult to  defeat but no new class of antibiotic has been discovered since the  1980s.

It follows a previous study that found manuka  honey is effective against more than 80 different types of bacteria, including  hospital superbug MRSA.

Professor Liz Harry at UTS said: ‘We have  shown bacteria do not become resistant to honey in the laboratory. Consistent  with these facts, we also found that if MRSA were treated with just rifampicin  [antibiotic], the superbug became resistant very quickly,’ she said.

‘However, when manuka honey  and  rifampicin are used in combination to treat MRSA, rifampicin-resistant MRSA did  not emerge. In other words, honey somehow prevents the emergence of  rifampicin-resistant MRSA – this is a hugely important finding.’

With overuse of antibiotics partly blamed for  the increase in resistant superbugs, GPs will be asked to prescribe fewer  antibiotics to patients. And while  infections are becoming increasingly difficult to beat, no new class of  antibiotic has been discovered since the 1980s.

Dr Harry added: ‘With the existence now of  bacteria that are resistant to all available antibiotics, and the death of new  antibiotics on the market, manuka honey should be used as a first resort for  wound treatment, rather than the last resort as it so often does.

‘What we need is an acceptance by society  that antibiotics are not going to provide all that we hoped for when they were  discovered in the 1940s; and that we need to start getting very serious about  using alternatives to this, or use honey in addition to them.’

While all types of honey have some  antibacterial properties, the ingredients of manuka honey make it particularly  powerful.

It is possible to buy dressings that already  contain the honey, as well apply honey directly to bandages and other  dressings.

However, supermarket honey will not do.   Any honey used be sterilised to make it of medical grade.

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Mars Could Be Hit By Comet C/2013 A1 With Billion-Megaton Impact / Will show brighter than a full moon

Huffington Post UK  |    By
Posted: 04/03/2013 09:53 GMT  |  Updated: 04/03/2013 10:12 GMT


Mars could be hit by a comet with the power of a billion megatons in 2014, astronomers have said.

The comet C/2013 A1 was discovered earlier this year by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

While discovered between Jupiter and Saturn, it was projected that it would make a close pass by the planet next year.

But according to a new recalculation, the comet may hit our nearest planetary neighbour after all.

Researcher Leonid Elenin said there is now a slightly higher chance of the impact occurring – even if the actual odds are still quite low.

In fact the path of the comet is so uncertain it may still end up more than a million kilometres from its surface.

The movements of comets are difficult to predict, because as they approach the sun their structure is affected by increases in temperature which can throw it off course.

But if it were to hit the planet, the result could be major disruption. It has a speed relative to mars of about 56 kilometres/second, and could leave a crater about 500km across and 2km deep.

Either way, it appears that the rovers currently on Mars – including Curiosity – as well as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter could capture a view of the ball of ice and dust as it passes by – or into – the planet.

Mars could be hit by comet next year – ” solar system may be left without Mars / collision is very likely “

Mar 4, 2013 21:37 Moscow Time
Margarita Bogatova, Alexei Lyakhov

комета астероид метеорит космос атака

© Photo:

The solar system may be left without Mars as experts predict that comet C/2013 A1 measured at about 50 km in diameter will hit the planet in mid autumn of 2014. The crash may have absolutely unpredictable consequences, causing cracks, changing the planet’s axis and adding water to its environment. Scientists say that the comet is posing no danger to the Earth.

Experts have calculated that the comet will pass within about 37,000km of the surface of Mars in October of 2014. Although there is no certainty about the comet’s orbit, scientists agree that the collision is very likely.

Adviser to the president of the Russian “Energiya” space corporation, Viktor Sinyavsky: “This is going to be a very significant event. The consequences can be unpredictable. It is difficult to be sure about the outcome of the crash. If it happens, Mars will by all means face an immense impact.”

Some scientists estimate that the impact should yield a blast equivalent to that of 20 billion kilotons of TNT but the Earth would hardly even feel the echo of the crash due to huge distances separating us from Mars.

Mr. Sinyavsky says the fuzz will be all in the media. “There is no need to worry about it. The Sun and the Moon do impact the Earth while the rest of the planets cannot do us any harm.”

Comet C/2013 A1 was discovered in January by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Russian astronomers say that the comet will pass within about 105,000km of Mars`s surface on October 19, 2014.

‘Defective’ virus surprisingly plays major role in spread of disease, UCLA life scientists report

Contact: Stuart Wolpert 310-206-0511 University of California – Los Angeles

Defective viruses, thought for decades to be essentially garbage unrelated to the transmission of normal viruses, now appear able to play an important role in the spread of disease, new research by UCLA life scientists indicates.

Defective viruses have genetic mutations or deletions that eliminate their essential viral functions. They have been observed for many human pathogens and are generated frequently for viruses that have high mutation rates. However, for some 40 years, it was believed that they were unimportant in natural settings.

In findings published Feb. 28 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, UCLA scientists and their colleagues report for the first time a significant link between a defective virus and an increased rate of transmission of a major disease.

“The idea has always been that defective viruses are either meaningless or detrimental,” said James O. Lloyd-Smith, a UCLA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the senior author of the research. “We have found the opposite of that — that the defective virus is actually helping the normal, functional virus. This finding is bizarre and hard to believe, but the data are the data.”

“We have shown that the defective virus not only transmits with the virus but increases the transmission of the functional virus,” said Ruian Ke, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and the lead author of the study.

Defective viruses cannot complete their life cycle on their own, but if they’re able to get into the same cell with a non-defective virus, they can “hitchhike” with the normal virus and propagate, Lloyd-Smith said. Biologists had thought that defective viruses interfered with normal versions of the virus, “clogging up the gears of viral replication,” he said.

The life scientists studied DENV-1, one of four known types of the dengue virus that infect humans. Dengue viruses are transmitted by several species of mosquitoes and cause dengue fever, which is characterized by fever, joint pain and a skin rash similar to measles. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a more severe form of dengue infection, can cause death. The dengue virus infects between 50 million and 100 million people each year in Southeast Asia, South America, parts of the United States and elsewhere.

The life sciences team — which also included John Aaskov, a virologist and professor of health at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, and Edward Holmes, a professor of biological sciences at Australia’s University of Sydney — found that the presence of a defective DENV-1 virus may have led to large increases in dengue fever cases in Myanmar in 2001 and 2002, when that country experienced its most severe dengue epidemics on record.

The scientists describe when and how the defective “lineage,” or series of very closely related defective DENV-1 viruses, emerged and was transmitted between humans and mosquitoes in Myanmar, as well as what the public health implications are.

For the study, Ke designed a mathematical model to analyze the data to learn how the defective DENV-1 virus interacted with the normal virus. Aaskov and Holmes collected genetic sequences from from 15 people in Myanmar sampled over an 18-month period, all of whom were infected with the DENV-1 virus and nine of whom were also infected with the defective version.

Ke discovered that the lineage of defective viruses emerged between June 1998 and February 2001 and that it was spreading in the population until at least 2002. (The following year, the lineage appeared on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia, carried there by either a mosquito or a person.) The scientists analyzed the genetic sequences of both the defective and normal dengue viruses to estimate how long the defective virus had been transmitting in the human population.

“We can see from the gene sequence of the defective version that it is the same lineage and is a continued propagation of the virus,” said Lloyd-Smith, who holds UCLA’s De Logi Chair in Biological Sciences. “From 2001 to 2002, it went from being quite rare to being in all nine people we sampled that year; everybody sampled who was getting dengue fever was getting the defective version along with the functional virus. It rose from being rare to being very common in just one year.”

Most surprisingly, Lloyd-Smith said, the combination of the defective virus with the normal virus was “more fit” than the normal dengue virus alone.

“What we have shown is that this defective virus, which everyone had thought was useless or even detrimental to the fitness of the functional virus, actually appears to have made it better able to spread,” he said. “Ruian [Ke] calculated that the defective virus makes it at least 10 percent more transmissible, which is a lot. It was spreading better with its weird, defective cousin tagging along than on its own.

“This study has shown that the functional virus and defective virus travel in unison. The two transmit together in an unbroken chain, and that’s not just a matter of getting into the same human or the same mosquito — they need to get into the same cell inside that human or mosquito in order to share their genes and for the defective version to continue ‘hitchhiking.’ We are gaining insights into the cellular-level biology of how dengue is infecting hosts. It must be the case that frequently there are multiple infections of single cells.

“Ruian showed the defective virus appeared one to three years before these major epidemics,” Lloyd-Smith added. “One could imagine that if you build an understanding of this mechanism, you could measure it, see it coming and potentially get ahead of it.”

Might defective viruses play a role in the transmission of influenza, measles and other diseases?

“There are a few signs that this phenomenon may be happening for other viruses,” Lloyd-Smith said. “We may be cracking open the book on the possible interactions between the normal, functional viruses and the defective ones that people thought were just dead-ends. These supposedly meaningless viruses may be having a positive impact — positive for the virus, not for us. There is great variation, year to year, in how large dengue epidemics are in various locations, and we don’t understand why. This is a possible mechanism for why there are large epidemics in some years in some places. We need to keep studying this question.”

The research points to implications for how mutations might allow a new non-human virus to become a human virus.

“Different strains of a virus with different genetic properties may be interacting more frequently than we thought,” said Lloyd-Smith, who studies how ecology, evolution and epidemiology merge to drive the emergence of new pathogens, including new strains with important properties like drug resistance.

Why would a defective virus increase transmission of a disease?

Lloyd-Smith offers two hypotheses. One is that the presence of the defective virus with the functional virus in the same cell makes the functional virus replicate better within the cell by some unknown mechanism. “It might give the virus a bit of flexibility in how it expresses its genes and may make it a bit more fit, a bit better able to reproduce under some circumstances,” he said.

A second idea is that the defective virus may be interfering with the disease-causing virus, making the disease less intense; people then have a milder infection, and because they don’t feel as sick, they are more likely to go out and spread the disease.

“Normally, biologists test for how well a virus can replicate in a cell, but what we have shown here is even a genotype that cannot replicate in a cell can have an impact on transmission,” Ke said.

In conducting the research, Lloyd-Smith and Ke combined genetic sequence analysis with sophisticated mathematical models and bioinformatics.

Genetic sequencing technology has “exploded,” Lloyd-Smith said, providing a wealth of data on genetic sequences of pathogens and the evolution of viruses, leading to major new insights into the transmission of viruses.

“We were able to show that this defective virus transmitted in an unbroken chain across this population for a year-and-a-half,” Lloyd-Smith said. “Without gene sequencing, we would not have been able to establish that.”


The research was federally funded by the National Science Foundation.

Read more about Lloyd-Smith’s research.

UCLA is California’s largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university’s 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

Secrets and lies – the double life of Prisoner X

Rumours swirl about ‘Mossad man’, Ben Zygier, found dead in Israeli jail

Alistair Dawber

Sunday, 17 February 2013

He was “a double agent working for Iran”; he was “responsible for the botched operation in a Dubai hotel in 2010” in which Mossad agents killed a senior Hamas commander; he was “just a loud mouth who couldn’t keep quiet” about being a member of Israel’s secret service. These are some of the many theories about why Ben Zygier, or “Prisoner X” as he was known until last week, was held in Israel’s most secure prison for a few months before apparently killing himself in December 2010. His detention was kept so secret that even his guards didn’t know his name; his presumed crime so grave that even his family haven’t gone public about his case.

Zygier’s name, and indeed his existence, would not have been known had it not been for an investigation by Foreign Correspondent, a programme produced by Australia’s ABC television, which unearthed details about the Israeli-Australian. They disclosed that his body was returned to his native Melbourne just before Christmas (and just after the birth of his second daughter) in 2010.

What Foreign Correspondent did not reveal was why Zygier was secretly jailed, a void that the Israeli government has not been eager to fill. So what exactly did this keen Zionist, a volunteer in the Israeli army, do to warrant such treatment? He was held in solitary confinement in the cell designed for Yigal Amir, the killer of the then Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and had access to nothing but a few books. Even Australian officials in Canberra admitted last week that they were unaware of Zygier’s case, despite his status as an Australian national.

The lack of official information has inevitably been filled by speculation. Because of the timing, the first theory was that Zygier had been involved in the operation in Dubai to kill the Hamas agent Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January 2010. Zygier was arrested just a month later.

Several countries were outraged when it was revealed that some of the Mossad agents had travelled on fake passports – indeed, Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat in the aftermath. Was Zygier responsible for the images of Mossad agents being captured by CCTV? Was he responsible for bungling the passports? Or, more seriously, did he get turned by domestic security agents, as a Kuwaiti newspaper suggested last week?

One of the men who took part in the Dubai mission was Joshua Daniel Bruce, almost certainly an alias. The picture in a forged passport identifying Bruce appears to be of a man about the same age as the then 34-year-old Zygier, and of the 26 suspects he bears the greatest resemblance to Zygier. But on Friday a forensic facial recognition report commissioned by Reuters showed that Zygier and Bruce are not the same person, but it does not entirely dismiss the idea that Zygier was somehow involved in the Mabhouh operation.

At the beginning of 2010, the Australian journalist Jason Katsoukis uncovered evidence that Zygier was one of three Israeli-Australians running a front company in Italy, which ostensibly sold electronic equipment, to Iran among others. Zygier denied being a Mossad agent when asked by Mr Katsoukis, but it seems likely that he was working on contacts within the Sunni group, Jundallah, which has launched attacks against the Shia Iranian government.

Could Zygier’s incarceration be linked in some way to the arrest in February 2010 of Abdolmajid Rigi, the leader of Jundallah? Did Rigi blow Zygier’s cover and tell Iranian officials about the operation in Italy? In an interview with the Iranian Press TV after his arrest, Rigi said that American and Israeli agents were trying to persuade Jundallah to take their fight to Tehran. Rigi was eventually hanged, but what did he tell the authorities in Iran first?

Even if Zygier had compromised Rigi, would that have warranted the tough treatment Zygier received? Moreover, while the Israeli government will never comment on the cases, there is evidence to suggest that it has had a hand in the deaths of a number of leading Iranian nuclear scientists, some killed in their cars as they travelled to work; a grisly, if nonetheless successful way of checking Iran’s nuclear progress.

Did Zygier deliberately, or inadvertently, feed information about Mossad operations to Iran, or other hostile countries? Was he a fully fledged double-agent? Was he feeding information about Israeli operations back to officials in Australia – it certainly seems as though one official at the Australian embassy in Tel Aviv knew about Zygier’s activities and he was known to Australia’s secret service agents.

The answer to all these questions is that we don’t know. Little information has leaked out and even those closest to Zygier seem unprepared to speak. What we do know is that whatever he did, it ultimately cost him his life.–the-double-life-of-prisoner-x-8498165.html#


New health guidelines: no birthday cake candles allowed for Australian children

Posted By Caroline May On 5:29 PM  02/07/2013 @ 5:29 PM In DC Exclusives,DC Exclusives – Blurb,Uncategorized,World | No Comments

New child-care guidelines from Australian health officials will make blowing out candles on birthday cakes a thing of the past down under.

According to new hygiene rules for child-care centers from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, blowing out birthday cake candle spreads germs and should be avoided.

“Many children like to bring a cake to share with their friends on their birthday,” the guidelines explain. “Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing ‘Happy birthday’. Cakes and candles may also be brought into the education and care service for other special occasions.”

The NHMRC advises that to “prevent the spread of germs,” children should blow out a candle on a single piece or a separate cupcake.

Other regulations contained in the nearly 200-page guidance on childcare include regulations on sandbox play (adults and children must wash their hands with soap or sanitizer before and after play), play dough (wash hands before and after, and provide a different untouched batch each day), as well as require child-care centers to wash door handles, cushions, and toys at the end of each day.

While the guidelines are aimed at curbing the spread of illness, the Australian Medical Association has warned against overly sensitive guidance that puts “kids in a bubble,” according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

“If you live in a plastic bubble you’re going to get infections [later in life] that you can’t handle,” AMA president Steve Hambleton said, according to the Telegraph. “It’s normal and healthy to be exposed to a certain amount of environmental antigens that build up our immune systems.”

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who helped to launch the guidance, said that the proposal is just advice at this point, The West Australian reported.

“They are not rules, and we’re not policing them,” she told ABC Radio in Melbourne.

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Article printed from The Daily Caller:

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Study suggests link between regular aspirin use, increased risk of age-related macular degeneration: 3.7% vs 9.3%

Contact: Jie Jin Wang, Ph.D. JAMA and Archives Journals

CHICAGO – Regular aspirin use appears to be associated with an increased risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness in older people, and it appears to be independent of a history of cardiovascular disease and smoking, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world and is commonly used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack) and ischemic stroke. While a recent study suggested that regular aspirin use was associated with AMD, particularly the more visually devastating neovascular (wet) form, other studies have reported inconsistent findings. Smoking is also a preventable risk factor for AMD, the authors write in the study background.

Gerald Liew, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues examined whether regular aspirin use (defined as once or more per week in the past year) was associated with a higher risk of developing AMD by conducting a prospective analysis of data from an Australian study that included four examinations during a 15-year period. Of 2,389 participants, 257 individuals (10.8 percent) were regular aspirin users.

After the 15-year follow-up, 63 individuals (24.5 percent) developed incident neovascular AMD, according to the results.

“The cumulative incidence of neovascular AMD among nonregular aspirin users was 0.8 percent at five years, 1.6 percent at 10 years, and 3.7 percent at 15 years; among regular aspirin users, the cumulative incidence was 1.9 percent at five years, 7 percent at 10 years and 9.3 percent at 15 years, respectively,” the authors note. “Regular aspirin use was significantly associated with an increased incidence of neovascular AMD.”

The authors note that any decision concerning whether to stop aspirin therapy is “complex and needs to be individualized.”

“Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend changing clinical practice, except perhaps in patients with strong risk factors for neovascular AMD (e.g., existing late AMD in the fellow eye) in whom it may be appropriate to raise the potentially small risk of incident neovascular AMD with long-term aspirin therapy,” the authors conclude.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 21, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1583.)

Editor’s Note: This study was supported by project grants from the National Health & Medical Research Council Australia. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Commentary: Relationship of Aspirin Use with Age-Related Macular Degeneration

In an invited commentary, Sanjay Kaul, M.D., and George A. Diamond, M.D., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, write: “This study has important strengths and limitations. It provides evidence from the largest prospective cohort with more than five years of longitudinal evaluation reported to date using objective and standardized ascertainment of AMD.”

“The key limitation is the nonrandomized design of the study with its potential for residual (unmeasured or unobserved) confounding that cannot be mitigated by multivariate logistic regression or propensity score analysis,” the authors continue.

“From a purely science-of-medicine perspective, the strength of evidence is not sufficiently robust to be clinically directive. These findings are, at best, hypothesis-generating that should await validation in prospective randomized studies before guiding clinical practice or patient behavior,” the authors conclude. “However, from an art-of-medicine perspective, based on the limited amount of available evidence, there are some courses of action available to the thoughtful clinician. In the absence of definitive evidence regarding whether limiting aspirin exposure mitigates AMD risk, one obvious course of action is to maintain the status quo.”

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 21, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2530.)

Editor’s Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.


To contact Jie Jin Wang, Ph.D., email To contact commentary author Sanjay Kaul, M.D., email

Australian spies tell about their skills and employment on the web

Dec 27, 2012 09:05 Moscow Time

маска человек тайна шпион шпионаж

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Professional and social media networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are now the places where you can choose between hundreds of former and some present Australian spies if you need to hire one. A survey has revealed information of the spies’ employment at intelligent agencies, their overseas postings and involvement with specific issues is now available on the web.

A survey conducted by Fairfax Media has disclosed more than 200 former and present intelligent officers have advertized themselves on the internet by not only mentioning the fact of their employment, but providing further details of their work.

One former officer of the Defense Signals Directorate, the Australian intelligence agency responsible for signals intelligence and information security, has listed his service with numerous allied signals intelligence agencies, thus revealing close cooperation between Australian and other countries’ agencies.

Many of intelligent officers have pointed to expertise in counter-terrorism, telecommunications and aerospace issues, as well as excellent linguistic skills, mentioning the Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, Hindi, Urdu languages.

Security experts described the situation as “surprising” and threatening for both the government and the corporate sector.

Robert Winkel, a former DSD officer and now an information security consultant, said Australian intelligence agencies actively exploited social media and professional networking sites to gather information on targets.

”And foreign intelligence agencies are looking for exactly the same sort of information about Australian targets,” Winkel said.

“Former intelligence personnel are worthwhile targets as they could be of direct interest, and may still be connected socially to other people who still work in highly sensitive areas.”

Meanwhile, Defense Department security instructions require that “when engaged in online forums… Defense personnel must exercise professional judgment to ensure no information breaches operational security.”

Voice of Russia, The Sydney Morning Herald


Vitamin E in front line of prostate cancer fight

2010 study posted for release


Survival rates of the world’s most common cancer might soon be increased with a new vitamin E treatment which could significantly reduce tumour regrowth.




Queensland University of Technology (QUT) prostate cancer researchers are leading the fight against a disease which kills 3000 Australian men a year.


Dr Patrick Ling, whose research will be a centrepiece of the new $354 million Translational Research Institute (TRI) when it opens in Brisbane, is leading a team of researchers who have identified a particular constituent of vitamin E, known as tocotrienol (T3), which can inhibit the growth of prostate tumours.


Construction of TRI officially began today (October 19) at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The world-class facility brings together some of Queensland’s best medical researchers from four leading Australian research facilities to turn their work into accessible and potentially life-saving health treatments.


Dr Ling’s research has been funded by Davos Life Science in Singapore, who recently awarded him a further $128,000 to undertake a one-year study of the long-term effectiveness of T3 to prevent the recurrence of treated prostate cancer tumours.


“Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in developed countries,” Dr Ling said.


“It is responsible for more male deaths than any other cancer, except lung cancer.”


Dr Ling said existing chemotherapy and hormonal therapy treatment of prostate cancer was insufficient because it failed to kill off the prostate cancer stem cells (CSCs) which were believed to be responsible for the regrowth of tumours.


However, the research team have discovered a particular form of T3, called gamma-tocotrienol (γ-T3), can successfully kill off the prostate cancer CSCs.


“Currently there is no effective treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, because it grows back after conventional therapies in more than 70 per cent of cases,” he said.


“But with γ-T3, QUT researchers have found a better way to treat prostate cancer, which has the potential to inhibit recurrence of the disease.”


Dr Ling said in animal trials, γ-T3 completely inhibited tumour formation in more than 70 per cent of the mice implanted with prostate cancer cells and fed the vitamin E constituent in water. In the remaining cases, tumour regrowth was considerably reduced, while tumours reformed in 100 per cent of the control group.


The findings were published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.


The next stage of Dr Ling’s study has begun and will determine the long-term effectiveness of the γ-T3 treatment, with plans to progress to clinical trials in the future.


“Previous clinical trials using another vitamin E constituent to inhibit prostate cancer development were unsuccessful, but these trials did not use the vitamin E constituent γ-T3,” he said.


“Other research has found γ-T3 is also effective in suppressing other types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver and gastric.”


Dr Ling said while not all vitamin E preparations had the active constituent, natural vitamin E obtained from palm oil was rich in γ-T3.


Professor Ross Young, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), said one of TRI’s greatest strengths was to bring together leading researchers.


“Collaboration, which combines the expertise of researchers from different disciplines and institutions to achieve common goals, will lead to better solutions,” Professor Young said.


QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake said TRI would greatly benefit Queensland’s and Australia’s economy and ability to attract the world’s best researchers to our shores.


“By having this world-class facility producing research of the highest quality, we will be increasing Queensland’s international competitiveness in research,” Professor Coaldrake said.


TRI is a collaboration of QUT, the University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital and the Mater Medical Research Institute, with funding from the Australian Government, Queensland Government, The Atlantic Philanthropies, QUT and UQ.


Dr Ling is based at IHBI and the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre – Queensland, a comprehensive research centre to investigate new ways to treat prostate cancer established by QUT and the Princess Alexandra Hospital with funding from the federal government.


His research is funded by world-leading tocotrienol manufacturer Davos Life Science. The Singapore-based company produces γ-T3 from sustainable palm plantations.

Crisis: Greek exodus abroad in search of work: 49% of the working population looking to emigrate

21 December, 16:41

(ANSAmed) – ATHENS, DECEMBER 21 – With September unemployment hitting a record 26% high (55.4% among those aged under 25), 49% of Greeks are looking for work abroad, according to a survey released Friday by Adecco employment agency.     The survey of 400 respondents showed 39% are unemployed, 48% have a job, and 13% work part-time. Of the total, 30% said at least one family member is looking for work overseas; 36% said they are doing so because of difficulties re-entering or entering the Greek job market for the first time, and 29% said they want to move because they feel they have no future at home while the recession lasts.       Of those considering the expat life, 70% said they want to find work in a ”developed” European country like France, Germany or the UK. Another 45% said they would consider other ”developed countries” such as Australia and the US, and 12% said they are looking for work in the Middle East.

The Adecco findings are echoed by a recent University of Thessaloniki survey, showing that a vast majority of Greek expats and aspiring emigrants are under 25, and that they are looking for work in countries including Australia, China, Iran, and Russia. The elements holding them back, according to the survey, are fear of the unknown and attachment to the family.

Now in its fifth consecutive recession year, the Greek economy will contract by 4.5% by year’s end and unemployment will rise, according to a central bank December 3 forecast.     Families have been especially hard-hit due to government-imposed austerity measures, such as tax hikes and wage cuts, dictated by the country’s international creditors, while scores of small and medium businesses have failed throughout the country, leaving thousands out a job. (ANSAmed).

Hacker ruined Australian military security in 3 Minutes

Author : Mohit Kumar on 12/12/2012 06:25:00 AM
Some 22,300 purported student and staff records held by the Australian Defence Force Academy were stolen and published online last month. A member of the Anonymous group, known as Darwinaire, is claiming responsibility for the theft.
The systems were compromised in November, with UNSW notifying staff and students within a day, but has only now come to light. Among the victims are hundreds of senior officers in the army, navy and air force, as well as military personnel from other nations who are enrolled at the academy.
Hacker express the lack of security as ”I know, right, very surprised I didn’t get kicked out. So simple, took like three minutes,”.
Hacker ruined Australian military database in 3 Minutes
The University of Canberra in which the ADFA resides had warned students of possible phishing attacks but said the compromised passwords were mostly redundant.
Darwinare, who describes himself as ”black hacker”, has previously breached the networks of online bookstore Amazon and at least two American universities.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said UNSW had taken “steps to mitigate the impact of the data breach and reduce the possibility of further data breaches.“.
The university also worked with Defence to ensure former military students and staff were made aware of the breach,” the spokesperson said.

About Author:

Photo Mohit (Mobile)Mohit Kumar aka ‘Unix Root’  is Founder and Editor-in-chief  of ‘The Hacker News’. He is a Security Researcher and Analyst, with experience in various aspects of Information Security. His editorials always get people thinking and participating in the new and exciting world of cyber security. Other than this : He is an Internet Activist, Strong supporter of Anonymous & Wikileaks. His all efforts are to make internet more Secure.

Xenical and Alli, inhibits a key enzyme that may lead to “severe toxicity of internal organs such as the liver and kidney.” The inhibition is irreversible and can be caused by a low level of the drug.

Contact: Dave Lavallee 401-874-5862 University of Rhode Island

Pharmacy researcher finds most popular weight-loss drug strongly alters other drug therapies

KINGSTON, R.I.— December 10, 2012 – A University of Rhode Island researcher has discovered that the weight-loss drug orlistat, known by the brand names Xenical and Alli, inhibits a key enzyme that may lead to “severe toxicity of internal organs such as the liver and kidney.” The inhibition is irreversible and can be caused by a low level of the drug.

Professor Bingfang Yan’s study funded by the National Institutes of Health, also found that the drug alters efficacy of medicines, and particularly limits the effectiveness of some anti-cancer drugs.

Part of the research results will be published in the journal, Biochemical Pharmacology, which has the article posted on its website today. Yan also alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to his findings.

Orlistat, which was originally approved by the FDA in 1999 as the prescription drug Exenical, was approved in 2007 as the over-the-counter medication Alli. It has been the most commonly used medicine to treat obesity for more than a decade, Yan said.

“Since it has been available over–the-counter, there has been a drastic increase of toxicity among patients using the drug,” Yan said. “It has been linked to severe liver failure, acute pancreatic failure and acute renal (kidney) failure.”

Yan said orlistat works in the intestinal tract by preventing fat from being absorbed by the body. It is generally accepted that orlistat remains in the intestine and that the body does not absorb it.

“But orlistat is reportedly absorbed, and certainly internal organs such as the liver and kidney are exposed to this drug upon absorption,” he said.

The study showed that the drug is a potent inhibitor of carboxylesterase-2, which is a major detoxification enzyme in the liver, kidney and gastrointestinal track. “When the activity of this enzyme drop in those organs, toxicity increases or the efficacy of some drugs are altered,” Yan said.

The enzyme is known to metabolize a wide range of medicines including aspirin and the cancer drugs irinotecan and pentyl carbamate of p-aminobenzyl carbamate of doxazolidine.

“This study shows that orlistat profoundly alters the therapeutic potential of the anti-cancer drugs,” Yan said. “In the case of the anti-cancer drugs, it weakens their effectiveness.”

Prior or co-presence of orlistat with one of the anti-cancer drugs resulted in cancer cells being far more prolific.

“Alli-based interactions can be key factors in the efficacy of medicines,” Yan said.

Yan was also interested in Alli’s effects on aspirin and its use as a blood thinner. “Aspirin is used to treat blood clots. Yan predicated: “Orlistat would increase the therapeutic potential of aspirin, which may increase the tendency of bleeding.”

This isn’t the first time that Yan has found critical drug interactions in his studies.

In 2006, he discovered that the anti-viral drug Tamiflu would be rendered ineffective in patients also taking the anti-clotting drug Plavix. His published findings have resulted in new dosing regimens for patients who need both drugs.

Yan is one of the authors of the 6-volume Encyclopedia of Drug Metabolism and Interactions.  This state-of-the-art integrated reference represents a global effort and presents more than 120 chapters by prominent authors from 11 different countries: the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Singapore, India, Japan, France, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Prime Minister Gillard: End of the world is coming, good luck

By Agence France-Presse Thursday, December 6, 2012 17:24 EST

Julia Gillard screenshot

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard weighed into the debate about whether the world will end on December 21 under the Mayan calendar in a spoof video about Korean pop and flesh-eating zombies.

In a one-minute video address recorded for the youth radio station Triple J, a sombre-looking Gillard said the pending apocalypse was at hand despite there being no proof found by the “best and brightest” government scientists.

“My dear remaining fellow Australians, the end of the world is coming,” she said, tongue in cheek.

“Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts or from the total triumph of K-Pop, if you know one thing about me it is this — I will always fight for you to the very end.”

The prime minister said there was a bright side to Armageddon, which she noted had not come as a result of the much-hyped Y2K millennium computer bug in the year 2000 or due to Australia’s corporate pollution tax.

“At least this means I won’t have to do Q and A again,” she said, referring to a weekly current affairs talk show.

“Good luck to you all.”

Gillard recorded the message for a special “end of the world” programme being broadcast on Triple J Friday after Australian science writer Karl Kruszelnicki warned December 7 was the world’s real end-date.

Kruszelnicki, a renowned author and science commentator, said he reached the date by putting the Mayan and Gregorian calendar into a complex algorithm combining mathematics and comedy.

The video went viral on social media after being uploaded to YouTube, with most people seeing the funny side, although a few questioned whether it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Triple J host Tom Ballard admitted he had been surprised when Gillard agreed to take part “but I’m grateful because everyone needs to be warned and informed”, joking that he understood she had now retreated to a bunker.

“I don’t think it’s hilarious at all, I think it’s a very serious matter and people are worried,” Ballard told AFP.

He said he was anticipating “zombies, natural disasters, people not getting along very well, being quite mean to each other, and of course all the world’s religions proving to be false” when the end came on Friday.

It is not the first time Gillard has enjoyed Internet fame — footage of a fiery speech in parliament in which she accused her conservative opponent of sexism and misogyny in October has been viewed more the two million times.

December 21 represents the end of a cycle in the Mayan long count calendar that began in the year 3114 before Christ.

A doomsday industry has boomed in Hollywood around the notion that the calendar’s end will bring the fiery end of human civilisation, with the blockbuster “2012″ depicting Earth being swallowed by floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The Mayan culture enjoyed a golden age between 250 AD and 900 AD in present-day Mexico and Central America, before its steady decline and the arrival of Spanish imperialists in the 16th century.

– –

Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:

Could mistletoe give the kiss of death to cancer?

Contact: Gordon Howarth 61-883-137-885 University of Adelaide

      IMAGE:   Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi with a sample of mistletoe extract at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus.Click here for more information.


Mistletoe has become an important symbol of Christmas but it also has the potential to play a vital role as an alternative therapy for sufferers of colon cancer.

At the University of Adelaide in Australia, scientists are interested in how the extract of mistletoe could either assist chemotherapy or act as an alternative to chemotherapy as a treatment for colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the second greatest cause of cancer death in the Western world.  Mistletoe extract is already authorized for use by sufferers of colon cancer in Europe, but not in some countries such as Australia and the United States due to a lack of scientific testing.

For her Honours research project recently completed at the University of Adelaide, Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi compared the effectiveness of three different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on colon cancer cells.  She also compared the impact of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on healthy intestinal cells.

In her laboratory studies, she found that one of the mistletoe extracts – from a species known as Fraxini (which grows on ash trees) – was highly effective against colon cancer cells in cell culture and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy.

Significantly, Fraxini extract was found to be more potent against cancer cells than the chemotherapy drug.

“This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells.  This can result in severe side effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss,” Ms Lotfollahi says.

      IMAGE:   A sample of the mistletoe extract Fraxini, which has shown the most promise in early laboratory tests at the University of Adelaide.Click here for more information.


“Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells.  At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells.

“Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells.  This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects.  However, more laboratory testing is needed to further validate this work,” Ms Lotfollahi says.

“Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it’s important for us to understand the science behind it,” says one of Ms Lotfollahi’s supervisors, the University of Adelaide’s Professor Gordon Howarth, a Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow.

“Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective.

“This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia,” Professor Howarth says.


Zahra Lotfollahi Health Sciences Honours student School of Medical Sciences The University of Adelaide

Professor Gordon Howarth Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences The University of Adelaide Phone: +61 8 8313 7885

Eating processed meats, but not unprocessed red meats, may raise risk of heart disease and diabetes

2010 study posted for filing

Contact: Todd Datz
Harvard School of Public Health

Boston, MA – In a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb. This work is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the worldwide evidence for how eating unprocessed red meat and processed meat relates to risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology at HSPH and lead author of the study. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”

The study appears online May 17, 2010, on the website of the journal Circulation.

The researchers, led by Renata Micha, a research fellow in the department of epidemiology, and HSPH colleagues Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and Sarah Wallace, junior research fellow in the department of epidemiology, systematically reviewed nearly 1,600 studies. Twenty relevant studies were identified, which included a total of 1,218,380 individuals from 10 countries on four continents (United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia).

The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed meat from beef, lamb or pork, excluding poultry. Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives; examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli or luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated in these studies.

The results showed that, on average, each 50 gram (1.8 oz) daily serving of processed meat (about 1-2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes. In contrast, eating unprocessed red meat was not associated with risk of developing heart disease or diabetes. Too few studies evaluated the relationship between eating meat and risk of stroke to enable the researchers to draw any conclusions.

“Although cause-and-effect cannot be proven by these types of long-term observational studies, all of these studies adjusted for other risk factors, which may have been different between people who were eating more versus less meats,” said Mozaffarian. “Also, the lifestyle factors associated with eating unprocessed red meats and processed meats were similar, but only processed meats were linked to higher risk.”

“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives,” said Micha. “This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”

Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure, a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects which could increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed meats versus unprocessed red meats, these findings suggest that these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors said. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. They also suggest that more research is needed into which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.

Current efforts to update the United States government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.

“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating. Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid,” said Micha. “Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”



“Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Renata Micha, Sarah K. Wallace, Dariush Mozaffarian, Circulation, online May 17, 2010.

Harvard School of Public Health ( is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit:

Aussie scientists un-discover Pacific island





A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian scientists who went searching for the mystery landmass during a geological expedition.

The sizeable phantom island in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google maps and is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

The Times Atlas of the World appears to identify it as Sable Island. Weather maps used by the Southern Surveyor, an Australian maritime research vessel, also say it exists, according to Dr Maria Seton.

But when the Southern Surveyor, which was tasked with identifying fragments of the Australian continental crust submerged in the Coral Sea, steamed to where it was supposed to be, it was nowhere to be found.

“We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400 metres (4,620 feet) in that area — very deep,” Seton, from the University of Sydney, told AFP after the 25-day voyage.


“It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre.

“How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don’t know, but we plan to follow up and find out.”

News of the invisible island sparked debate on social media, with tweeter Charlie Loyd outpointing that Sandy Island is also on Yahoo Maps as well as Bing Maps “but it disappears up close”.

On, discussions were robust with one poster claiming he had confirmed with the French hydrographic office that it was indeed a phantom island and was supposed to have been removed from charts in 1979.

Another claimed: “Many mapmakers put in deliberate but unobtrusive and non-obvious ‘mistakes’ into their maps so that they can know when somebody steals the map data.”

Google was not immediately available for comment. But the Google Maps product manager for Australia and New Zealand told the Sydney Morning Herald a variety of authoritative public and commercial sources were used in building maps.

“The world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour,” Nabil Naghdy told the newspaper.

The closest landmass to the invisible island is the Chesterfields, a French archipelago of uninhabited coral sand cays.


Google told to pay victim for criminal results



Thursday, 1 November 2012

Google was yesterday found liable for damages by a jury in Australia after a man complained that the website’s search results had harmed his reputation by wrongly linking him to Melbourne gang crime.

Milorad Trkulja, 62, was shot by a man wearing a balaclava in 2004, though police did not connect the shooting with gangland crime.

However, Mr Trkulja said online searches for his name using Google Images brought up pictures of other people, some of whom he claims are involved in murders and the drug trade, with his name displayed next to them.

Searches also displayed an image of Mr Trkulja accompanied by the caption “Melbourne crime”, which he says could have led people to believe he had links to the city’s underworld. Mr Trkulja also alleged that Google had refused to amend the links when asked by lawyers acting for him in 2009.

The US-based firm Google put forward a defence of “innocent dissemination”, claiming that the searches were a result of automated software. But the Supreme Court of Victoria ruled that Google should have removed the content when it received a complaint, and was liable for defamation.

Google did not immediately comment on the verdict, and could appeal. The level of damages is expected to be set within two weeks.

Pneumococcal vaccine does not appear to protect against pneumonia: ” a systematic review and meta-analysis, looked at 22 clinical trials, reviews and meta-analyses and more than 100,000 participants “

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Kim Barnhardt
613-731-8610 x2224
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Commonly used pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines do not appear to be effective for preventing pneumonia, found a study by a team of researchers from Switzerland and the United Kingdom

In many industrialized countries, polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccines (PPVs) are currently recommended to help prevent pneumococcal disease in people aged 65 and over and for younger people with increased risk due to conditions like HIV. Studies have shown conflicting results regarding the efficacy of PPV.

The study, a systematic review and meta-analysis, looked at 22 clinical trials, reviews and meta-analyses and more than 100,000 participants from countries in North America as well as India, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Unlike other similar studies the authors examined the reasons why different clinical trials produced different results. They found that the quality of the studies substantially affected the results. When only high quality trials were included, there was no evidence that PPVs could prevent pneumonia. The study adds to the ongoing debate around effectiveness of the vaccine.

“Policy makers may therefore wish to reconsider their current recommendations for PPV, especially where routine pneumococcal conjugate immunization has been introduced,” conclude Dr. Matthias Egger from the University of Bern, Switzerland and coauthors.

However, in a related commentary, Dr. Ross Andrews and coauthor from the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia state that the researchers’ conclusions exceed the evidence presented. They caution that there should be no change in vaccine policy in countries that recommend PPV to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease

Higher anaphylaxis rates after HPV vaccination: ” significantly higher – 5 to 20 fold – than that identified in comparable school-based vaccination program”

2008 study posted for filing

Contact: Kim Barnhardt
613-731-8610 x2224
Canadian Medical Association Journal

Despite higher rates, HPV vaccine safe for use

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA – The estimated rate of anaphylaxis in young women after human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination was significantly higher – 5 to 20 fold – than that identified in comparable school-based vaccination programs, according to a study published in CMAJ However, the overall rates of anaphylaxis were low with no associated serious lasting effects.

In a study of 114,000 women, a team of Australian researchers found 12 suspected of anaphylaxis, and confirmed 8 of these, in a 2007 vaccination program in New South Wales, Australia. Symptoms included difficulty breathing, nausea and rashes.

Dr. Julia Brotherton and colleagues postulate that reasons for an increased rate of anaphylaxis may include possible allergic reaction to the vaccine components, enhanced adverse event surveillance, higher rates of anaphylaxis in women from midadolescence compared with men, and an apparent increase in incidence of anaphylaxis in Australia.

The estimated rate of anaphylaxis following HPV vaccination was 2.6 per 100,000 doses administered compared with a rate 0.1 per 100 000 doses administered in a 2003 school-based meningococcal C vaccination program.

HPV vaccination programs will begin this fall in the United Kingdom and other European countries as well as in parts of Canada and the United States.

Dr. Brotherton stresses “the importance of good training for staff administering vaccines in school or other settings in the recognition and management of suspected anaphylaxis and its reporting.” They conclude that anaphylaxis following the HPV vaccine is rare and vaccine programs should continue.

Anaphylaxis is a rare but serious adverse event and highlights the importance of vaccine safety studies after vaccine licensing and careful management of reactions in immunization clinics, says Dr. Neal Halsey, Institute of Vaccine Safety, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a related commentary He states “before concluding that the HPV vaccine is associated with higher rates of anaphylaxis than other vaccines everywhere, cases in other populations should be reviewed….As of July 21, 2008, 11 cases have been reported [in the US] in 2008. Over 13 million doses of this vaccine have been distributed as of the end of 2007.”

A CMAJ editorial states that this study indicates the HPV vaccine is “remarkably safe.” The study provides an excellent opportunity for Canada’s public health community “to restart public discussions about the safety of the HPV vaccine, the precautions taken to mitigate risks if anaphylaxis occurs, and the care taken in surveillance for adverse events following vaccination,” write Drs. Noni MacDonald, Matthew Stanbrook and Paul Hebert.


Contact for research: Dr. Julia Brotherton or Professor Peter McIntyre, +61.2.98451417,, Please note that Australia is 14 hours ahead of EDST.

Contact for commentary: Natalie Wood-Wright, Associate Director, Public Affairs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 410-614-6029, for Dr. Neal Halsey

Contact for editorial: IWK Public Relations, 902-470-6740 for Dr. Noni MacDonald


A trial of removing food additives should be considered for hyperactive children

Re-Post for Filing 2008

Contact: Rachael Davies
BMJ-British Medical Journal

A properly supervised trial eliminating colours and preservatives from the diet of hyperactive children should considered a part of the standard treatment, says an editorial in this week’s BMJ.

Although a substantial body of evidence shows a link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and artificial food colourings and preservatives, removing them is still considered as an alternative rather than a standard treatment for ADHD, writes Professor Andrew Kemp from the University of Sydney.

In contrast, despite a lack of evidence for its effectiveness, the use of alternative medicine is widespread—up to 50% of children attending tertiary children’s hospitals in the UK and Australia have used it in the past year.

Of the three main treatments for ADHD in children—drugs, behavioural therapy, and dietary modification—only drugs and dietary modification are supported by data from several trials. Yet, behavioural therapy, which has no scientific evidence base, is still thought of as necessary for “adequate treatment”, he says.

So why, despite evidence to the contrary, does the removal of food additives remain an alternative rather than a standard part of treatment for ADHD, asks Kemp”

Data published in 2007 showed that normal (not hyperactive) children were significantly more hyperactive after they ate a mixture of food colourings and a preservative (sodium benzoate), with obvious implications for children with ADHD.

In light of these findings, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed the evidence linking preservatives and colourings with hyperactive behaviours from 22 studies between 1975 and 1994 and two additional meta-analyses.

16 of the studies reported positive effects in at least some of the children. However, the EFSA pointed out that hyperactivity has a wide range of social and biological causes, and exclusively focusing on food additives may “detract from the provision of adequate treatment” for children with the disorder. But, argues Kemp, to discount the accumulating evidence of dietary factors may also do this.

Increasing numbers of children are taking drugs for hyperactivity—2.4% of children in the state of Western Australia. Removing colours and preservatives is a relatively harmless intervention, so a properly supervised and evaluated trial period of eliminating them should be considered as part of the standard treatment, he concludes.

World’s richest woman suggests $2 a day wages for Australian miners

By David Edwards Wednesday, September 5, 2012 9:35 EDT

Australia billionaire Gina Rinehart

The world’s most wealthy woman is warning that firms are in danger of having to abandon iron-ore mining in Australia if wages are not cut, pointing out that African miners are “willing to work for less than $2 per day.”

In a video recently posted on the Sydney Mining Club website, 58-year-old Gina Rinehart — who has amassed a $18 billion fortune through iron-ore prospecting — said that Australia could be more competitive by emulating Africa.

“We must be realistic, not just promote class warfare,” the billionaire explained. “Indeed, if we competed at the Olympic games as sluggishly as we compete economically, there would be an outcry.”

“The evidence is unarguable that Australia is indeed becoming too expensive and too uncompetitive to do export- orientated business,” she insisted, adding that “Africans want to work. Its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day.”

Under current exchange rates, $2 a day in Australia is worth about $2.04 in U.S. dollars.

“It’s not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them a $2 gold coin and then ask them to work for a day,” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters on Wednesday. “We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions for Australian people.”

Rinehart came under fire last week after she wrote a column urging those “jealous” of the wealthy to “spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing, and more time working.”

Watch this video from BBC, broadcast Sept. 5, 2012

Thalidomide – Lies, Greed, Fabricated Data, Brainwashed Doctors, Lazy Press, and Smugness of profits made on the horrific horrors inflicted on children

Still no shame for thalidomide cover-up

Victims of the drug scandal have been offered an apology, but Harold Evans, who was in charge of the Sunday Times and broke the story, says there is still no proper recompens

Harold Evans,             Saturday 1 September 2012 16.58 EDT


Thalidomide victims have said the latest apology is an insult. Photograph: Jane Bown for the Guardian

Justice delayed is justice denied. We know that too well. But how do you wrestle with your conscience when the injustice you have perpetrated has destroyed the lives of children and left thousands of thalidomide victims still enduring pain and suffering, without adequate compensation? The German company Chemie Grünenthal, having denied justice for 50 long years, has now unveiled a bronze statue of a child born without limbs, and its chief executive, Harald Stock, says: “We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn’t find a way of reaching to you from human being to human being. Instead we remained silent.”

Actually, Chemie Grünenthal remains silent still on adjusting compensation for inflation and the dreadful effects on the victims – the men and women in adulthood, many now without parental support.

CG did not just remain silent. It  brought forth the drug thalidomide on 1 October 1957, from very murky origins indeed. It licensed its manufacture worldwide as a safe sleeping drug for mothers in pregnancy. One of the licensees was the British whisky company, Distillers, which put “Distaval” on the market as a tranquilliser in April 1958 and marketed it until 1962. Chemie Grünenthal was reckless. It had not tested the effect on pregnant women or animals to see if it could cross the placental barrier. It ignored early warnings. The wife of one of its own employees had given birth to a baby without ears 10 months before it puts its poison on the market. It made no difference. Nor did warning signs of deformed births and nerve damage from Australia.

It produced sales leaflets for doctors stressing the drug’s safety. It engaged – bribed might be a better word – compliant doctors who vouched for it though they did not know how it worked. A testimonial appeared in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology signed by Dr Ray Nulson Cincinnati, Ohio.

Eventually, he gave evidence in Germany that he had not tested the drug on pregnant women at all and was not even the author of the article. It had been written for him by an employee of the renowned American company, Richardson-Merrell in Cincinnati, a CG licensee. And the employee, like others around the world, had relied on Chemie Grünenthal which had itself done no tests on the effect on a foetus .

And to crown this pyramid of infamy none of the public authorities was curious enough to know how it all happened. In Britain, thanks to Chemie Grünenthal’s connections with the Ministry of Health, and a lazy press, fed pap by the ministry, the truth did not come out. It would never have come out either had it been left to the legal profession who dealt with the litigation the desperate families were forced to start.

I well remember the astonishment  in the Sunday Times when the Insight team began opening three suitcases containing CG’s own documents. They showed a reckless get-rich-quick mentality yet the parents’ lawyers had allowed themselves to be convinced they could not win 100% damages in court.

I have described some of this in My Paper Chase, but what is new to me is the depth of iniquity exposed by investigative work since, primarily by Jonathan Stone, a former solicitor with Lord Goodman’s firm, Goodman Derrick, working with Roger Williams. Stone has been a special adviser to the victims in various countries. He and Williams trace the origins of thalidomide to murderous experiments in second world war concentration camps and they name names. There is the Wirtz family, esteemed as philanthropists in the German town of Stolberg, the sole owners of the company, notorious for its pro-Nazi sympathies.

There is Heinrich Mückter (1914-1987), responsible for the deaths of hundreds of prisoners in typhoid experiments; there’s Otto Ambros (1901-1990), chairman of the supervisory committee when thalidomide was developed; there’s Martin Staemmler (1890-1974), who played a role in Nazi racial hygiene programmes; there’s the SS doctor Ernst-Günther Schenck, who experimented with medicinal plants; there are the US companies ready to forgive and forget in their postwar haste to get their hands on the chemical expertise.

But decency requires me to identify some heroes in the struggle for justice – the thalidomide victims, now in middle age, who continue to fight for others: Freddie Astbury, president of Thalidomide UK, who describes the CG apology without compensation as a disgrace; the Lords Jack Ashley and Alf Morris, who fought so hard for the victims in their lifetimes, and Labour’s minister of health, Mike O’Brien.

On 14 January 2010 O’Brien made a dramatic announcement in parliament. He apologised to the victims and their parents but he also committed the government to give £20m to the Thalidomide Trust.

In the light of all this, one can only repeat to CG the words of Joseph Welch examining Joe McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

World’s richest woman says those who are jealous of her wealth should ‘stop drinking, stop smoking and work harder’

  • World’s  richest woman urges Aussies to ‘spend less time drinking, smoking and  socialising’

  • She has amassed  wealth from $20 billion-plus mining empire inherited from her  father

By Frank Thorne

PUBLISHED:08:40 EST, 30  August 2012| UPDATED:10:18 EST, 30 August 2012

The richest woman in Australia has caused a  storm by calling her struggling fellow countrymen ‘whingers’ and telling them to  get out of the pub and work harder.

Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who  is also the world’s richest woman, has never had a real job.

But she has never had it so good, riding the  crest of the resources boom in Western Australia.

The controversial Mrs Rinehart has also  attacked Australia’s ‘class warfare’ and insists it is billionaires such as  herself who are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money  and creating jobs.

Outburst: Billionaire Gina Rinehart claimed it is people like her who do the most to help the poorOutburst: Billionaire Gina Rinehart claimed it is people  like her who do the most to help the poor

Aussie treasurer Wayne Swan joined a chorus  of critics after Mrs Rinehart also suggested the government should lower the  minimum wage of $606.40 per week – less than £400 – and cut taxes to stimulate  employment.

In her regular column in Australian Resources  and Investment magazine, she warns that Australia risks heading down the same  path as European economies ruined by ‘socialist’ policies, high taxes and  excessive regulation.


The daughter of the late Australian iron-ore  mining magnate Lang Hangcock, 58-year old Mrs Rinehart was declared the world’s  richest woman in May.

In calculations made by Australia’s Business  Review Weekly magazine, she was placed at the top of its Rich 200  list.

Mrs Rinehart has easily surprised Forbes’ calculation of the £16 billion estimation of Christy Walton, widow of John  Walton and holder of a major stake in the American retail giant  Wal-Mart.

In an extraordinary accumulation of riches  from the mining industry, Mrs Rinehart’s wealth has grown by an unprecedented £11 billion this year alone.

She makes more than £630,000 every 30  minutes, say financial experts.

‘There is no monopoly on becoming a  millionaire,’ writes Mrs Rinehart, who has built a $20 billion-plus mining  empire since inheriting lucrative tenements from her father, Lang Hancock, in  1992.

‘If you’re jealous of those with more money,  don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.’

But her strident comments provoked a barrage  of criticism, led by the Acting Prime Minister who earlier this month used the  music of Bruce Springsteen to attack the ‘massively wealthy” to drown out the  voices of ordinary people.

Reigniting his feud with the miner, Mr Swan  described Ms Rinehart’s comments as an ‘insult to the millions of Australian  workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the  bills.’

Her comments provoked a sharp response from  the union movement with Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney  claiming her views were ‘stuck in the nineteenth century’.

Reposte: Australian treasurer Wayne Swan described Rinehart's comments as 'an insult to millions of Australian workers'Reposte: Australian treasurer Wayne Swan described  Rinehart’s comments as ‘an insult to millions of Australian workers’

‘Gina Rinehart’s comments are the product of  someone who has never had to earn a living and an insult to millions of working  Australians who didn’t have the head start of inheriting a fortune from their  father and of being able to bully politicians by virtue of their inherited  wealth,’ Ms Kearney said.

‘She has no respect for the values of  fairness and equality on which Australia was built, and displays absolute  contempt for the people who work for her.’

‘Her recipe would take Australia down the  path of a nation divided between a super-wealthy elite and an underclass of  working poor.’

Read more:

Sea life ‘facing major shock’

Life in the world’s oceans faces far  greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in  human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned.

The researchers from Australia, the US,  Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK have compared events which drove  massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking  place in the seas and oceans globally today.

Three of the five largest extinctions  of the past 500 million years were associated with global warming and  acidification of the oceans – trends which also apply today, the scientists say  in a new article in the journal Trends in  Ecology and Evolution.

Other extinctions were driven by loss  of oxygen from seawaters, pollution, habitat loss and pressure from human  hunting and fishing – or a combination of these factors.

“Currently,  the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks,  this time mainly caused by human factors,” the scientists stated. While the  data is harder to collect at sea than on land, the evidence points strongly to  similar pressures now being felt by sea life as for land animals and plants.

The researchers conducted an extensive  search of the historical and fossil records to establish the main causes of  previous marine extinctions – and the risk of their recurring today.

“We  wanted to understand what had driven past extinctions of sea life and see how  much of those conditions prevailed today,” says co-author Professor John  Pandolfi, of the ARC Centre of  Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland, an  authority on the fate of coral reefs in previous mass extinction events.

“It is very useful to look back in time  – because if you forget your history, you’re liable to repeat it.”

Marine extinction events vary greatly.  In the ‘Great Death’ of the Permian 250 million years ago, for example, an  estimated 95 per cent of marine species died out due to a combination of  warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat. Scientists have traced the  tragedy in the chemistry of ocean sediments laid down at the time, and abrupt  loss of many sea animals from the fossil record.

“We are seeing the signature of all  those drivers today – plus the added drivers of human overexploitation and  pollution from chemicals, plastics and nutrients,” Prof. Pandolfi says.

“The fossil record tells us that sea life  is very resilient – that it recovers after one of these huge setbacks.  But also that it can take millions of years  to do so.”

The researchers wrote the paper out of  their concern that the oceans appear to be on the brink of another major  extinction event.

“There may be still time to act,” Prof.  Pandolfi says. “If we understand what drives ocean extinction, we can also  understand what we need to do to prevent or minimise it.

“We need to understand that the oceans  aren’t just a big dumping ground for human waste, contaminants and CO2 – a  place we can afford to ignore or overexploit. They are closely linked to our  own survival, wellbeing and prosperity as well as that of life on Earth in  general.

“Even though we cannot easily see what  is going on underwater, we need to recognise that the influence of 7 billion  humans is now so great it governs the fate of life in the oceans. And we need  to start taking responsibility for that.”

He adds “The situation is not hopeless.  If fact we have seen clear evidence both from the past and the present that sea  life can bounce back, given a chance to do so.

“For example, in Australia we have  clear evidence of that good management of coral reefs can lead to recovery of  both corals and fish numbers.

“So, rather, our paper is an appeal to  humanity to give the oceans a chance.

“In effect, it says we need to stop  releasing the CO2 that drives these massive extinction events, curb the  polluted and nutrient-rich runoff from the land that is causing ocean ‘dead  zones’ manage our fisheries more sustainably and protect their habitat  better.

“All these things are possible, but  people need to understand why they are essential. That is the first step in  taking effective action to prevent extinctions.”

Their  paper Extinctions  in ancient and modern seas by Paul G. Harnik, Heike K. Lotze, Sean C.  Anderson, Zoe V. Finkel, Seth Finnegan, David R. Lindberg, Lee Hsiang Liow,  Rowan Lockwood, Craig R. McClain, Jenny L. McGuire, Aaron O’Dea, John M.  Pandolfi, Carl Simpson and Derek P. Tittensor appears in the online edition of Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).

An engineered mouse virus leaves us one step away from the ultimate bioweapon

Killer virus

An engineered mouse virus leaves us one step away from the ultimate bioweapon

A VIRUS that kills every one of its victims, by wiping out part of their immune system, has been accidentally created by an Australian research team. The virus, a modified mousepox, does not affect humans, but it is closely related to smallpox, raising fears that the technology could be used in biowarfare.

The discovery highlights a growing problem. How do you stop terrorists taking legitimate research and adapting it for their own nefarious purposes?

The Australian researchers had no intention of producing a killer virus. They were merely trying to make a mouse contraceptive vaccine for pest control. “But it’s a good way to show how to alter smallpox to make it more virulent,” says Ken Alibek, former second-in-command of the civilian branch of the Soviet germ-warfare programme.

Ron Jackson of CSIRO’s wildlife division and Ian Ramshaw at the Australian National University, both in Canberra, inserted into a mousepox virus a gene that creates large amounts of interleukin 4. IL-4 is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body. As part of a study aimed at creating a contraceptive vaccine, they were trying to stimulate antibodies against mouse eggs, which would make the animals infertile. The mousepox virus was merely a vehicle for transporting the egg proteins into mice to trigger an antibody response. The researchers added the gene for IL-4 to boost antibody production. The surprise was that it totally suppressed the “cell-mediated response”-the arm of the immune system that combats viral infection.

Mousepox normally causes only mild symptoms in the type of mice used in the study, but with the IL-4 gene added it wiped out all the animals in nine days. “It would be safe to assume that if some idiot did put human IL-4 into human smallpox they’d increase the lethality quite dramatically,” says Jackson. “Seeing the consequences of what happened in the mice, I wouldn’t be the one who’d want to do the experiment.”

To make matters worse, the engineered virus also appears unnaturally resistant to attempts to vaccinate the mice. A vaccine that would normally protect mouse strains that are susceptible to the virus only worked in half the mice exposed to the killer version. “It’s surprising how very, very bad the virus is,” says Ann Hill, a vaccine researcher from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. If bioterrorists created a human version of the virus, vaccination programmes would be of limited use.

Alibek, who now works on developing novel treatments for anthrax for the defence contractor Hadron in Virginia, says this highlights the drawback of working on vaccines against bioweapons rather than treatments. “I’d say any vaccine could be overcome by one or another genetically engineered virus or bacterium,” he says.

Is it possible that research into new vaccines against cancer and other diseases could inadvertently create lethal human viruses? Many of the most promising modern vaccines depend on viruses to transport genes into the body, and contain genes that directly alter the immune response. But researchers have not been too concerned because the evidence until now suggested that changes in the genetic make-up of viruses invariably makes them less virulent, not more. One way to reduce the risk, says Gary Nabel of the National Institutes of Health, is to use only viruses that cannot replicate. “There are some replication-competent [viral vaccines] around, but there is increasing concern about their use,” he says.

Defence experts are also worried about preserving the freedom to publish medical findings while trying to stop the information falling into the wrong hands. According to D. A. Henderson, a former US presidential adviser, and director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, what are effectively blueprints for making microorganisms more harmful regularly appear in unclassified journals. “I can’t for the life of me figure out how we are going to deal with this,” he says.

The Australian researchers consulted their country’s Department of Defence before submitting the work for publication, and only decided to go ahead after considerable thought. A report will appear in a February issue of the Journal of Virology. “We wanted to warn the general population that this potentially dangerous technology is available,” says Jackson. “We wanted to make it clear to the scientific community that they should be careful, that it is not too difficult to create severe organisms.”

###Author: Rachel Nowak, Melbourne

New Scientist issue: 13th January 2001

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Gene-swapping vaccines spawn lethal poultry virus – experts

Three vaccines used to prevent respiratory disease in chickens have swapped genes, producing two lethal new strains that have killed tens of thousands of fowl across two states in Australia, scientists reported on Friday.

The creation of the deadly new variant was only possible because the vaccines contained live viruses, even though they were weakened forms, said Joanne Devlin, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science.

Devlin and her team discovered how closely related the two new strains were with viruses in the vaccines after analysing their genes.

“What we found was the field viruses … were actually a mixture of the genomes from different vaccine viruses,” said Devlin, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s School of Veterinary Science. “They actually combined, mixed together.”

The viruses emerged in 2008, a year after Australia started using a European vaccine along with two very similar Australian vaccines to fight acute respiratory disease in poultry. The illness causes coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulties in birds, normally killing 5 percent of them.

The two new strains, however, were far more harmful, and since they were created have killed up to 17 percent of chicken flocks across Victoria and New South Wales, the two main chicken rearing states in Australia.

“What could have happened was one chicken was vaccinated with one vaccine and later was exposed to the other vaccine somehow, from nearby chickens,” Devlin said.

Agricultural authorities in Australia have been informed of the results of the study, and are considering how to prevent similar cross-overs happening again.

“Use of only one vaccine in a population of birds will prevent different viruses from combining,” Devlin said.

“Authorities are reviewing labels on vaccine to change the way vaccines are used and prevent different vaccines being used in one population.”

Overdiagnosis poses significant threat to human health

International conference: Preventing Overdiagnosis

Overdiagnosis poses a significant threat to human health by labeling healthy people as sick and wasting resources on unnecessary care, warns Ray Moynihan, Senior Research Fellow at Bond University in Australia, in a feature published on today.

The feature comes as an international conference ‘Preventing Overdiagnosis’ is announced for Sept. 10-12, 2013, in the United States, hosted by The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, in partnership with the BMJ, the leading consumer organization Consumer Reports and Bond University, Australia.

The conference is timely, says Moynihan because “as evidence mounts that we’re harming the healthy, concern about overdiagnosis is giving way to concerted action on how to prevent it.”

“The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice has long been a leader in understanding and communicating the problems of overdiagnosis,” say Drs. Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, professors of medicine at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. “We are extremely excited to host this international conference to advance the science and develop concrete proposals to reduce overdiagnosis and its associated harms.”

Overdiagnosis occurs when people are diagnosed and treated for conditions that will never cause them harm and there’s growing evidence that this occurs for a wide range of conditions.

For example, a large Canadian study finds that almost a third of people diagnosed with asthma may not have the condition; a systematic review suggests up to one in three breast cancers detected through screenings may be overdiagnosed; and some researchers argue osteoporosis treatments may do more harm than good for women at very low risk of future fracture.

Many factors are driving overdiagnosis, including commercial and professional vested interests, legal incentives and cultural issues, say Moynihan and co-authors, Professors Jenny Doust and David Henry. Ever-more sensitive tests are detecting tiny “abnormalities” that will never progress, while widening disease definitions and lowering treatment thresholds mean people at ever lower risks receive permanent medical labels and life-long therapies that will fail to benefit many of them.

Added to this, is the cost of wasted resources that could be better used to prevent and treat genuine illness.

But Moynihan argues that the main problem of overdiagnosis lies in a strong cultural belief in early detection, fed by deep faith in medical technology. “Increasingly we’ve come to regard simply being ‘at risk’ of future disease as being a disease in its own right,” he says.

“It took many years for doctors to accept that bacteria caused peptic ulcers,” says co-author of the BMJ feature, Dr. David Henry, chief executive officer of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto, Canada. “Likewise, it will be hard for doctors and the public to recognize that the earliest detection of disease is not always in the best interests of patients.”

So what can we do about overdiagnosis?