Revealed: Army scientists secretly sprayed St Louis with ‘radioactive’ particles for YEARS to test chemical warfare technology

EEV: Reposted at Request: In regards to aircraft spraying  (i.e. Contrails or spaying in general )  radioactive contaminants on U.S. soil. In addition may be the real reason Pruitt-Igoe public housing  complex was built and destroyed.

September 29, 2012

By Emily Anne Epstein

PUBLISHED:09:16 EST, 29  September 2012| UPDATED:11:21 EST, 29 September 2012

The United States Military conducted top  secret experiments on the citizens of St. Louis, Missouri, for years, exposing  them to radioactive compounds, a researcher has claimed.

While it was known that the government  sprayed ‘harmless’ zinc cadmium silfide  particles over the general population in St Louis,  Professor Lisa Martino-Taylor, a sociologist at St. Louis Community College,  claims that a radioactive additive was also mixed with the  compound.

She has accrued detailed descriptions as well  as photographs of the spraying which exposed the  unwitting public, predominantly in low-income and minority communities,  to radioactive particles.



Test: Sociologist Lisa Martino-Taylor, right, a  sociologist at St. Louis Community College, has spent years tracking down  declassified documents to uncover the lengths which the US experimented on  people without their knowing. At left, cadmium sulfide, the ‘harmless’ chemical  sprayed on the public is pictured


Spray: She has accrued detailed descriptions as well as  photographs of the spraying, which took place as part of Manhattan-Rochester  Coalition, which was an operation that dispersed zinc cadmium silfide particles  over the general population, a compound that was presented as completely  safe

‘The study was secretive for reason. They  didn’t have volunteers stepping up and saying yeah, I’ll breathe zinc cadmium  sulfide with radioactive particles,’ said Professor Martino-Taylor to KSDK.

Through her research,  she found photographs of how the particles were distributed from 1953-1954 and  1963-1965.

In Corpus Christi, the chemical was dropped  from airplanes over large swathes of city.  In St Louis, the Army put  chemical sprayers on buildings, like schools and public housing projects, and  mounted them in station wagons for mobile use.

Despite the extent of the experiment, local  politicians were not notified about the content of the testing. The people of St  Louis were told that the Army was testing smoke screens to protect cities from a  Russian attack.

‘It was pretty shocking. The level of  duplicity and secrecy. Clearly they went to great lengths to deceive people,’  Professor Martino-Taylor said.


Controversial: But Professor Martino-Taylor says that it  wasn’t just the ‘harmless’ compound, radioactive particles were also sprayed on  the unwitting public. A woman refills the spray canisters in this archive  picture


Scope: In St Louis, the Army put chemical sprayers on  buildings, like schools and public housing projects, and mounted them in station  wagons for mobile use

She accrued hundreds of pages of declassified  information, which she has made available online.

In her research, she found that the greatest  concentration of spraying in St Louis was at the Pruitt-Igoe public housing  complex, which was home to 10,000 low income residents.  She said that 70  per cent of those residents were children under the age of 12.

Professor Martino-Taylor became  interested  in the topic after hearing independent reports of cancers  among city residents  living in those areas at the time.

‘This was a violation of all medical ethics,  all international codes, and the military’s own policy at that time,’ said  Professor Martino-Taylor.

How To: Despite the extent of the experiment, local politicians were not notified about the content of the testing. In this picture, a man demonstrates how to spray the canisters

How To: Despite the extent of the experiment, local  politicians were not notified about the content of the testing. In this picture,  a man demonstrates how to spray the canisters


School: The people of St Louis were told that the Army  was testing smoke screens to protect cities from a Russian attack. A canister is  positioned on top of a school in this photo

‘There is a lot of evidence that shows people  in St. Louis and the city, in particular minority communities, were subjected to  military testing that was connected to a larger radiological weapons testing  project.’

Previous investigations of the compound were  rebuffed by the military, which insisted it was safe.

However, Professor Martino-Taylor believes  the documents she’s uncovered, prove the zinc cadmium silfide was also mixed  with radioactive particles.

She has linked the St Louis testing to a  now-defunct company called US Radium. The controversial company came under fire,  and numerous lawsuits, after several of its workers were exposed to dangerous  levels of radioactive materials in its fluorescent paint.

Spray image001

Contaminated: The Army has admitted that it added a  fluorescent substance to the ‘harmless’ compound, but whether or not the  additive was radioactive remains classified


Exposed: In her research, she found that the greatest  concentration of spraying in St Louis was at the Pruit-Igoe public housing  complex, which was home to 10,000 low income residents. She said that 70 per  cent of those residents were children under the age of 12

‘US Radium had this reputation where they had  been found legally liable for producing a radioactive powdered paint that killed  many young women who painted fluorescent watch tiles,’ said Professor  Martino-Taylor.

In her findings, one of the compounds that  was sprayed upon the public was called ‘FP2266′, according to the army’s  documents, and was manufactured by US Radium. The compound, also known as Radium  226, was the same one that killed and sickened many of the US Radium  workers.

The Army has admitted that it added a  fluorescent substance to the ‘harmless’ compound, but whether or not the  additive was radioactive remains classified.

Professor Martino-Taylor has not been able to  find if the Army ever followed up on the long term health of the residents  exposed to the compound. In 1972, the  government destroyed the Pruitt-Igoe houses.

Upon learning of the professor’s findings,  Missouri lawmakers called on the Army to detail the tests.

‘I share and understand the renewed anxiety  of members of the St. Louis communities that were exposed to the spraying of  (the chemicals) as part of Army tests during the Cold War,’ Senator Claire  McCaskill wrote to Army Secretary John McHugh.

‘The impacted communities were not informed  of the tests at the time and are reasonably anxious about the long term health  impacts the tests may have had on those exposed to the airborne  chemicals.’

Senator Roy Blunt called the findings  ‘absolutely shocking.’

‘The idea that thousands of Missourians were  unwillingly exposed to harmful materials in order to determine their health  effects is absolutely shocking. It should come as no surprise that these  individuals and their families are demanding answers of government officials,’  Senator Blunt said.

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US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data

• 2007 deal allows NSA to store previously restricted material • UK citizens not suspected of wrongdoing caught up in dragnet • Separate draft memo proposes US spying on ‘Five-Eyes’ allies

James Ball,              Wednesday 20 November 2013 14.00 EST                


The memo explains that the US and UK ‘worked together to come up with a new policy that expands the use of incidentally collected unminimized UK data.’

The phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by America’s National Security Agency under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Continue reading “US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data”

Afghanistan’s poppy farmers plant record opium crop, UN report says

Despite 10 years of western efforts to curb production, a combination of economics and political instability means farmers in the world’s largest heroin-producing country are as enthusiastic as ever for the poppy
    • Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
    •,    Wednesday 13 November 2013 00.59 EST
British in Helmand

The end of British efforts to stamp out opium-production in Helmand province has led to an increase in planting. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Afghanistan‘s farmers planted a record opium crop this year, despite a decade of western-backed narcotics programmes aimed at weaning farmers off the drug and cracking down on producers and traffickers.

For the first time over 200,000 hectares of Afghan fields were growing poppies, according to the UN’s Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2013, covering an area equivalent to the island nation of Mauritius.

Violence and political instability means there is unlikely to be any significant drop in poppy farming in the world’s top opium producer before foreign combat troops head home next year, a senior UN official warned.

“This is the third consecutive year of increasing cultivation,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing Afghanistan director for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which publishes the report. “The assumption is that the illicit economy is to gain in importance in the future.”

Opium cultivation

Credit: Guardian graphicsWith conflict spreading to once-peaceful areas of the country and a critical presidential election scheduled for early next year, poppy fields provide both cash to networks of power-brokers and insurance to farmers at the bottom of Afghanistan’s feeble economy.Portable and long-lasting, the high value per kilo of opium makes it attractive to families who fear they may need to flee, or see fields of conventional crops destroyed by fighting.

The total harvest was probably slightly lower than the previous peak five years ago, mostly because bad weather meant each plant yielded less of the sticky narcotic. But the number of fields turned over to poppy is a more accurate gauge of farmers’ enthusiasm for the crop and the government’s ability to control it than the final production figures.

An Afghan man cultivates poppy bulbs

An Afghan man cultivates poppy bulbs at a farm near the city of Kandahar. Photograph: Majid Saeedi/Getty ImagesIn a bleak assessment of efforts to curb opium farming in a country that produces the vast majority of the world’s supply, Lemahieu said the international community needed to stop thinking there was a quick fix to a complicated problem. “As long as we think we can have short-term, fast solutions to the counter-narcotics problem, we are doomed to continue to fail,” he said. “That means first knowing this will take 10-15 years.”Because the value of opium is so much higher than any other crop available to Afghan farmers, it has become the only way for many to cover the basic expense of large families. Although opium prices of around $130 per kilo are barely half their 2011 peak, they are still well above market rates after the last production glut of 2007, and may have further to fall. Many who grow the crop are aware that mullahs denounce production of the drug and the government bans it. But they say officials also grow the drug and religious leaders are always eager to claim a share of harvest income.

“We doubt that it is forbidden, because if it is, why are the mullahs taking these taxes?” said the 53-year-old farmer Abdul Khaliq, who has been growing poppy in Helmand province for over a decade to support a family of nearly two dozen. “We are a lot of people, this is the reason we grow opium. If we do other work, we can’t feed our family.”

Around half the poppy grown in Afghanistan is planted in Helmand, and the end of a UK-backed project trying to keep poppy out of the main valleys, or “food zone”, brought increase in planting there, though crop levels were far below that in areas under insurgent control, the report said.

“Opium cultivation in the food zone increased by half … [but] outside the food zone the extent of poppy cultivation was far greater,” the report said.

Eradication efforts slowed and became much more dangerous, with 143 people killed while trying to uproot crops, up by nearly half from a year before. Nearly 100 others were injured.

Northern Badakhshan province was the only place in Afghanistan where authorities managed to destroy more than half of the poppy planted; elsewhere teams made small inroads to large harvests.

One of the few bright spots was greater control of the drugs trade, with beefed-up drugs police seizing over 10% of production, up from just 3% or 4% a few years ago, Lemahieu said. But the country also needs to work out how to tackle a growing addiction problem from a product that was once used largely for export or in moderation as a medication. Now over 1 million Afghans – around 3% of the population – have an opium or heroin habit.

Case study: the poppy farmer

My name is Hedayatullah, I am 45 years old and there are 11 people in my family. I am from Marjah district and I have been growing poppy for twenty years. No one in our family uses opium, we grow it as a business.

The imams often tell us it is forbidden to grow opium, but when we get our harvest they take a 10% tax. So we think they aren’t saying these things because of religion and the holy Qur’an, other people are just telling them to say this.

We know the constitution says you can’t grow opium but with wheat or beans you can’t make good money. Also the government officials grow opium themselves, and if they don’t grow it themselves they rent out their land to farmers who grow it. If the officials don’t care about the law, there is no reason for us to respect it.

Under Taliban rule there was an order to stop growing opium, so I stopped for one year, but then the temporary government was set up and I started growing opium again.

In the government-controlled area we farm 1 jerib (half an acre) per year, but in the desert we farm another 4 to 5 jeribs. Sometimes the government does military operations, but after they leave the Taliban take back control.

Before I used to make 800,000 Pakistani rupees (£4,700) per year, but in the last two years it has gone down to 300,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,800).

Mexican vigilantes take on drug cartels – and worry authorities / Fear ‘undeclared civil war’

Militias spring up across Mexico to defend communities but authorities fear ‘rebel force’ and an ‘undeclared civil war’


    Mexico militias take on drug cartels

    Self-defence forces gather near Buenavista in Michoacan, Mexico, part of a growing movement of militias taking on the drug cartels. Photograph: ZUMA/REX


    With their scuffed shoes, baggy trousers and single shot hunting guns, the eight men preparing to patrol their hillside barrio in the southern Mexican town of Tixtla hardly looked like a disciplined military force. But this motley collection of construction workers and shopkeepers claim to have protected their community from Mexico‘s violent drug cartels in a way the police and military have been unable – or unwilling – to do.

    “Since we got organised, the hit men don’t dare come in here,” said one young member of the group, which had gathered at dusk on the town’s basketball court, before heading out on patrol. “Extortions, kidnappings and disappearances are right down.”

    Over the past year, vigilante groups like this have sprung up in towns and villages across Mexico, especially in the Pacific coast states of Guerrero and Michoacán. They make no pretence to be interrupting drug trafficking itself but they do claim to have restored a degree of tranquillity to daily life.

    In a country where the police are commonly felt to commit more crime than they prevent, the militias have won significant popular support, but they have also prompted fears that the appearance of more armed groups can only provoke more violence.

    Tensions exploded this weekend when a march by self-defence groups triggered a gun-battle between gunmen and federal forces in the city of Apatzingán, followed by attacks on power stations that left hundreds of thousands without electricity.

    Nearly seven years after the government launched a military-led crackdown on the cartels, the weekend’s events have caused many to ask if the new government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is presiding over the first rumblings of an undeclared civil war.

    “Perhaps the closest antecedent is the civil wars of central America,” said an editorial posted on the widely-read news site Sin Embargo.

    The weekend’s violence began on Saturday when a group of militiamen marched on the city, saying they were responding to calls for support by residents there who want to set up their own self-defence group. Similar groups claim to have forced the brutal Knights Templar cartel out of smaller towns in the region, but Apatzingán, capital of the Tierra Caliente region, has remained largely in the hands of the drug barons.

    Troops allowed the marchers into the city after they had disarmed, but when they gathered in the central square, they came under attack from gunmen on the rooftops – including some who were reportedly stationed in the cathedral belltower. A video shows people running for cover as federal police officers appear to return fire at the attackers.

    At the end of the day, the marchers withdrew after the army agreed to step up patrols and include observers from the self-defence groups. But the movement’s leader, José Mirales, warned reporters that the fight was not over. “We are going to make sure that organised crime is expelled from Apatzingán,” he said. “They will try to respond.”

    That response came just hours later, when, shortly after midnight, nine electricity substations were firebombed in a string of almost simultaneous attacks. More than 400,000 people were left without electricity. At least four petrol stations were also torched.

    In a statement, Mexico’s interior ministry promised that: “The actions of the criminals will not stop the actions of the government to protect the population.”

    But while the government claimed order had been restored to Aptazingán, the tension continued into Sunday when a second group of civilians marched on the local army base. The Knights Templar were widely believed to be behind this second march that demanded federal forces withdraw their protection from the self-defence groups. Also on Sunday, five bodies were reportedly found on the outskirts of the city, all wearing t-shirts identifying them as members of the self-defence groups.

    The cartel has deep roots within the civilian population of the Tierra Caliente and has proved capable of mobilising its supporters in demonstrations. The cartel has also accused the vigilantes of being fronts for an attempted incursion into the area by a rival crime group, the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

    But while the militia near Aptazingán appears to enjoy some support from federal forces, the government has shown far less tolerance of similar groups in the neighbouring state of Guerrero.

    This is the case of the group in Tixtla, which lies just outside the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo, at the start of the main route into the mountain range of the Sierra Madre del Sur, whose slopes and deep valleys are dotted with secret plantations of marijuana and opium poppies. The area is said to be the hub of a criminal group known as Los Rojos (The Reds), one of the many remnants of the once-mighty Beltrán Leyva cartel, who locals say operate with the complicity of the authorities.

    Locals describe how gunmen would hang out at the local petrol station, checking on movements in and out of the barrio; how entire families would be abducted or forced to flee their homes.

    “Nobody was doing anything about it so we had to, because we want to be safe and we want to be free,” said a young mother, nursing her baby as the militiamen prepared to head out on patrol. “Now the army want to disarm us but if that happens the hitmen will come back.”

    Relations between the Guerrero´s self-defence groups and the authorities have deteriorated further since the arrest in August of the charismatic female leader of another self-defence group in Olinalá, four hours drive into the mountains from Tixtla.

    Nestora Salgado, a returned migrant in her 40s, became one of the symbols of the Guerrero vigilante movement after taking charge of an uprising in October 2012 that began during the funeral for a taxi driver who had been murdered days after a mobile phone vendor.

    When the rumour broke out that another driver had been kidnapped, townspeople stormed the local police station and disarmed officers, before setting up barricades to prevent cartel gunmen from returning to the town.

    Soon after they started regular community patrols that by the middle of this year were being accused of abusing their newfound power. On 21 August a joint army, navy and state police operation arrested several community police members and put Salgado herself into a high security jail hundreds of miles away, accused of kidnapping.

    The swoop on Olinalá triggered marches, road blocks and standoffs around the region that led to more arrests of vigilantes and seized weapons, not always by the authorities.

    Hoping to avoid a full-blown crackdown, most of the Guerrero self-defence groups have since retreated into their strongholds and hidden away their higher calibre guns. But there is little evidence that they are about to fade away meekly.

    Meanwhile, the military presence has grown, with the truckloads of soldiers trundling along mountain roads and army-run soup kitchens for the poor.

    Vidulfo Rosales, a lawyer from the Tlachinollan human rights group based in the area, believes the government is concerned that the self-defence groups will mutate into a guerrilla force, given the area’s long rebellious tradition. “The government has this region marked as a place that has the potential to create another insurgency,” he said.

    Rubén Figueroa, a Guerrero state deputy who heads the local legislature’s security commission is one of the few politicians who openly expresses these fears. “I have reliable information that some of these [vigilante] groups have been infiltrated by subversives.

    “They are trying to take advantage of the power vacuums that exist in isolated areas.”

    The vigilantes deny any such links but, whether true or not, they appear to distrust the army almost as much as the cartels. That hardly bodes well for the government’s efforts to bring the Guerrero self-defence groups under control.

    “The army wanted to detain and disarm us so we have to be careful now, but this is still our territory,” said one member of the Tixtla patrol. “If the army ever tries to come in and shoot at us, then we will shoot back.”


    NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts

    • Agency given more than 200 numbers by government official • NSA encourages departments to share their ‘Rolodexes’ • Surveillance produced ‘little intelligence’, memo acknowledges


      • James Ball
      • The Guardian, Thursday 24 October 2013 14.14 EDT
    SID_460 View larger picture
    The NSA memo suggests that such surveillance was not isolated as the agency routinely monitors world leaders. Photograph: Guardian

    The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

    The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.

    The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone.

    After Merkel’s allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor’s communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

    The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.

    The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled “Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers”.

    It begins by setting out an example of how US officials who mixed with world leaders and politicians could help agency surveillance.

    “In one recent case,” the memo notes, “a US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked.”

    The document continues by saying the new phone numbers had helped the agency discover still more new contact details to add to their monitoring: “These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers that have subsequently been tasked.”

    But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.

    The memo then asks analysts to think about any customers they currently serve who might similarly be happy to turn over details of their contacts.

    “This success leads S2 [signals intelligence] to wonder if there are NSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share their ‘Rolodexes’ or phone lists with NSA as potential sources of intelligence,” it states. “S2 welcomes such information!”

    The document suggests that sometimes these offers come unsolicited, with US “customers” spontaneously offering the agency access to their overseas networks.

    “From time to time, SID is offered access to the personal contact databases of US officials,” it states. “Such ‘Rolodexes’ may contain contact information for foreign political or military leaders, to include direct line, fax, residence and cellular numbers.”

    The Guardian approached the Obama administration for comment on the latest document. Officials declined to respond directly to the new material, instead referring to comments delivered by Carney at Thursday’s daily briefing.

    Carney told reporters: “The [NSA] revelations have clearly caused tension in our relationships with some countries, and we are dealing with that through diplomatic channels.

    “These are very important relations both economically and for our security, and we will work to maintain the closest possible ties.”

    The public accusation of spying on Merkel adds to mounting political tensions in Europe about the scope of US surveillance on the governments of its allies, after a cascade of backlashes and apologetic phone calls with leaders across the continent over the course of the week.

    Asked on Wednesday evening if the NSA had in the past tracked the German chancellor’s communications, Caitlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security Council spokeswoman, said: “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”

    At the daily briefing on Thursday, Carney again refused to answer repeated questions about whether the US had spied on Merkel’s calls in the past.

    The NSA memo seen by the Guardian was written halfway through George W Bush’s second term, when Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state and Donald Rumsfeld was in his final months as defence secretary.

    Merkel, who, according to Reuters, suspected the surveillance after finding her mobile phone number written on a US document, is said to have called for US surveillance to be placed on a new legal footing during a phone call to President Obama.

    “The [German] federal government, as a close ally and partner of the US, expects in the future a clear contractual basis for the activity of the services and their co-operation,” she told the president.

    The leader of Germany’s Green party, Katrin Goring-Eckhart, called the alleged spying an “unprecedented breach of trust” between the two countries.

    Earlier in the week, Obama called the French president François Hollande in response to reports in Le Monde that the NSA accessed more than 70m phone records of French citizens in a single 30-day period, while earlier reports in Der Spiegel uncovered NSA activity against the offices and communications of senior officials of the European Union.

    The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, this week backed proposals that could require US tech companies to seek permission before handing over EU citizens’ data to US intelligence agencies, while the European parliament voted in favour of suspending a transatlantic bank data sharing agreement after Der Spiegel revealed the agency was monitoring the international bank transfer system Swift.


    Fructose: the poison index

    A ruling on fructose boosts the powerful sugar industry, either by incompetence or collusion, but is based on pseudoscience

      • Robert Lustig
      • The Guardian,              Monday 21 October 2013 16.00 EDT
    Fructose Lustig

    Fizzy drinks can have a ‘serum fructose concentration of six micromolar, enough to do major arterial and pancreatic damage’. Photograph: Nathalie Louvel/Getty Images

    The battle over the compound fructose now reaches new levels of obfuscation. The food industry is a strong – and loud, and rich – proponent, hard to ignore. The European Food and Safety Agency has just weighed in, in favour of the substitution of sucrose (table sugar: a disaccharide composed of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose) with fructose alone, the sweeter of the two – even to the point of allowing health claims for fructose on the packaging of processed foods.

    And yet the scientific data on fructose says it is one of the most egregious components of the western diet, directly contributing to heart disease and diabetes, and associated with cancer and dementia. Nature magazine has just published a scathing indictment of fructose by Dr Lewis Cantley, one of the US’s leading cancer researchers. But the EFSA says it sees no harm, justifying its stance on the basis that fructose has a lower glycaemic index than glucose.

    The concept of glycaemic index is simple. This is how high your blood glucose rises after ingesting 50 grams of carbohydrate in any specific food, which is a measure of a food’s generation of an insulin response, and is used as a way of showing a food’s potential for weight gain. Glycaemic index is a proxy for how high your insulin level will rise, which determines whether that blood glucose will get shunted to fat cells for storage. Low-glycaemic-index diets promote blood sugar stability and are associated with weight loss. But the EFSA has missed the point. Glycaemic index is not the issue.

    Glycaemic load is where it’s at. This takes into account how much of a given food one must eat to obtain 50 grams of carbohydrate. The perfect example is carrots. Carrots have a high glycaemic index – if you consume 50 grams of carbohydrate in carrots, your blood sugar will rise pretty high. But you would have to eat 1.3lbs – 600 grams – of carrots to get 50 grams of carbohydrate. Highly unlikely. Any high-glycaemic-index food can become a low-glycaemic-load food if it’s eaten with its inherent fibre. That means “real food”. But fructose is made in a lab. It’s anything but “real”.

    Yes, fructose has a low glycaemic index of 19, because it doesn’t increase blood glucose. It’s fructose, for goodness sake. It increases blood fructose, which is way worse. Fructose causes seven times as much cell damage as does glucose, because it binds to cellular proteins seven times faster; and it releases 100 times the number of oxygen radicals (such as hydrogen peroxide, which kills everything in sight). Indeed, a 20oz soda results in a serum fructose concentration of six micromolar, enough to do major arterial and pancreatic damage. Glycaemic index is a canard; and fructose makes it so. Because fructose’s poisonous effects have nothing to do with glycaemic index; they are beyond glycaemic index.

    The food industry is fond of referring to a 1999 study showing that liver fat generation from oral fructose occurs at a very low rate (less than 5%). And that’s true, if you’re thin, insulin sensitive, fasting (and therefore glycogen-depleted), and given just fructose alone (which is poorly absorbed). Conversely, if you’re obese, insulin resistant, well fed, and getting both fructose and glucose together (like a sizable percentage of the population), then fructose gets converted to fat at a much higher rate, approximating 30%. In other words, the toxicity of fructose depends on context.

    The industry points to meta-analyses of controlled isocaloric “fructose for glucose” exchange studies that demonstrate no effect from fructose on weight gain or other morbidities. Perhaps one reason for this is because crystalline fructose is incompletely absorbed. When that happens, residual fructose in the gastrointestinal system causes pain, bloating, and diarrhoea: ask any child the morning after Halloween in between trips to the bathroom relieving his diarrhoea. Furthermore, those meta-analyses where fructose was supplied in excess do show weight gain, high levels of lipids in the blood, and insulin resistance. The dose determines the poison.

    The EFSA has boosted the position of the sugar industry, either through incompetence or collusion. But it is clear that this recommendation is scientifically bogus. Nutritional policy should be based on science – not pseudoscience, as we have seen over the past 30 years.


    One in three women remove wedding rings fearing they will ‘damage employment prospects’

    • A third of women remove rings when it  isn’t necessarily normal to do so
    • Of those, 35% remove them at work and 29%  at job interviews
    • 22% do so when out  socialising
    • More than half who ditch ring when  socialising do so to appear single

    By  Deni Kirkova

    PUBLISHED: 10:57 EST, 18  October 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:00 EST, 18 October 2013

    One in three married or engaged women in the  UK admit to remove their wedding or engagement ring in certain  situations.

    The top reason for removal is ‘fear of  damaging employment or job progression prospects’, while alarmingly for their partners, wanting  to appear single was also a motivating factor for many.

    The married and engaged respondents, who were  all aged 18 and over, were asked to  exclude practical, every day reasons for having to remove their jewellery – such  as when showering or doing housework.


    Hiding a relationship: Many women fear an employer will judge their marital status  

    Hiding a relationship: Many women fear an employer will  judge their marital status


    Just over a third of the 1,712  women questioned said they removed their wedding or  engagement rings when it  wasn’t necessarily normal to do so.

    When asked to elaborate on what  exactly  these situations causing ‘ring removal’ were, the most common  situations were  at work (35 per cent), when attending job interviews (29  per cent), and when  out socialising (22 per cent).

    Of those who claimed to remove their wedding  or engagement ring at work 62 per cent explained they did so because  they were  afraid that the ‘signal of my relationship status would harm  my career or job  prospects’.

    Jewellery free for an interview: 71 per cent thought showing they were engaged or married would hinder their chances of getting the job 

    Jewellery free for an interview: 71 per cent thought  showing they were engaged or married would hinder their chances of getting the  job


    The same went for those who removed their  rings when attending a job interview, with 71 per cent admitting they felt the  ‘signal of my relationship status would harm my chances of getting the job.’

    Even in modern  times, many women still firmly believe that they are pigeon-holed by their  relationship status

    The majority, 55 per cent, of those who had  removed their ring in these work-related situations claimed their employer or  interviewer was a woman.

    Those who admitted to removing their ring  through fear of damaging work or employment prospects were asked why they felt  this way.

    Three quarters said they feared having an  engagement or wedding ring on show  would make employers think they wouldn’t  stay in the job long because they planned to start a family.

    A fifth removed their ring in order to avoid  their age  being assumed by employers – which they felt could lead to ‘limited  progression prospects’.

    Cheating in mind: Most of those who remove ring when socialising do so as they 'want to appear single' 

    Cheating in mind: Most of those who remove ring when  socialising do so as they ‘want to appear single’


    Almost two thirds admitted they felt a  women’s career progression was often hindered by their relationship status,  should they get married or start a family.

    Of those who claimed to remove their ring  when out socialising, 59 per cent, confessed they did so to appear single. Just  8 per cent claimed the reason was fearing they would lose their ring.

    Of those who wanted to appear single, 56 per  cent explained that they didn’t want members of the opposite sex to ‘treat them  differently’ when out, and so removed their ring to avoid this.

    But more than one in ten, 11 per cent, openly  admitted that they did so in order to cheat on their partner.

    ‘Engagement and wedding rings signify so much more than  simply a marriage – they’re a signal of our life plan’

    And of all respondents who claimed to remove  their wedding or engagement ring, just 9 per cent claimed that their partner was  aware of them doing so.

    Ali O’Neill, from who  conducted the survey, said of the findings: ‘It seems that a fair few women in  the UK are “ring removers”, but the reasons why were incredibly interesting –  with fear about the connotations that the ring holds when it comes to employment  prospects being the most common factor.

    ‘Even in modern times, many women still  firmly believe that they are pigeon-holed by their relationship status – fearing  fewer opportunities should they be viewed as likely to swan off to start a  family, and so take their ring off to avoid this happening.’

    She added: ‘Whether this be the case or not,  it’s clear that these kind of stereotypes are still a problem in the workplace.  It’s clear from our results that engagement and wedding rings signify so much  more than simply a marriage – they’re a signal of our life plan. Whether or not  others take note of the rings, as many women believe, remains to be  seen.

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    Statins risk for women: Taking cholesterol-lowering drug for more than ten years ‘doubles chances of the most common breast cancer’

    • Previous studies had shown  cholesterol-lowering drugs can reduce the risk of certain cancers
    • Research had only looked at women on drugs  for less than five years
    • Experts say drugs could affect hormone  regulation which could lead to breast cancer

    By  Pat Hagan

    PUBLISHED: 16:17 EST, 19  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 18:05 EST, 19 July 2013

    Statins are a major weapon against heart disease. The new findings raise concerns over the long-term safety of the drugs 

    Statins are a major weapon against heart disease. The  new findings raise concerns over the long-term safety of the drugs

    Women who take statins for more than a decade  face double the risk of contracting the most common type of breast  cancer.

    Alarming findings raise new concerns over the  long-term safety of a widely prescribed medicine in the UK.

    Previous studies have suggested the  cholesterol-lowering drugs, used by an estimated eight million men and women,  can reduce the risk of certain cancers – including the breast form of the  disease.

    However, most research looked at patients who  had only been on them for five years or less.

    The latest findings identified invasive  ductal carcinoma (IDC) which starts in the ducts of the breast before spreading  inwards. It accounts for around seven out of ten breast cancer cases.

    The experts at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer  Research Centre in Seattle, US, also found the chances of getting invasive  lobular carcinoma, which accounts for ten to 15 per cent of breast cancers, went  up almost 2.5 times in some women on statins long-term.

    Around 48,000 women in Britain are diagnosed  with breast cancer each year, equal to around 130 a day. A woman has a one in  nine chance of developing the disease at some point in her life.

    The reasons why the anti-cholesterol pills  might stimulate cancer growth are unclear.

    The researchers said one explanation may be  that statins affect hormone regulation in the body, especially as the study  found women on the drugs were significantly more likely to suffer cancers driven  by the hormone oestrogen.


    They said it’s possible that while short-term  use does appear to have a protective effect against breast cancer, in the  long-run statins may damage certain chemical pathways that lead to growth of  tumours.

    The report found: ‘As more women are taking  them and for longer durations it is possible we will observe effects that prior  studies could not detect.’

    Last night, leading UK cancer bodies called  for urgent research to clarify the risks to women.

    But they urged patients on statins not to  stop taking them without consulting their GP.

    The researchers said statins could affect hormone regulation in the body, especially as the study found women on the drugs were significantly more likely to suffer cancers driven by the hormone oestrogen 

    The researchers said statins could affect hormone  regulation in the body, especially as the study found women on the drugs were  significantly more likely to suffer cancers driven by the hormone  oestrogen

    Sally Greenbrook, from the charity  Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘Any study suggesting a potential link between  statins and breast cancer risk should not be taken lightly. But these drugs are  extremely effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular  disease.’

    Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, said:  ‘There’s been a huge amount of research into the link between statins and  cancer.

    ‘But so far there’s no conclusive answer,  with some studies showing a reduced risk, some no link, and others showing a  raised risk.’

    Statins have also emerged as a major weapon  against heart disease in the last 20 years.

    The latest research, published in the journal  Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, examined how long-term statin use  affected breast cancer risk in women aged between 55 and 74.

    The researchers studied just under 2,000  women diagnosed with either IDC or ILC between 2000 and 2008 and a separate  group of 902 women of a similar age profile but who were free of  cancer.

    Around 370 men a year in the UK are diagnosed  with breast cancer – but the latest research did not investigate the cancer risk  of men taking statins.

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    98% of Childhood cancer survivors have significant chronic disease

    By Alexandra Sifferlin,
    updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed June 12, 2013

     A new study shows childhood cancer survivors may be more likely to have chronic diseases.


      • A study shows a majority of childhood cancer survivors have chronic disease
      • The research involved regular check-ups of the cancer survivors
      • Diseases include new cancers, heart disease or abnormal lung function

    ( — A study of over 1,700 childhood cancer survivors found that 98% of the participants had at least one chronic disease such as new cancers, heart disease or abnormal lung function.

    The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, presents a dismal picture of life after cancer.

    Conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, it provides a glimpse into St. Jude’s LIFE program, a two- to three-day initiative that brings long-term childhood cancer survivors back to the hospital for regular check-ups throughout their adult lives.

    The goal is to monitor adult survivors to better understand the mechanisms that promote survival. The former patients undergo various checks and screenings including basic health exams, blood tests and X-rays.

    CNN Hero: Richard Nares

    The authors report that by age 45, 80% of survivors have a life-threatening, disabling or serious health condition. Sixty-five percent of the survivor participants who were at risk for lung problems after their treatment had abnormal lung functions, and 61% of former patients at risk for neurocognitive issues had endocrine problems in areas of the brain like the hypothalamus. Another 56% of survivors had heart abnormalities, and 48% had memory difficulties. Why the link between childhood cancer and CT scans may be overblown

    “It is not surprising, but it helps quantify what our fears were in this population,” says study author Dr. Melissa Hudson, the director of the St. Jude Division of Cancer Survivorship. “We have known for many years that adults who were treated for cancer in childhood have a higher risk for health problems, and these health problems appear to increase as they age.”

    The study population is one of the oldest groups of survivors to be studied. Participants ranged from 18 to 60 years old, though the average age was 33. Their average time from cancer diagnosis was 26 years, with a range from 11 to 48 years from diagnosis.

    Previous studies looking at cancer survivors’ health have typically relied on surveys instead of actual check-ups in the doctor’s office.

    “We know we are underestimating the amount of disease,” says Hudson. “This comprehensive study allows us to get down to what are the undiagnosed conditions that are hopefully in early stages so intervention will benefit them.”

    The researchers say their findings support tailoring treatments to patients so that exposure to radiation from chemotherapy is kept to a minimum. Patients should have regular check-ups throughout their lives and maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to not exacerbate their risk.

    “Physicians and health care providers should be advocating for healthier lifestyle practices for anyone they see in their practice, but it is particularly important for childhood cancer survivors because they have already had treatments when their organs were more vulnerable that put them at risk for types of diseases we see in aging populations like high blood pressure, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, etc.,” says Hudson.

    Screening programs like the one at St. Jude’s not only identify health issues early in these at-risk patients, but also help doctors identify which screening processes are most helpful and aid in characterizing what patient profiles are at a higher risk for certain diseases.

    “Our greatest findings were that these patients had diseases that were not identified,” says Hudson. “This type of care really understands their risk for disease in the context of their previous cancer history.”

    Disney Channel forced to pull episode of hit TV show Jessie that ‘mocks’ and ‘humiliates’ child on gluten-free diet

    • A petition calling on Disney to ‘stop bullying gluten-intolerant  characters’ attracted 2,137 signatures

    By  Sadie Whitelocks

    PUBLISHED: 10:51 EST, 21 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 12:33  EST, 21 May 2013

    The Disney Channel has pulled an episode of  its popular children’s show Jessie, after thousands of parents complained the  storyline ridiculed young people with food allergies.

    During the May  17 installment titled Quitting Cold  Koala, a nine-year-old character named Stuart Wooten stated that he could not  eat plain flour pancakes because he was  gluten-free.

    Instead of supporting his needs the rest of  the cast made snide remarks and one child even threw pancakes in his  face.

    Controversial: The Disney Channel has pulled an episode of its popular children's show Jessie, which ridiculed a nine-year-old gluten-free child
    Controversial: The Disney Channel has pulled an episode  of its popular children’s show Jessie, which ridiculed a nine-year-old  gluten-free child

    In response, one dismayed viewer launched a petition calling for Disney to ‘stop bullying gluten-intolerant characters’. In  just a few days it attracted 2,137  signatures.

    The online appeal was started by  mother-of-two Amy Raslevich from Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Both her son Sam,  eight, and daughter Laura, 11, were diagnosed with celiac  disease 18 months ago.

    The digestive disorder triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is  primarily found in foods such as bread and pasta, causes damage to the small  intestine and stops the body from absorbing nutrients from food.

    Unpleasant symptoms include abdominal pain,  weight-loss, fatigue and diarrhea. There is no cure and the only  known  effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet – meaning any  foods or  products containing wheat, rye and barley  should be avoided.

    ‘We  need to stress that being gluten-free is to keep our kids safe, it is not a  “trend” or “fad”‘

    Mrs Raslevich said that her children were distraught after watching the Jessie episode  which  ‘made fun of, humiliated and isolated’ the gluten-free child.

    Expressing her outrage on her page  she wrote: ‘In the Jessie episode, a young boy was said to require a gluten-free  diet.

    ‘The other characters snickered at this  requirement, and in fact  threw a pancake at the child, which could have  actually triggered a  severe skin rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis.

    ‘The boy was made to  be annoying, sniveling,  and demanding, repeatedly teased and excluded by the other children.

    Outrage: Amy Raslevich, pictured with her husband Jeff Kelly, said that their two children, Sam, eight, and Laura Kelly, 11, were distraught after watching the Jessie episode - they both have celiac disease and are gluten-free
    Outrage: Amy Raslevich, pictured with husband Jeff  Kelly, said that their children, Sam, eight, and Laura Kelly, 11, were  distraught after watching the Jessie episode – both have celiac disease and eat  a gluten-free diet

    ‘For my kids, this is real. They have  had  friends make fun of their food, been disinvited to parties because  of their  diet.

    ‘They have been made to sit alone, have had  waitstaff roll their eyes and snidely comment about their requests to make their  food  safe for them to eat.’

    Another mother, Viviana Cardona from  Ossining, New York, was equally offended. She added:  ‘My son is gluten-free due to being  ALLERGIC to gluten / wheat / oats / barley.

    ‘I  guarantee  if it was a peanut allergy, they wouldn’t have had them throwing  peanuts at him’

    ‘He is severely allergic and an exposure is  potentially fatal. This is my husband and my daily worry, that he  will be  “poisoned” by a bully.

    ‘We need to stress that being  gluten-free is  to keep our kids safe, it is not a “trend”, “fad” [but] a means to keep our  children safe.’

    A thread started on the website Reddit  also  touched on the issue. One commentator simply stated: ‘I guarantee  if it was a  peanut allergy, they wouldn’t have had them throwing peanuts at him. This is  ridiculous.’

    In response to the backlash, the Disney  network has now pulled the episode from air.

    A statement on its official Facebook page  posted last Friday read: ‘To our viewers, we received your  feedback about  tonight’s ‘Jessie’ episode which some of you accessed  early on  Video-on-Demand.

    Insensitive: At one point a cast member throws pancakes at the gluten-free child
    Insensitive: At one point a cast member throws pancakes  at the gluten-free child

    ‘We are removing this particular episode from  our regular programming schedule and will re-evaluate its references to gluten  restrictions in the character’s diet.

    ‘Please accept our apologies for  the upset  this episode caused you and your family. We value your  feedback and thank you  for watching Disney Channel.’

    A 2012 study estimated that around 1.8  million people in the U.S. have celiac disease, and 1.4 million may not even  know about it.

    While gluten-free diets are necessary for  people with celiac disease, they have also become a fad diet for some with about  1.6million excluding gluten from their diets for no medical reason.

    People who do not need to be on the strict  diet may develop vitamin deficiencies and other side effects.


    Celiac disease is a digestive condition  triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in  bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley  or rye.

    People with celiac disease who eat foods  containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines,  causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to  absorb certain nutrients.

    Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and  diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients that occurs with  celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain,  peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital  nourishment.

    No treatment can cure celiac disease.  However, sufferers can effectively manage the condition by changing their diet.


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    Is this proof evil killers are born not made? Psychopaths’ brains ‘lack basic wiring that triggers empathy and compassion’

    • Psychopathy affects around 20 to 30% of U.S.  prison population
    • This compares with just 1% of the general  U.S. population
    • Prisoners shown video footage of people  being intentionally hurt
    • MRI scans revealed distinct differences in  brains’ responses

    By  Kerry Mcdermott

    PUBLISHED: 14:27 EST, 24  April 2013 |  UPDATED: 14:29 EST, 24 April 2013


    Don’t blame Hannibal Lecter – he can’t help  being a callous, murdering monster.

    New research suggests psychopaths lack basic  hard-wiring in the brain that enables most people to be compassionate and  caring, scientists say.

    They say MRI scans revealed distinct  differences in the way highly-psychopathic individuals’ and ordinary people’s  brains reacted when they were shown footage of people being intentionally  hurt.

    No empathy: Psychopaths like Sir Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter character lack basic hardwiring in the brain that enables humans to feel compassion, scientists say 

    No empathy: Psychopaths like Sir Anthony Hopkins’  Hannibal Lecter character lack basic hardwiring in the brain that enables humans  to feel compassion, scientists say


    Scientists at the University of Chicago  studied 80 male prisoners aged between 18 and 50 who were assessed for  psychopathic traits.

    Around 20 to 30 per cent of the U.S. prison  population is believed to be affected by psychopathy – compared with one per  cent of the general population.

    Study participants underwent brain scans  while being shown videos of people being intentionally hurt and others of faces  reacting to pain.

    Their findings, published today, may help to  shed light on why criminal psychopaths like cannibal Lecter, played by Sir  Anthony Hopkins, appear void of remorse or compassion.

    Empathy: Scientists observed reduced activity in key areas of the brain when psychopathic individuals were shown videos of people being hurt 

    Empathy: Scientists observed reduced activity in key  areas of the brain when psychopathic individuals were shown videos of people  being hurt

    Psychopaths displayed significantly less  activity in key areas of the brain including the amygdala – an almond-shaped  bundle of neurons which plays an important role in processing emotions like  fear, anger and pleasure.

    The stunted response observed  in the  amygdala and in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex was consistent with  previous  studies of psychopathy, researchers said.

    Converseley, more activity was seen in the  striatum and insula regions. The high activity recorded in the insula region  surprised the scientists, as the area is central to emotion.

    ‘A marked lack of empathy is a hallmark  characteristic of individuals with psychopathy,’ said lead researcher Professor  Jean Decety.

    ‘This is the first time that neural processes  associated with empathic processing have been directly examined in individuals  with psychopathy, especially in response to the perception of other people in  pain or distress.’

    Psychopaths are known to be responsible for a  disproportionate amount of repetitive crime and violence.

    The University of Chicago study, published in  the journal JAMA Psychiatry, said: ‘The neural response to distress of others  such as pain is thought to reflect an aversive response in the observer that may  act as a trigger to inhibit aggression or prompt motivation to help.

    ‘Hence, examining the neural response of  individuals with psychopathy as they view others being harmed or expressing pain  is an effective probe into the neural processes underlying affective and empathy  deficits in psychopathy.’

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    Bomber’s father bizarrely claims that the FBI CALLED his son to accuse him of deadly attack two days before he was shot dead


    Sunday, Apr 21 2013

    ‘That’s your problem’: Chilling response of Boston bomber after ‘FBI called  him to accuse him of deadly attack’

    By  Daily Mail Reporter

    PUBLISHED: 12:47 EST, 21  April 2013 |  UPDATED: 12:59 EST, 21 April 2013


    The parents of the suspected Boston bombers  have claimed that their oldest son received a call from the FBI accusing him of  the attack, to which he responded: ‘That’s your problem.’

    Tamerlan Tsarnaeva,  who was killed following a shoot out with the police on Friday, called his  mother two or three days after the marathon bombings to tell her about the call  from the FBI, his father said.

    The claims, reported by Channel 4  News, reveal how Tsarnaeva,  26, believed that the FBI was watching him. His mother previously said he had  been followed by the FBI for five years.

    Family: Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev said their son claimed the FBI called him to accuse him of the bombings 

    Family: Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev said their son  claimed the FBI called him to accuse him of the bombings

    Channel 4 News suggested that, while it was  unlikely the FBI had called the suspect to accuse him of the heinous crime, it  was perhaps his way of preparing his parents for the news of his  involvement.

    While it seems unlikely, if the claim is  true, it raises questions over how the FBI handled the case.

    The agency has already come under fire for  reportedly failing to stop the brothers before they planted two bombs at the  finish line of the marathon, killing three and injuring more than  180.

    It has emerged that Russian authorities  alerted the FBI about their concerns over Tsarnaeva’s links after he was spotted speaking to an  Islamic militant six times at a mosque in Dagestan last year.

    Tamerlan TsarnaevDzhokhar Tsarnaev

    ‘Bombers’: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, (left) and his younger  brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, (right) allegedly planted two bombs at the Boston  marathon on Monday, killing three and injuring more than 180

    Hiding out: Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the bombers, said his son claimed the FBI were on to him 

    Hiding out: Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the bombers,  said his son claimed the FBI were on to him

    Now his parents are planning to visit the  U.S. to see their surviving son, 19-year-old Dzhokhar  Tsarnaev, who was found hiding in a boat following his older brother’s  death.

    Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told ABC World  News in a tearful phone interview  that she fears her son will receive the death penalty.

    ‘I lost two sons,’ she said through tears  over the phone. ‘My family is in the dirt.’

    The grieving mother did not say when she and  her husband, Anzor Tsarnaev, plan to travel to the U.S.

    She told an ABC reporter based in southern  Russia that she fears she will  be unable to do so, despite her having an  American passport, because she is now the parent of a suspected  terrorist.

    Tsarnaeva told an ABC News reporter in Southern Russia that she fears her 19-year-old son, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is suspected of planting two bombs at Monday's Boston Marathon with his older brother Tamerlan, will receive the death penalty 

    Home: The parents of the Tsarnaeva brothers live in  Dagestan, pictured, and hope to travel to the U.S.

    The couple spent the day hiding from the  crowd of journalist that flooded their neighborhood in the remote Russian region  of Dagestan, according to ABC News.

    Neighbors who did speak to the press said the  Tsarneav family had no noticeable ties to Islamic fundamentalism or terrorist  factions.

    One neighbor said that there was no  fanaticism among the family members living there and that the father was not too  religious.

    In her phone call with ABC News reporter  Kirit Radia, Tsarnaeva reiterated the wild claims her husband has made  in  previous interviews that their two sons were framed by the U.S.  government.


    Grieving mother: Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the two Boston bombing suspects has said that she and her husband, Anzor Tsarnaev, plan to take a trip to the U.S. to visit their surviving son

    Grieving mother: Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of the  two Boston bombing suspects has said that she and her husband, Anzor Tsarnaev,  plan to take a trip to the U.S. to visit their surviving son

    'No Islamic ties': Neighbors who spoke to the press said the Tsarneav family had no noticeable ties to Islamic fundamentalism or terrorist factions‘No Islamic ties’: Neighbors who spoke to the press said  the Tsarneav family had no noticeable ties to Islamic fundamentalism or  terrorist factions

    She said her oldest son Tamerlan, 26, was  investigated two years ago by the FBI only because ‘he loved Islam’ and that he  ‘didn’t do anything bad.’

    The FBI said in a statement released Friday  that it had investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaeva in 2011 at the request of a foreign  government. The FBI did not reveal which country’s government that was.

    ‘The request stated that it was based on  information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and  that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United  States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground  groups,’ the FBI statement said.

    The FBI said that in response to the request  the bureau culled through its databases and interviewed both Tamerlan Tsarnaeva  and members of his family, but were unable to find any evidence that he was  connected to a terrorist organization.

    Caught: The parents hope to visit their youngest son in the U.S., who was wounded and arrested on Friday 

    Caught: The parents hope to visit their youngest son in  the U.S., who was wounded and arrested on Friday

    Scene: He was found cowering in this boat in Watertown, Massachusetts on Friday following a massive manhuntScene: He was found cowering in this boat in Watertown,  Massachusetts on Friday following a manhunt


    ‘The FBI did not find any terrorism activity,  domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government  in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or  additional information from the foreign government,’ the bureau’s statement  read.

    ‘They were all afraid of Tamerlan’ his mother  told ABC News referring to the U.S. government.

    ‘They wanted to eliminate him as a threat  because he was in love with Islam. For the last five years they were following  him.’

    Tsarnaeva said the anxiety of losing both her  sons has caused her to feel so sick she needs to call for an ambulance every two  and a half hours.

    ‘I don’t know how to live like this,’ she  said.


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    800,000 Fisher-Price rocking sleeper seats could be infected with mold which can lead to respiratory problems and hives for babies

    By  Daily Mail Reporter

    PUBLISHED: 12:11 EST, 8  January 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:23 EST, 8 January 2013

    The government is warning concerned parents  to inspect Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleepers due to a risk of exposure  to mold for infants who use them.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission said  Tuesday that its warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats, called  sleepers, that were sold at stores nationwide and online since September 2009,  with prices ranging between $50 and $85.

    The seats, designed for babies up to 25  pounds, feature a soft plastic seat held in a tubular metal rocking frame. The  product has a removable fabric cover.


    The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning to parents about the hidden dangers of mold growing on Fisher-Price Newborn Rock 'N Play Sleepers The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a  warning to parents about the hidden dangers of mold growing on Fisher-Price  Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleepers

    Fisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play SleepersFisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play Sleepers

    Mold can develop between the removable seat cushion and  the hard plastic frame if the sleeper remains wet or is infrequently  cleaned

    Mold can develop between the removable seat  cushion and the hard plastic frame if the sleeper remains wet or is infrequently  cleaned, the agency warns.

    Mold is associated with respiratory illnesses  and other infections, the warning said.

    Fisher-Price has received 600 reports of mold  and 16 infants have been treated for respiratory issues, coughs and hives after  they were in the Fisher-Price sleepers.

    The agency said consumers should check for  dark brown, gray or black spots that can indicate the presence of mold under the  removable seat cushion.

    If mold is found, they are advised to  immediately stop using the product and to contact Fisher-Price for cleaning  instructions or further assistance.

    Units currently in retail stores are not  affected by the warning, but mold growth can occur after use of the infant  sleepers.

    The warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats, called sleepers, sold at stores nationwide and online since September 2009The warning applies to 800,000 infant recliner seats,  called sleepers, sold at stores nationwide and online since September  2009

    Crying Baby
    Fisher-Price Newborn Rock `N Play Sleepers

    Sick babies: 16 infants have been treated for  respiratory issues, leading the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a  product warning about the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleeper

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    Pesticides claim one life and sickens 129 others as people desperate to get rid of bed bugs use the outdoor toxins in their BEDROOMS

    By  Daily Mail Reporter

    PUBLISHED: 20:58 EST, 28 November 2012 |  UPDATED: 20:58 EST, 28 November 2012


    No one likes bed bugs. But in recent years as the infestation rate explodes people are increasingly poisoning themselves in an attempt to get rid of the unwelcome house guests.

    Over a 4 year period, 129 people suffered mild to serious health issues when outdoor pesticides were used inside, according to a health advisory issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

    Symptoms of  pesticide poisoning can include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,  dizziness and muscle tremors.

    bed bug Reports of bed bug infestations have risen annually since 2006


    The effects are so toxic one woman even died.

    The unidentified 65-year-old North Carolina woman had a history of heart and kidney problems and became ill after  using the pesticides.

    She and her husband went through nine cans of insecticide fogger, a separate kind of canned pesticide for their house’s walls and baseboards, and yet another type for the mattresses and box springs.

    They reapplied everything to the mattresses and box springs just two days later, then went through another nine cans of yet another fogger.

    Before she fell ill, the woman even put a flea and bedbug pesticide on her arms, sores on her chest, and her hair.

    Two days after her second pesticide application she was found unresponsive by her husband.

    She lingered in the hospital for nine days before passing away.

    bed bug Read before you spray: CDC officials are asking people to be sure their pesticides are approved for indoor use after a rash of poisonings

    ‘Many people are somewhat desperate to find any solution,’ Bernadette Burden, a CDC spokeswoman, told NBC News. ‘This is something they’re not used to. Oftentimes, they’re tempted to use any insecticide that they can get their hands on.’

    Bedbug victims with less tragic ends include Melissa Constantinou, 25, a personal  chef in Lowell, Mass..

    Her  apartment was treated for infestation four times with Constantinou ever once worrying about the possible health effects.

    ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so emotionally  disturbing,’ she said. ‘I was willing to do whatever it took. I didn’t  think about the long-term effects at all.’

    According to the National  Pesticide Information Center, inquiries about bedbugs nearly  doubled between 2007 and 2011, leading health agencies to view the issue as ‘an emerging national  concern.’

    Especially as bedbug infestations have been on the rise.

    bed bug Not in my bed: People often spray their homes multiple times over a short period to treat infestation

    First-time service calls for bed bug treatment went from about 100 requests a month in January 2008 to roughly 300 per month by April 2012 according to a survey conducted by Jeff White,  technical director of the website BedBug Central.

    ‘Outdoor pesticides should not be used indoors under any circumstances,’ ATSDR officials warn.

    The problems come from people using too much pesticide or applying it incorrectly.

    ‘A lot of them don’t understand that the label is the law,’ said David Stone director of the NPIC. ‘This product should not be applied  directly to the skin. That product should not be used on mattresses.’

    In one example recorded by the CDC, an Ohio family – including four children and a roommate – became ill after an uncertified pesticide company used malathion to treat their apartment.

    That pesticide is not registered for indoor use, but the crew used it so much they saturated the beds and floor coverings.

    CDC experts said people should be careful to read the labels before using a pesticide indoors.

    ‘More importantly, follow the guidance  and make sure you’re using the right pesticide and that you’re treating  the right pest,’ said the CDC’s Burden, who noted that bedbugs often can resemble other critters at different stages in their life cycle.


    Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ‘threatened to punch’ local reporter

    By Eric W. Dolan Tuesday, November 13, 2012 18:53 EST

    [Image via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, Creative Commons licensed]

    Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar allegedly threatened to punch a reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette on Election Day, one witness said.

    Reporter Dave Philipps had attempted to ask Salazar about wild horses purchased from the Bureau of Land Management amid a gathering of Obama supporters in Fountain, Colorado. A man in southern Colorado is currently under investigation for allegedly buying more than 1,700 wild horses from government holding facilities and sending them to Mexican slaughterhouses. Philipps reported on the story in September.

    After Salazar commented on the safety of wild horses, he unexpectedly approached Phillips and told him, “If you set me up like this again, I’ll punch you out,” according to Ginger Kathrens of the the Cloud Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to protecting wild horses and issued a statement regarding the incident on Tuesday.

    “These threats would have been inappropriate coming from anyone, but the fact that it came out of the mouth of the Secretary of the Interior is alarming,” Kathrens said. “I can’t believe that a top official in Obama’s cabinet could be so defensive.”

    The Cloud Foundation has been critical of Salazar for rounding up wild horses instead of letting them roam free. Salazar said rounding up the wild horses was necessary to prevent them from overpopulating and harming the ecosystem.

    An Interior spokesman told Politico that Salazar regrets the exchange.

    [Image via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, Creative Commons licensed]

    Raw Story (

    Who ordered the sweet and sour pussies? Moment truck crammed with FIVE HUNDRED cats was stopped en route to restaurants in China

    By David Baker

    PUBLISHED:16:55 EST, 1  November 2012| UPDATED:17:16 EST, 1 November 2012


    These pictures show the disturbing moment a  truck crammed with 500 cats was stopped during a routine check – as it made its  way to restaurants across China.

    The neglected and hungry cats were piled  together in cages as the truck seemingly made its way to food outlets to sell  the pets as meat.

    Luckily, the animals, some of which had been  cruelly stuffed in bags, were rescued thanks to vehicle checks in Xuzhou, in the  eastern province of Jiangsu.

    Disturbing: When the cats were found some had been struggling to breathe through small holes in burlap sacks 

    Disturbing: When the cats were found some had been  struggling to breathe through small holes in burlap sacks


    Caged animals: Many of the 500 cats were crammed together in tiny cages as they made the trip in the back of the truck across China 

    Caged animals: Many of the 500 cats were crammed  together in tiny cages as they made the trip in the back of the truck across  China

    Having pulled over the truck in what they  assumed was a run of the mill stop, officers were shocked to find the horrific  haul.

    Officer Sun Hai, who helped rescue the  terrified felines along with a colleague, said: ‘The driver said it was a full  load of rabbit.

    ‘But after we instructed him to uncover the  load we were shocked to find a full load of living cats.’

    Intercepted: The felines were rescued thanks to routine vehicle checks, before they were sold as food 

    Intercepted: The felines were rescued thanks to routine  vehicle checks, before they were sold as food


    Helping hand: Volunteers rushed to give the cats water, before they were transferred to an animal centre for treatment 

    Helping hand: Volunteers rushed to give the cats water,  before they were transferred to an animal centre for treatment

    Horrifying: Some of the cats had been stuffed into bags with barely enough room to breathe 

    Horrifying: Some of the cats had been stuffed into bags  with barely enough room to breathe

    Following the find the pair informed  volunteers from a local animal protection centre who quickly arrived on the  scene.

    They cut open the bags with keys and knives  to save the animals from suffocation and also bought water and  food.

    It is believed that the owner of the load  refused to reveal where the cats had come from and it even took seven hours of  negotiations to get him to hand them over to rescue teams.

    The cats have now been transferred to an  animal rescue centre at Tangzhang County, where they are being  treated.

    As a nation of pet lovers Brits have long  been condemning the treatment of animals in China, where cats and dogs are  believed to be widely sold as food.

    Previously cats and dogs have be seen  squeezed inside cages with no room to move, many of them diseased, in a live  animal market in Nanhai, China.

    Lucky escape: Fortunately the haul of cats are now being cared for at an animal centre 

    Lucky escape: Fortunately the haul of cats are now being  cared for at an animal centre

    The Three Birds Market, where cats live in  small metal baskets, is deemed to be operating as a poultry market in southern  China

    Dog meat is also thought to be a staple food  in this area of China and  people believe it is the best meat to keep them warm  during winter.

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    U.S. nuclear plant declares “alert” after Sandy storm surge: NRC: May have to use a fire hose, to cool off fuel rods.

    Posted 2012/10/30 at 12:57 am EDT

    NEW YORK, Oct. 30, 2012 (Reuters) — Exelon Corp declared an “alert” at its New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant due to a record storm surge, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday, warning that a further rise in water levels could force operators to use emergency water supplies from a fire hose to cool spent uranium fuel rods.

    The alert — the second lowest of four NRC action levels — came after water levels at the plant rose by more than 6.5 feet, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate water through the plant, an NRC spokesman said.

    Those pumps are not essential since the plant is shut for planned refueling at the moment. However a further rise to 7 feet could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool.

    The spokesman said the company could use water from a fire hose to cool the pool if necessary. The used uranium rods in the pool could cause the water to boil within 25 hours without additional coolant; in an extreme scenario the rods could overheat, risking the eventual release of radiation.

    The NRC said in a statement that it expected water levels would begin to abate within the next several hours.

    Sandy made landfall earlier in the evening as the most powerful Atlantic storm to hit the United States, bringing an over 13-foot storm surge.

    There have been about a dozen instances of alert-level nuclear incidents in the past four years, according to NRC press releases. An alert-level incident means there is a “potential substantial degradation in the level of safety” at a reactor.

    The concerns over the status of the spent fuel pool at Oyster Creek were reminiscent of the fears that followed the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, when helicopters and fire hoses were enlisted to ensure the pools remained filled with fresh, cool water.

    The nuclear industry has said that the spent fuel rods at Fukushima were never exposed to the air.

    (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Ed Davies)

    Report tries to minimize tuition increase that’s more than triple the rate of inflation

    By Kay Steiger Thursday, October 25, 2012 16:15 EDT

    Shocked college student (Shutterstock)

    A new report released Wednesday by the College Board finds that four-year college degrees have increased by an average 4.8 percent in the 2010-11 school year — more than triple the 1.4 percent rate of inflation during that same period.

    The report tries to calm fears that tuition is increasing by saying, “It would likely be wrong to assume that price increases will keep accelerating.” But there’s little to indicate that such a prediction is true. According to the College Board’s own report, California — which saw the worst tuition increase last year — has a five-year tuition increase of 102 percent for two-year public colleges and a 72 percent five-year increase at four-year colleges.

    The College Board also points to the fact that published prices for nonprofit colleges and universities continue to rise. In particular, the actual net price — the difference between the posted price minus any grants or scholarships that student gets — is increasing at a less alarming rate. But this is a claim belied by its own statistics. “Over the past five years, the average published price has increased by 27% in real terms, while the average net price has increased by 17%,” the report said. A 17 percent price increase over five years still far outpaces the average inflation rate over the past five years of 2.88 percent.

    Critics like New America Foundation’s Kevin Carey that “minimizing the importance of a 4.8-percent hike would be a mistake.” Though he calls the College Board’s numbers “impeccably accurate” in his column at the Chronicle of Higher Education, he points out a caveat. “But the College Board is also an industry membership organization with a vested interest in keeping the public unpanicked about college prices, so it always finds a way to present each year’s fresh crop of alarming numbers with a strong dose of ‘nothing to see here,’” he writes.

    He adds that the College Board made a calculated decision to throw out California’s tuition rates in their average because it would have skewed the average increase too high. ”If the College Board has ever calculated the average increase in tuition after throwing out the state with the smallest tuition hikes, I am unaware of it,” he wrote.

    A separate report released Thursday by the Center for American Progress pointed out, “In the past three decades, the cost of attaining a college degree has increased more than 1,000 percent.” The report found that 81 percent of African American students carries some kind of student debt along with 67 percent of Latino students. Only about 64 percent of white students, meanwhile have student debt.

    The report goes on to say, “Over the last four decades, average hourly wages and compensation have also remained nearly flat in comparison to productivity, meaning that the majority of U.S. workers are not being appropriately compensated and are unable to afford major and constantly rising costs like a college education.”

    [Disclosure: The author once worked at the Center for American Progress.]

    Raw Story (

    EU’s top health official investigated in a tobacco-linked fraud probe

    By Agence France-Presse Monday, October 22, 2012 15:07 EDT

    outgoing health and consumer commissioner, John Dalli, pictured in January 2012 (AFP)

    A shady Maltese lobbyist, Sweden’s substitute for snuff, robberies against anti-smoking groups: the resignation of the EU’s top health official in a tobacco-linked “whodunnit” is shaking up Brussels.

    The EU’s executive pledged Monday that a fraud probe involving the outgoing health and consumer commissioner, John Dalli — who handed in his resignation last week — would not slow, or kill, key tobacco legislation drafted by his services in the interests of public health.

    “The review of the Tobacco Products Directive is on the commission’s agenda for this year,” said European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly. “As soon as we have a new commissioner he will be able to proceed.”

    Anti-tobacco groups see Dalli’s almost unprecedented resignation from the commission as the latest hitch in months of efforts to review the European Union’s decade-old legislation on tobacco.

    “The long wait for Commission proposals on tobacco products is becoming a never-ending story,” said Matthias Groote of the Smoke Free Partnership (SFP).

    “This important legislation has been delayed time and time again.”

    The SFP is one of two anti-smoking groups whose Brussels offices were broken into by intruders last week. It said police were investigating the incident.

    “There was relevant and sensitive information stolen concerning the tobacco directive and industry,” said Javier Delgado Riviera of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the other target.

    February proposals by ex-commissioner Dalli aimed to make cigarette packaging less attractive while tightening regulations on flavourings in cigarettes — said to appeal to teenage girls — as well as on smoke-free products, such as snuff and electronic cigarettes.

    Dalli, who is from Malta, quit Tuesday after the EU fraud office OLAF said a Maltese entrepreneur used his contacts with the commissioner to seek a bribe from a Swedish firm in return for changes to the tobacco legislation, “in particular on the EU export ban on snus”.

    Snus, or Swedish snuff, is a moist powder tobacco originating from dry snuff. Though its sale is illegal across the EU, it is manufactured and used in Sweden, which has an exemption, and Norway, which is not an EU member.

    The European Union executive has temporarily replaced Dalli, and on Monday the president of the 27-person commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, cleared Malta’s proposal to replace him with Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, the first step in a possible nomination.

    Meanwhile, Dalli claimed to have been framed by the tobacco industry and sacrificed by Barroso without being offered the benefit of the doubt.

    “I did not offer my resignation but you demanded for it,” he wrote in a letter released by the New Europe website.

    “I did not get 24 hours to contact a lawyer or family but only 30 minutes,” he said. “My right to presumption of innocence was breached.”

    The commission spokesman insisted however that Dalli was “presumed innocent until proved guilty” and said: “If there is a legal follow-up, that is up to the Maltese.”

    Swedish Match, the company that tipped off Brussels over allegations of corruption, said Friday it was offered the opportunity to pay 60 million euros ($78 million) to thwart the new EU tobacco legislation.

    “I can say that those are the amounts we are talking about, and I’d also like to stress that for us the amount of money does not matter,” company spokesman Patrik Hildingsson told AFP last week.

    He said the payment to a Maltese businessman with links to Dalli would have been made in two installments, with 10 million euros due before new legislation was enacted and the remaining 50 million euros to be paid when the new rules were in place.

    Corruption watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory said the case should serve as a wake-up call to the commission to tighten up rules on lobbying.

    “The European Commission is the focus of intense lobbying, and many business lobbyists benefit from easy access and close contact,” it said. “This opens the door to the potential for corruption.”

    Geologists: Groundwater extraction caused earthquake in Spain

    By Agence France-Presse Sunday, October 21, 2012 21:05 EDT

    A damaged building is pictured in Lorca, southeastern Spain, after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in 2011. (AFP)

    Massive extraction of groundwater helped unleash an earthquake in southeastern Spain last year that killed nine people, injured at least 100 and left thousands homeless, geologists said on Sunday.

    The finding adds a powerful piece of evidence to theories that some earthquakes are human-induced, they said.

    Seismologists were surprised by the May 11, 2011 earthquake which happened two kilometres (1.2 miles) northeast of the city of Lorca.

    The quake struck in the Eastern Betics Shear Zone, one of Spain’s most seismically active regions, where there has been a large number of moderate-to-large temblors over the last 500 years.

    But the May event was unusual because it was so devastating and yet so mild — only 5.1 magnitude — in terms of energy release.

    Researchers led by Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario in Canada probed the mystery.

    Reporting in the journal Nature Geoscience, they found that the quake occurred at a very shallow depth, of just three kilometres (1.8 miles), so the shockwave swiftly reached the surface with little to dampen it on the way.

    The quake also happened on a complex but dormant fault that ripped open after water had been extensively pumped out of a neighbouring aquifer, causing a domino effect of subterranean stresses, they said.

    Gonzalez’ team first used ground-radar imaging by the European satellite Envisat to build a map of how terrain around Lorca changed before and after the quake.

    The picture confirmed that the event had occurred on the so-called Alhama de Murcia fault, which slipped between five and 15 centimetres (two and six inches).

    They then investigated the Alto Guadalentin Basin, an aquifer lying just five kms (three miles) south of the fault, where they found widespread evidence of subterranean subsidence from water extraction.

    Between 1960 and 2010, the level of groundwater from this aquifer fell by at least 250 metres (812 feet), according to records from local wells.

    A computer model put together by the team suggests what happens: lowering of the water table caused part of the crust, located next to the Alhama de Murcia fault, to break.

    This led to an “elastic rebound” of the crust that in turn cranked up horizontal pressure on the fault, bringing it that much closer to rupture.

    The investigation adds to anecdotal evidence that human activities, ranging from exploration for shale gas, quarrying and even water reservoirs, can cause quakes.

    “Our results imply that anthopogenic [man-made] activites could influence how and when earthquakes occur,” said the study.

    In a commentary, Jean-Philippe Avouac, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) said water extraction at Lorca probably accelerated a natural process of stress accumulation rather than unleashed the earthquake by itself.

    Even so, “the consequences are far-reaching,” said Avouac.

    He pointed to carbon storage, a still-experimental technique in which carbon dioxide from a fossil-fuel power station is pumped into underground caverns rather than released to the atmosphere, where it would add to global warming.

    “For now, we should remain cautious of human-induced stress perturbations, in particular those related to carbon dioxide sequestration projects that might affect very large volumes of crust,” said Avouac.

    “We know how to start earthquakes, but we are still far from being able to keep them under control.”


    NPR anchor ties term ‘illegal immigrant’ to Nazi Germany: “I don’t think I’ve known a single person who hasn’t broken the law,”

    Engineering Evil: Comments on this article are turned off…..This article has impact due to an attempt to control the language of the debate. Control the language and you influence the outcome. Even though there may be historical inaccuracies as well as poorly drawn comparisons, the article has tremendous weight. This is a well thought out campaign to associate the term illegal immigrant with a racist connotation.

    By Arturo Garcia Sunday, October 7, 2012 12:49 EDT

    Maria Hinojosa on Up With Chris Hayes 100612

    NPR Latino USA anchor María Hinojosa told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Sunday her opposition to the term “illegal immigrant” stemmed from a conversation with Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel years ago in which Wiesel said the term was part of the horrors he faced in his youth.

    “If there is an authority, you should be it,” Hinojosa said she told Wiesel. “And he said, ‘María, don’t ever use the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because once you label a people ‘illegal,’ that is exactly what the Nazis did to Jews.’ You do not label a people ‘illegal.’ They have committed an illegal act. They are immigrants who crossed illegally. They are immigrants who crossed without papers. They are immigrants who crossed without permission. They are living in this country without permission. But they are not an illegal people.”

    The use of the term resurfaced for debate this week, with undocumented journalist and immigration advocate Jose Antonio Vargas and New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan recently discussing the use of it in the press.

    “I see no advantage for Times readers in a move away from the paper’s use of the phrase ‘illegal immigrant,’” Sullivan wrote in an Oct. 2 column. “It is clear and accurate; it gets its job done in two words that are easily understood. The same cannot be said of the most frequently suggested alternatives — ‘unauthorized,’ ‘immigrants without legal status,’ ‘undocumented.’”

    Vargas, founder of the advocacy group Define American, reiterated his call Sunday for media outlets to stop using the term, saying the term ‘illegal’ underscores the media’s tendency to discuss the issue simplistically.

    “We have so largely dehumanized this issue,” Vargas said. “And our job as journalists — and I’m speaking as somebody who’s been doing this for more than a decade — is really being more descriptive in the way we use this term.”

    When Hayes brought up Sullivan’s point that “illegal” is a technical term while “undocumented” has its own connotation, Hinojosa asked if he knew someone who had broken the law.

    “I don’t think I’ve known a single person who hasn’t broken the law,” Hayes answered, at which point Hinojosa offered up hypothetical examples of people who have broken traffic laws, or failed to pay child support, or have not paid taxes.

    “That means that now your friends are an ‘illegal driver,’ an ‘illegal taxpayer’ and an ‘illegal father,’” Hinojosa suggested. “It is not a Latino issue. It is not an immigrant issue. Frankly, it’s not even an American issue. It’s a worldwide issue.”

    Raw Story (

    Archaeologists return to ancient Greek ‘computer’ wreck site: official

    By Agence France-Presse Friday, October 5, 2012 9:19 EDT

    Ancient Greek computer the Antikythera Mechanism via AFP

    A new search has begun at a Greek island where an ancient device known as the world’s “oldest computer” was found over a century ago, an official said Thursday, adding that other discoveries were possible.

    Archaeologists this week returned to Antikythera, the Aegean Sea island where sponge divers in 1900-1901 found the so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a remarkable 2nd-century BCE device that tracked the cycles of the solar system.

    “These are unexplored sea depths beneath a trade route known since antiquity,” said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece’s ephorate of underwater antiquities.

    “This is virgin territory,” she told AFP.

    Believed to operate by crank and containing inter-meshing gears, the mechanism could be used to calculate eclipses and moon cycles. The technology was comparable to astronomical clocks that only appeared some 1,600 years later.

    It was found in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome.

    The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, who has helped in past outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years.

    Foley is contributing autonomous underwater vehicles to map the seabed and rebreather equipment that partially recycles a diver’s oxygen and will enable the researchers to probe previously inaccessible depths, the senior archaeologist said.

    Simosi said she had visited Antikythera in 1985 during construction work to widen the local port of Potamos and the bay was “full of antiquities”.

    “I believe we could find something equivalent to the Antikythera Mechanism,” Simosi said.

    “If we do, the entire department will likely need to be sent out,” she said.

    The operation, jointly funded by the Greek state and Woods Hole, will continue until October 22

    Catholic theologian: Unseat pope and push ‘authoritarian’ church to radical reform

    By Kate Connolly, The Guardian Friday, October 5, 2012 14:26 EDT

    Pope Benedict XVI via Agence France-Presse

    Hans Küng urges confrontation from the grassroots to unseat pope and force radical reform at Vatican

    One of the world’s most prominent Catholic theologians has called for a revolution from below to unseat the pope and force radical reform at the Vatican.

    Hans Küng is appealing to priests and churchgoers to confront the Catholic hierarchy, which he says is corrupt, lacking credibility and apathetic to the real concerns of the church’s members.

    In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Küng, who had close contact with the pope when the two worked together as young theologians, described the church as an “authoritarian system” with parallels to Germany’s Nazi dictatorship.

    “The unconditional obedience demanded by bishops who swear their allegiance to the pope when they make their holy oath is almost as extreme as that of the German generals who were forced to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler,” he said.

    The Vatican made a point of crushing any form of clerical dissent, he added. “The rules for choosing bishops are so rigid that as soon as candidates emerge who say, stand up for the pill, or for the ordination of women, they are struck off the list.” The result was a church of “yes men”, almost all of whom unquestioningly toed the line.

    “The only way for reform is from the bottom up,” said Küng, 84, who is a priest. “The priests and others in positions of responsibility need to stop being so subservient, to organise themselves and say that there are certain things that they simply will not put up with anymore,” he added.

    Küng, the author of around 30 books on Catholic theology, Christianity and ethics, which have sold millions worldwide, said that inspiration for global change was to be found in his native Switzerland and in Austria, where hundreds of Catholic priests have formed movements advocating policies that openly defy current Vatican practices. The revolts have been described as unprecedented by Vatican observers, who say they are likely to cause deep schisms in the church.

    “I’ve always said that if one priest in a diocese is roused, that counts for nothing. Five will create a stir. Fifty are pretty much invincible. In Austria, the figure is well over 300, possibly up to 400 priests; in Switzerland it’s about 150 who have stood up and it will increase.”

    He said recent attempts by the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, to try to stamp out the uprising by threatening to punish those involved in the Austrian “priests’ initiative” had backfired owing to the strength of feeling. “He soon stopped when he realised that so many ordinary people are supportive of them and he was in danger of turning them all against him,” Küng said.

    The initiatives support such seemingly modest demands as letting divorced and remarried people receive communion, allowing non-ordained people to lead services and allowing women to take on important positions in the hierarchy. However, as they go against conventional Catholic teaching, the demands have been flatly rejected by the Vatican.

    Küng, who was stripped of the authority to teach Catholic theology by Pope John Paul II in 1979 for questioning the concept of papal infallibility, is credited with giving the present pope, Joseph Ratzinger as he then was, the first significant step up the hierarchy of Catholic academia when he called him to Tübingen University, in south-west Germany, as professor of dogmatic theology in 1966.

    The pair had worked closely together for four years in the 1960s as the youngest theological advisers on the second Vatican council – the most radical overhaul of the Catholic church since the middle ages.

    But the relationship between the two was never straightforward, with their political differences eventually driving a wedge between them. The dashing and flamboyant Hans Küng, by various accounts, often stole the limelight from the more earnest and staid Joseph Ratzinger.

    Küng refers to the “heap of legends” that abound about himself and Ratzinger from their “Tübingen days”, not least the apocryphal accounts of how he gave lifts in his “red sports car” to the bicycle-riding Ratzinger.

    “I often gave him a lift, particularly up the steep hills of Tübingen, yes, but too much has been made of this,” he said. “I didn’t drive a sports car, rather an Alfa Romeo Giulia. Ratzinger admitted himself that he had no interest in technology and had no driving licence. But it’s often been turned into some kind of pseudo-profound metaphor idealising the ‘cyclist’ and demonising the ‘Alfa Romeo driver’”.

    Indeed the “modest” and prudent “bicycle-rider” image that pope-to-be, now 85, fostered for years has all but evaporated since his 2005 inauguration, according to Küng.

    “He has developed a peculiar pomposity that doesn’t fit the man I and others knew, who once walked around in a Basque-style cap and was relatively modest. Now he’s frequently to be seen wrapped in golden splendour and swank. By his own volition he wears the crown of a 19th-century pope, and has even had the garments of the Medici pope Leo X remade for him.”

    That “pomposity”, he said, manifested itself most fully in the regular audiences who gather on St Peter’s Square in Rome. “What happens has Potemkin village dimensions,” he said. “Fanatical people go there to celebrate the pope, and tell him how wonderful he is, while meanwhile at home their own parishes are in a lamentable state, with a lack of priests, a far higher number than ever before of people who are leaving than are being baptised and now Vatileaks, which indicates just what a poor state the Vatican administration is in,” he said, referring to the scandal over leaked documents uncovering power struggles within the Vatican which has seen the pope’s former butler appear in court this week[CHECK].

    It was in Tübingen that the paths of the two theologians crossed for several years before diverging sharply following the student riots of 1968. Ratzinger was shocked by the events and escaped to the relative safety of his native Bavaria, where he deepened his involvement in the Catholic hierarchy. Küng stayed in Tübingen and increasingly assumed the role of the Catholic church’s enfant terrible.

    “The student revolts were a primal shock for Ratzinger and after that he became ever more conservative and part of the hierarchy of the church,” said Küng.

    Calling Pope Benedict XVI’s reign a “pontificate of missed opportunities”, in which he had foregone chances to reconcile with the Protestant, Jewish, orthodox and Muslim faiths, as well as failing to help the African fight against Aids by not allowing the use of birth control, Küng said his “gravest scandal” was the way he had “covered up” worldwide cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics during his time as the head of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Cardinal Ratzinger and had then failed to apologise.

    “The Vatican is no different from the Kremlin,” Küng said. “Just as Putin as a secret service agent became the head of Russia, so Ratzinger, as head of the Catholic church’s secret services, became head of the Vatican. He has never apologised for the fact that many cases of abuse were sealed under the secretum pontificium (papal secrecy), or acknowledged that this is a disaster for the Catholic church.” Küng described a process of “Putinisation” that has taken place at the Vatican.

    Yet despite their differences, the two have remained in contact. Küng visited the pope at his summer retreat, Castel Gandolfo, in 2005, during which the two held an intensive four-hour discussion.

    “It felt like we were on an equal footing – after all, we’d been colleagues for years. We walked through the park and there were times I thought he might turn the corner on certain issues, but it never happened. Since then we’ve still kept exchanging letters, but we’ve not met since.”

    Kung has travelled widely in his life, befriending everyone from Iranian leaders to John F. Kennedy, and Tony Blair with whom he forged close links a decade ago, becoming something of a spiritual guru for the then British prime minister ahead of his decision to convert to Catholicism.

    “I was impressed how he tackled the Northern Ireland conflict. But then came the Iraq war and I was extremely troubled by the way in which he collaborated with Bush. I wrote to him calling it a historical failure of the first order. He wrote me a hand-written note in reply, saying he respected my views and thankyou, but that I should know he was acting according to his conscience and was not trying to please the Americans. I was astounded that a British prime minister could make such a catastrophic mistake, and he remains for me a tragic figure.” He described Blair’s conversion to Catholicism as a mistake, insisting he should instead have used his role as a public figure to reconcile differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches in the UK.

    From his book-filled study, where a portrait of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century English Catholic martyr, hangs on the wall, Küng looks out on to his front garden and a two-metre-tall statue of himself. Critics have called it symptomatic of Kung’s inflated sense of his own importance. He is embarrassed as he attempts to explain how it was a gift from his 20-year-old Stiftung Weltethos, (Foundation for a Global Ethic), which operates from his house and will continue to do so after his death.

    Far from putting the brakes on his prolific theological output, Küng has recently distilled the ideas of Weltethos – which seeks to create a global code of behaviour, or a globalisation of ethics – into a capricious musical libretto. Mixing narrative with excerpts from the teachings of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Küng’s writings have been incorporated into a major symphonic work by the British composer Jonathan Harvey that will have its London premiere on Sunday at the Southbank Centre.

    Küng says the musical work, like the foundation, is an attempt to emphasise what the religions of the world have in common rather than what divides them.

    Weltethos was founded in the early 1990s as an attempt to bring the religions of the world together by emphasising what they have in common rather than what divides them. It has drawn up a code of behavioural rules that it hopes one day will be as universally acceptable as the UN.

    The work’s aim is arguably high-minded – Harvey described the demanding task of writing a score for the text as an “awe-inspring responsibility”. But Küng, who has won the support of leading figures including Henry Kissinger, Kofi Annan, Jacques Rogge, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Shirin Ebadi, insisted its aims were grounded in basic necessity.”At a time of paradigm change in the world, we need a common set of principles, most obvious among them the Golden Rule, in which Confucius taught to not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself,” he said.

    Weltethos will be performed at the Royal Festival Hall on October 7

    Swedish Internet sites unreachable after warning from Anonymous

    By Agence France-Presse Friday, October 5, 2012 20:00 EDT

    Several Swedish government websites could not be accessed Friday after they had received a warning the evening before from a group claiming to be the Anonymous collective file photo via AFP

    Several Swedish government websites could not be accessed Friday after they had received a warning the evening before from a group claiming to be the Anonymous collective, which supports fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    The Swedish branch of Anonymous denied it was behind the attacks.

    Assange is wanted by the Swedish authorities for questioning over allegations of sexual assault but has been under diplomatic protection inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London since mid-August.

    At midday the web sites of the Swedish Central Bank, the intelligence services, the Parliament and the courts could not be reached, AFP determined.

    They may have been the victims of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in which sites are saturated by requests.

    The Swedish branch of Anonymous, which communicates on the micro-blogging Twitter site under the name of @AnonOpsSweden, denied it was involved.

    “We call b(expletive) on the op… #nothingNew,” the message said in English.

    “Our theory on #opsweden its European Cyber Security Month/EU testdriving cyberattacks blaming it on #Anonymous,” it added in a later message.

    In a film posted on the online version of the tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet Friday a young man aged 18 said it was he who had published a video Thursday evening on the Internet site YouTube.

    In it a masked individual read in English in a female voice a message indicating that the sites of several Swedish public bodies would be attacked Friday.

    “It was I who made the film,” the young man said in the Aftonbladet contribution. “But I had help with the wording. I’m not so good in English,” he added.

    “We are going to attack the Central Bank and the police…and several other government sites,” the young man said. “It’ll be the worst thing ever done by Anonymous. It’ll mark world history.”

    All week Swedish public authorities and companies have experienced similar attacks. Police have linked them to the Assange affair.

    Internet attacks blocked access to several popular Swedish websites for part of Monday.

    [Image via Agence France-Presse]


    Dementia risk from sleeping tablets: Increases risk to Seniors by 50%

    Dementia risk from sleeping tablets: Pensioners on pills taken by 1.5m are  50% more likely to be hit, warns Harvard study

    • Academics  say side effects could be so harmful doctors should avoid prescribing  them
    • Scientists  believe sleeping pills may interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain,  possibly causing dementia
    • Doctors  made 10million sleeping pill prescriptions last year

    By Sophie Borland

    PUBLISHED:18:00 EST, 27  September 2012 | UPDATED:02:17 EST, 28 September 2012

    Around 1.5m Britons are thought to be taking sleeping pills at any one time, with over 10million prescriptions handed out every year
    Around 1.5m Britons are thought to be taking sleeping  pills at any one time, with over 10million prescriptions handed out every  year

    Sleeping pills taken by more than a million  Britons significantly increase the risk of dementia, researchers warn  today.

    Pensioners who used benzodiazepines – which  include temazepam and diazepam – were 50 per cent more likely to succumb to the  devastating illness, a Harvard University study found.

    Academics believe the side effects of the  drugs may be so harmful that doctors should avoid prescribing them.

    Around 1.5million Britons are believed to be  taking the pills at any one time and more than 10million  prescriptions are  handed out a year.

    The researchers also estimate that up to 8  per cent of the over-65s have  used them within the last few years to treat  insomnia or anxiety.

    But there is growing evidence that they have  serious side effects and a  number of studies have linked them to falls, memory  problems, panic  attacks and early death.

    Academics from Harvard University in the US  and the University of Bordeaux in  France discovered that over-65s who had taken  the drugs within the last  15 years were 50 per cent more likely to get  dementia.

    The drugs can only be obtained by a  prescription. They work by changing the way messages are transmitted to the  brain, which induces a calming  effect.

    But scientists believe that at the  same time  they may be interfering with chemicals in the brain known as  neurotransmitters,  which may be causing dementia.

    Professor Tobias Kurth, who works jointly at  Harvard University’s School of  Public Health and the University of Bordeaux,  said: ‘There is a  potential that these drugs are really harmful.

    ‘If it is really true that these drugs are  causing dementia that will be  huge. But one single study does not necessarily  show everything that is  going on, so there is no need to panic.

    ‘These drugs certainly have their benefits  and if you prescribe them in a way they should be prescribed they treat very  well.’

    The study, published today in the British  Medical Journal, involved 1,063 men and women over the age of 65 for a period of  20 years in south west France. Initially none of the participants had dementia  and no one was taking benzodiazepines.

    Risk: Academics believe the side-effects of some sleeping tablets could be so harmful doctors should avoid prescribing themRisk: Academics believe the side-effects of some  sleeping tablets could be so harmful doctors should avoid prescribing them

    The researchers followed them up after 15  years and found that 253 had developed dementia. They worked out that out of 100  not taking the drug, 3.2 would be expected to get the illness.

    But among 100 patients on these drugs, 4.8  would get dementia – a significantly higher proportion. The patients had taken  the pills at least once – over the course of a week or so – at some point in the  previous 15 years.

    The study concluded: ‘Considering the extent  to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse  effects, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.’

    In the last 20 years the number of  prescriptions for benzodiazepines has fallen by 40 per cent, largely due to  concerns that patients were becoming addicted.

    But they remain one of the most commonly used  drugs and there are fears some patients are taking them for far too  long.

    ‘Considering the extent to which  benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse  effects,  indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.’

    A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘This is the not the first time it has been suggested that these drugs could  have a negative impact on cognition. With this long-term study adding to the  evidence, it emphasises how important it is we properly monitor how treatments  for anxiety or sleep problems are used.’

    A study last year from Cardiff University  found that Britons who had used the pills were 60 per cent more at risk from  dementia. The study of 1,160 men aged 45 to 85 found that 9 per cent had taken  them at least once over the last two decades.

    Earlier this year American researchers found  the drugs heightened the risk of early death. Their study showed that even  patients taking between four and 18 pills a year were 3.6 times more likely to  die prematurely. Those on more than 132 pills a year were 5.3 times more likely  to die.

    Dementia is one of the biggest burdens facing  the NHS. Some experts believe the cost of caring for patients will rise to £35billion annually within the next two decades.

    There are currently 800,000 Britons with  dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease

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    France and Germany revive plan to tax financial markets

    By Agence France-Presse
    Friday, September 28, 2012 13:26 EDT

    A tourist takes a picture of the skyline of the banking district from the roof of a building in Frankfurt. (AFP Photo)

    France and Germany are bidding to revive a controversial financial transactions tax (FTT), seeking support from the European Commission and enough EU partners to start the tax in a core group.

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and French counterpart Pierre Moscovici wrote to European Taxation Commissioner Algirdas Semeta and their EU colleagues seeking permission for an “enhanced cooperation” accord which could be implemented if one third of all EU states back it.

    The two ministers said in their letters, undated according to copies seen by AFP on Friday, that their governments “request” that the Commission formally ask the 27 EU member states for “a decision authorising enhanced cooperation with regard to the creation of a common system of financial transaction tax.”


    A bid by the Commission to introduce such a tax — aimed at curbing the market excesses that led to the 2008 global financial crisis — in all 27 EU states failed in June, in part due to British concerns over the City of London’s future.

    Under its provisions, a tax of 0.1 percent would have been levied on share and bond trades, and 0.01 percent on other transactions, generating billions of euros in revenue according to the Commission.

    France and Germany hope a FTT can be operational by the end of this year based on the support of nine states, but first they will need a positive vote by qualified majority, which means they need backing from London and other opponents who would not be joining in.

    If they don’t get it through before the end of June next year, they will need to find a 10th state to back them, because Croatia will become the EU’s 28th member on July 1.

    The European Parliament, an easier prospect, will also have to give its seal of approval.

    The European Commission said it welcomed the French and German initiative “as a means of keeping up the momentum behind an EU FTT.”


    “We believe that that the FTT has huge benefits to offer, even if applied by a limited group of member states,” said Emer Traynor, a spokeswoman for Semeta.

    “We therefore urge the other interested … states to send their letters of request to reach this quota.

    “Citizens are waiting for this tax, so the sooner it can progress, the better,” Traynor added

    World’s smallest state, Vatican holds one-of-a-kind trial of Pope’s former butler

    By Agence France-Presse Friday, September 28, 2012 8:03 EDT


    The trial of Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler and a Vatican computer technician for leaking secret papers starting on Saturday has no precedent since the Holy See became a sovereign state in 1929.

    The 19th-century courtroom where the trial takes place is tucked away behind the apse of St. Peter’s basilica in a corner of the city state that is strictly off-limits to the millions of tourists who visit the Vatican every year.

    The Vatican’s criminal court is separate from the legal system of the Catholic Church but the pope holds sweeping powers, including the right to pardon suspects before or during the trial, as well as after a conviction.

    “The Holy Father holds legislative, executive and judiciary powers. Court rulings are issued in the name of the Holy Father,” Giovanni Giacobbe, a law professor and appeals court judge at the Vatican tribunal, told reporters.

    The Vatican court holds only around 30 trials a year — almost all of them involving petty theft at the expense of tourists or small drug offences.

    Bigger cases — such as the attempted assassination of late pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981 — are usually transferred to Italian courts.

    The tiny courtroom where the trial will be held has a crucifix at the centre above the three lay Italian judges who will try the case — presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre along with Paolo Papanti Pelletier and Venerando Marano.

    Prosecutor Nicola Picardi — known as “promoter of justice” — is also lay.

    A portrait of Pius XI, who concluded the Lateran Accords of 1929 with the Kingdom of Italy, hangs over the wood-panelled judge’s chambers.

    Among the few concessions to modernity in the 50-seat court are a brand new metal detector outside and the plastic chairs in the gallery.

    The trial is theoretically open to the public but this is only possible with special permission from the presiding judge, so in practice few if any people not involved with the court proceedings are expected to attend.

    The three judges have Italian citizenship, along with computer technician Claudio Sciarpelletti, while the former butler, Paolo Gabriele, is one of just 594 citizens of the Vatican — the world’s smallest sovereign state.

    Gabriele is accused of aggravated theft for allegedly stealing confidential Vatican papers, a charge that carries a sentence of up to four years. Sciarpelletti faces up to a year in prison for abetting the crime.

    “This is a unique trial, it has no precedent,” Carlo Cardia, a professor of ecclesiastical law at Rome III University told La Repubblica daily.

    The last comparable trial was in 1971 when four employees of the Vatican’s telephone exchange were tried for stealing papal medals from then pope Paul VI’s chambers while he was away, a trial that lasted six days.

    Two of the four defendants were found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison but were pardoned by the pope and never served time.

    An investigation into a Swiss woman who knocked down the pope at Christmas Mass in 2009 never led to a trial since she was found to be insane.

    The Vatican has no prison and if sentenced Gabriele and Sciarpelletti would have to be transferred to an Italian prison under a pre-existing agreement.

    Even if they were sentenced, Gabriele and Sciarpelletti would probably not actually do prison time until the result of a possible appeal was clear.

    After his arrest in May, Gabriele was held for 53 days in one of three security rooms at the headquarters Vatican gendarmerie — a sort of police force with around 130 members that is separate from the Swiss Guards.

    Gabriele at the time was only allowed out to attend mass but has since been put under conditions of house arrest. He is not obliged to attend the trial although it is expected he will in order to justify himself.

    Witnesses including high-placed prelates could also be called to testify during the trial. The pope’s secretary, Georg Gaenswein, has spoken to investigators and given evidence against Gabriele and could be called again.

    A key question is whether the ongoing investigation could lead to a new trial. Many reports in the Italian press suggest that more people were involved in the plot to leak. Gabriele himself has said there could be “around 20″.

    The criminal code the trial is taking place under dates back to the late 19th century after the Vatican lost its independence following the Unification of Italy in 1870. It was updated in 1913 and

    Tesla promises free solar-powered travel with new ‘Supercharger’ tech

    By Stephen C. Webster Tuesday, September 25, 2012 15:38 EDT

    Tesla Motors' "Supercharger." Photo: Screenshot via UStream.

    Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors announced Monday that it will roll out a network of solar-powered charging stations across the United States over the next two years, enabling owners of the company’s all-electric “Model S” vehicles to “travel for free, forever, on pure sunlight.”

    Appearing at an unveiling event Monday in Hawthorne, California, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the same creative force behind PayPal and SpaceX, said the company’s new charging technology is an important advancement in human history because it could soon free zero-emission vehicles from limited areas of operation.

    More importantly, he said the company’s “Superchargers” add 150 miles to a car’s range in just 30 minutes — a dramatic improvement over other current vehicle charging technology.

    “People have this idea that if you have an electric car, there’s no freedom. You’re stuck,” he said. “They have this idea that you can’t go anywhere. What we’re showing today is, in fact, you’ll have more freedom [with electric cars] than with anything. You’ll be able to go anywhere and feel really good about your travel. If you want to go from L.A. to New York, if you pack food and stay with friends you can leave your wallet at home.”

    Tesla’s “Superchargers” look like something out of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” shaped like a tall, pointy oblong tower bearing the company’s logo. It works by connecting directly to the car’s battery through special cables designed specifically by Tesla, supposedly enabling the vehicle to charge much faster than with older technology.

    The chargers are, for now, only compatible with Tesla’s Model S, which goes on sale this fall at several price points. Other electric vehicles will not be compatible, including the Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S sedans with batteries smaller than 60-kWh.

    Musk said that Tesla plans to blanket the U.S. with a “Supercharger network” in the next two years, with a planned expansion covering the whole country and parts of Canada within the next five. The company also plans to install Superchargers in Europe and Asia in 2013, he added.

    While that all certainly sounds good, it remains to be seen whether Tesla can deliver on Musk’s lofty goals. The company’s first car, the Tesla Roadster, was repeatedly delayed during production after the company’s founder, Martin Eberhard, stepped down as CEO.

    This video is from Tesla’s Supercharger unveiling event, broadcast Monday, Sept. 24, 2012

    Citizens United ruling accounts for 78 percent of 2012 election spending

    By Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian
    Monday, September 24, 2012 19:54 EDT

    Money in politics photo via Shuttershock

    Almost $465m of outside money has been spent on the US presidential election campaign so far, including $365m that can be attributed to the supreme court’s landmark Citizens United ruling, according to a report released on Monday.

    Super Pacs, which came into effect following the 2010 Citizens United verdict, accounted for $272m of the expenditure in the study, conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to increasing transparency in government.

    A further $93m has been spent by corporations, trade associations and non-profits which, according to the supreme court’s decision, are able to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigning without disclosing the source of their funds.

    “This cycle’s outside spending mostly comes in the form of ‘independent expenditures’ supporting or opposing political candidates by unions, corporations, trade associations, non-profit groups and Super Pacs,” wrote Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation.

    “This money enabled outside groups to run shadow campaigns for or against candidates of their choice.”

    Kiely said around 78% of outside spending in 2012 – $365m of the total $465m – could be attributed to the “Citizens United effect”. The 2010 ruling by the supreme court in the case of Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on campaigning, enabling Super Pacs to spend unlimited amounts as long as they had no coordination with the candidates they support.

    In reality, those running Super PACs have often have close ties to political parties. Former George W Bush advisor Karl Rove runs the conservative American Crossroads Super Pac, while Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney Super Pac, was founded by former Romney aides.

    The money spent by Super Pacs, unions, corporations and non-profit groups is more than double what those groups spent in 2010, the first campaign in which the supreme court judgment had taken effect. Although Super Pacs are usually thought of being aligned with presidential candidates, the Sunlight Foundation found that much of these groups’ recent spending has been focussed on more localised electoral battles.

    “A deeper dive into the data shows that the latest uptick in outside spending is focused on congressional races: even in presidential battleground states, almost all the spending by outside groups is focused on House and Senate candidates,” Kiely wrote.

    Recent expenditure includes Crossroads GPS spending $400,000 in Nevada against Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Berkley; Workers Voice, an AFL-CIO Super Pac, logged hundreds of expenditures in the $25-60 range in Florida, indicating a get-out-the-vote effort for senator Bill Nelson, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

    Of $465m of outside money spent so far in 2012 $460.8m comes from Super Pacs, corporations and other groups which do not have to register as political groups. An additional $4.1m comes from “electioneering communications”: advertisements or political activities that focus on issues and policies – the oil industry, for example – and encourage voters to support a candidate without mentioning any politicians by name.

    The Sunlight Foundation’s data shows a heavy skew towards negative campaigning, with $99.2m so far spent supporting a candidate and $360.7m opposing a candidate. Some $131.1m has been spent on communications opposing President Barack Obama, with a relatively small $50.7m spent opposing Mitt Romney.

    The figures also show that $21.3m has been spent opposing Rick Santorum – a nod to his surprising endurance during the Republican primaries – and $18.8m has been spent on opposing Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina and Georgia primaries before fading from the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

    Looking at the money spent supporting rather than opposing candidates, Romney comes out on top, with $15.7m spent in his favour. Gingrich comes second, having had $13.5m invested in his bid for the presidency. Just $6.4m of outside money has been spent in support of Obama. © Guardian News and Media 2012

    Gary Johnson files anti-trust lawsuit to appear in presidential debates

    By Jonathan Terbush Sunday, September 23, 2012 13:17 EDT

    [Image via Governor Gary Johnson on Flickr]

    Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson filed an anti-trust lawsuit suit in federal court Friday alleging that the Democratic and Republican parties are conspiring to keep third-party candidates out of the presidential debates and, as a result, out of the White House.

    In the suit, Johnson’s attorneys argue that the rules of the televised debates, which are set by the major parties, are deliberately structured to bar third party candidates and quash their candidacies. The suit asks that the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. therefore impose a temporary restraining order blocking the debates until all “constitutionally eligible” candidates be allowed to participate.

    “The view that presidential debates are critical to the outcome of the election is now universally held,” the suit reads. “From that premise, it follows that the participation by a candidate in the nationally-televised debates is equally critical to his or her candidacy.”

    The debate rules specify that to be included, candidates must receive at least 15% in a major poll. Most major polls do not even list Johnson as an option.

    The suit argues that since the president and vice president are paid a salary, the pursuit of the White House can be defined as commerce and thus be regulated by the Sherman Antitrust Act.

    “In agreeing to these rules to exclude the plaintiff from participating in the debates, the defendants are conspiring and contracting to restrain the plaintiffs from participating in the electoral process,” it reads.

    Johnson was also barred from nearly every single Republican primary debate this election cycle, with organizers saying he did not register enough poll support to merit inclusion. He ultimately abandoned his campaign for the GOP nod, opting to instead pursue the White House on the Libertarian ticket.

    Televised presidential debates date back to 1960, and have been a regular event since the 1976 election. Originally administered by the League of Women Voters, they’ve been jointly organized by the Democratic and Republican parties through the Commission on Presidential Debates—a group the two parties jointly formed—since 1987.

    In 2000, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan both unsuccessfully filed suit against the CPD challenging its legitimacy and asking to be included in the debates

    Raw Story (

    More than 1,000 pastors plan to challenge IRS by endorsing presidential candidate

    By Eric W. Dolan Sunday, September 23, 2012 11:10 EDT

    Preacher holding Bible via Shutterstock

    More than 1,000 pastors plan to openly defy the IRS by telling their congregation on October 7 to vote for a particular presidential candidate, according to Fox News.

    The annual event, dubbed “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” has been organized by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom. The pastors participating in the event plan to preach about the election, endorse a candidate, and send video of their sermon to the IRS.

    “The purpose is to make sure that the pastor — and not the IRS — decides what is said from the pulpit,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group, told “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”

    The Johnson amendment in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt charities and churches from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate. The IRS has been reluctant to revoke churches’ tax-exempt status for violating the more than 50-year-old IRS rule, but the agency has issued written warnings to dozens of churches.

    “The IRS will send out notices from time to time and say you crossed the line,” Jim Garlow, a senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, told “But when it’s time to go to court, they close the case.”

    The goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to force the IRS to take churches to court and have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional.

    Americans United for Church and State has pushed back against the event, sending letters to 60,000 houses of worship that urge them to obey federal tax law.

    “People don’t join churches because they want to be told how to vote,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Our letter reminds religious leaders about what the law requires, why it makes sense and how it could affect them.”

    “Most clergy of all faiths know it’s inappropriate to use their pulpits to stump for political candidates,” he added. “But there are very vocal misguided religious and political forces that constantly prod religious leaders to violate federal tax law. We urge clergy to just say no.”

    In response, the Alliance Defending Freedom accused Americans United for Church and State of trying to “intimidate churches into silence.”

    [Preacher holding Bible via Shutterstock]

    Discovery: Humans hunted for meat 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

    By Robin McKie, The Observer Sunday, September 23, 2012 1:29 EDT

    Zebra (Equus burchelli) in the great migration via Shutterstock

    Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

    Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

    Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

    But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.

    “We know that humans ate meat two million years ago,” said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). “What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted.”

    That finding has major implications, he added. “Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany where horses were clearly being speared and their flesh eaten. We have now pushed that date back to around two million years ago.”

    The hunting instinct of early humans is a controversial subject. In the first half of the 20th century, many scientists argued that our ancestors’ urge to hunt and kill drove us to develop spears and axes and to evolve bigger and bigger brains in order to handle these increasingly complex weapons. Extreme violence is in our nature, it was argued by fossil experts such as Raymond Dart and writers like Robert Ardrey, whose book African Genesis on the subject was particularly influential. By the 80s, the idea had run out of favour, and scientists argued that our larger brains evolved mainly to help us co-operate with each other. We developed language and other skills that helped us maintain complex societies.

    “I don’t disagree with this scenario,” said Bunn. “But it has led us to downplay the hunting abilities of our early ancestors. People have dismissed them as mere scavengers and I don’t think that looks right any more.”

    In his study, Bunn and his colleagues looked at a huge butchery site in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The carcasses of wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles were brought there by ancient humans, most probably members of the species Homo habilis, more than 1.8 million years ago. The meat was then stripped from the animals’ bones and eaten.

    “We decided to look at the ages of the animals that had been dragged there,” said Benn. “By studying the teeth in the skulls that were left, we could get a very precise indication of what type of meat these early humans were consuming. Were they bringing back creatures that were in their prime or were old or young? Then we compared our results with the kinds of animals killed by lions and leopards.”

    The results for several species of large antelope Bunn analysed showed that humans preferred only adult animals in their prime, for example. Lions and leopards killed old, young and adults indiscriminately. For small antelope species, the picture was slightly different. Humans preferred only older animals, while lions and leopards had a fancy only for adults in their prime.

    “For all the animals we looked at, we found a completely different pattern of meat preference between ancient humans and other carnivores, indicating that we were not just scavenging from lions and leopards and taking their leftovers. We were picking what we wanted and were killing it ourselves.”

    Bunn believes these early humans probably sat in trees and waited until herds of antelopes or gazelles passed below, then speared them at point-blank range. This skill, developed far earlier than suspected, was to have profound implications. Once our species got a taste for meat, it was provided with a dense, protein-rich source of energy. We no longer needed to invest internal resources on huge digestive tracts that were previously required to process vegetation and fruit, which are more difficult to digest. Freed from that task by meat, the new, energy-rich resources were then diverted inside our bodies and used to fuel our growing brains.

    As a result, over the next two million years our crania grew, producing species of humans with increasingly large brains – until this carnivorous predilection produced Homo sapiens.

    Swine flu vaccine linked to child narcolepsy: EU Confirmation

    By Agence France-Presse Saturday, September 22, 2012 1:15 EDT


    A swine flu vaccine used in 2009-10 is linked to a higher risk of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy in children and teens in Sweden and Finland, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Friday.

    The EU agency studied the effects of the Pandemrix vaccine on children in eight European countries after Sweden and Finland reported higher incidences of narcolepsy among children who were inoculated with the vaccine during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and 2010.

    “The case-control study found an association between vaccination with Pandemrix and an increased risk of narcolepsy in children and adolescents (five to 19 years of age) in Sweden and Finland,” the ECDC said.

    “The overall number of new cases of narcolepsy being reported after September 2009 was much higher in Sweden and Finland … compared with the other countries participating in the study,” it said.

    In the six other countries — Britain, Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Norway — no link was found based on a strict statistical analysis, which tried to address media bias.

    However, other confirmatory analyses did identify an increased risk, the report said.

    The report included several recommendations for further study to try to distinguish between true vaccine effects and media attention.

    An ECDC spokesman said that while the study did not quantify the increased risk compared with non-vaccination, national studies showed the risk of developing narcolepsy after taking Pandemrix, which is produced by British drug company GlaxoSmithKline, was around one in 20,000 for children and adolescents.

    Narcolepsy is a chronic nervous system disorder that causes excessive drowsiness, often causing people to fall asleep uncontrollably, and in more severe cases to suffer hallucinations or paralysing physical collapses called cataplexy.

    In Finland, 79 children aged four to 19 developed narcolepsy after receiving the Pandemrix vaccine in 2009 and 2010, while in Sweden the number was close to 200, according to figures in the two countries.

    Both countries recommended their populations, of around five and 10 million respectively, to take part in mass vaccinations during the swine flu scare. Pandemrix was the only vaccine used in both countries.

    Meanwhile, a recent study in the medical journal The Lancet said that between five and 17 people in Finland aged 0-17 are estimated to have died as a direct result of the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, while the same number for Sweden was nine to 31.

    In the past year, the Finnish and Swedish governments have both agreed to provide financial compensation for the affected children after their own national research showed a link between the inoculation and narcolepsy

    The drugs don’t work: a modern medical scandal

    The doctors prescribing the drugs don’t know they don’t do what they’re meant to. Nor do their patients. The manufacturers know full well, but they’re not telling.

      Ben Goldacre The Guardian,   Friday 21 September 2012 18.00 EDT


      Drugs are tested by their manufacturers,  in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that exaggerate the benefits. Photograph: Photograph: Getty Images. Digital manipulation: Phil Partridge for GNL Imaging

      Reboxetine is a drug I have prescribed. Other drugs had done nothing for my patient, so we wanted to try something new. I’d read the trial data before I wrote the prescription, and found only well-designed, fair tests, with overwhelmingly positive results. Reboxetine was better than a placebo, and as good as any other antidepressant in head-to-head comparisons. It’s approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (the MHRA), which governs all drugs in the UK. Millions of doses are prescribed every year, around the world. Reboxetine was clearly a safe and effective treatment. The patient and I discussed the evidence briefly, and agreed it was the right treatment to try next. I signed a prescription.

      But we had both been misled. In October 2010, a group of researchers was finally able to bring together all the data that had ever been collected on reboxetine, both from trials that were published and from those that had never appeared in academic papers. When all this trial data was put together, it produced a shocking picture. Seven trials had been conducted comparing reboxetine against a placebo. Only one, conducted in 254 patients, had a neat, positive result, and that one was published in an academic journal, for doctors and researchers to read. But six more trials were conducted, in almost 10 times as many patients. All of them showed that reboxetine was no better than a dummy sugar pill. None of these trials was published. I had no idea they existed.

      It got worse. The trials comparing reboxetine against other drugs showed exactly the same picture: three small studies, 507 patients in total, showed that reboxetine was just as good as any other drug. They were all published. But 1,657 patients’ worth of data was left unpublished, and this unpublished data showed that patients on reboxetine did worse than those on other drugs. If all this wasn’t bad enough, there was also the side-effects data. The drug looked fine in the trials that appeared in the academic literature; but when we saw the unpublished studies, it turned out that patients were more likely to have side-effects, more likely to drop out of taking the drug and more likely to withdraw from the trial because of side-effects, if they were taking reboxetine rather than one of its competitors.

      I did everything a doctor is supposed to do. I read all the papers, I critically appraised them, I understood them, I discussed them with the patient and we made a decision together, based on the evidence. In the published data, reboxetine was a safe and effective drug. In reality, it was no better than a sugar pill and, worse, it does more harm than good. As a doctor, I did something that, on the balance of all the evidence, harmed my patient, simply because unflattering data was left unpublished.

      Nobody broke any law in that situation, reboxetine is still on the market and the system that allowed all this to happen is still in play, for all drugs, in all countries in the world. Negative data goes missing, for all treatments, in all areas of science. The regulators and professional bodies we would reasonably expect to stamp out such practices have failed us. These problems have been protected from public scrutiny because they’re too complex to capture in a soundbite. This is why they’ve gone unfixed by politicians, at least to some extent; but it’s also why it takes detail to explain. The people you should have been able to trust to fix these problems have failed you, and because you have to understand a problem properly in order to fix it, there are some things you need to know.

      Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion.

      In their 40 years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works ad hoc, from sales reps, colleagues and journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are, too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all.

      Now, on to the details.

      In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug – antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on – then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin. These cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce your risk of having a heart attack and are prescribed in very large quantities. This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.

      These are frightening results, but they come from individual studies. So let’s consider systematic reviews into this area. In 2003, two were published. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results. A further review in 2007 looked at the new studies in the intervening four years: it found 20 more pieces of work, and all but two showed that industry-sponsored trials were more likely to report flattering results.

      It turns out that this pattern persists even when you move away from published academic papers and look instead at trial reports from academic conferences. James Fries and Eswar Krishnan, at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, studied all the research abstracts presented at the 2001 American College of Rheumatology meetings which reported any kind of trial and acknowledged industry sponsorship, in order to find out what proportion had results that favoured the sponsor’s drug.

      In general, the results section of an academic paper is extensive: the raw numbers are given for each outcome, and for each possible causal factor, but not just as raw figures. The “ranges” are given, subgroups are explored, statistical tests conducted, and each detail is described in table form, and in shorter narrative form in the text. This lengthy process is usually spread over several pages. In Fries and Krishnan (2004), this level of detail was unnecessary. The results section is a single, simple and – I like to imagine – fairly passive-aggressive sentence:

      “The results from every randomised controlled trial (45 out of 45) favoured the drug of the sponsor.”

      How does this happen? How do industry-sponsored trials almost always manage to get a positive result? Sometimes trials are flawed by design. You can compare your new drug with something you know to be rubbish – an existing drug at an inadequate dose, perhaps, or a placebo sugar pill that does almost nothing. You can choose your patients very carefully, so they are more likely to get better on your treatment. You can peek at the results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good. But after all these methodological quirks comes one very simple insult to the integrity of the data. Sometimes, drug companies conduct lots of trials, and when they see that the results are unflattering, they simply fail to publish them.

      Because researchers are free to bury any result they please, patients are exposed to harm on a staggering scale throughout the whole of medicine. Doctors can have no idea about the true effects of the treatments they give. Does this drug really work best, or have I simply been deprived of half the data? No one can tell. Is this expensive drug worth the money, or has the data simply been massaged? No one can tell. Will this drug kill patients? Is there any evidence that it’s dangerous? No one can tell. This is a bizarre situation to arise in medicine, a discipline in which everything is supposed to be based on evidence.

      And this data is withheld from everyone in medicine, from top to bottom. Nice, for example, is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, created by the British government to conduct careful, unbiased summaries of all the evidence on new treatments. It is unable either to identify or to access data on a drug’s effectiveness that’s been withheld by researchers or companies: Nice has no more legal right to that data than you or I do, even though it is making decisions about effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, on behalf of the NHS, for millions of people.

      In any sensible world, when researchers are conducting trials on a new tablet for a drug company, for example, we’d expect universal contracts, making it clear that all researchers are obliged to publish their results, and that industry sponsors – which have a huge interest in positive results – must have no control over the data. But, despite everything we know about industry-funded research being systematically biased, this does not happen. In fact, the opposite is true: it is entirely normal for researchers and academics conducting industry-funded trials to sign contracts subjecting them to gagging clauses that forbid them to publish, discuss or analyse data from their trials without the permission of the funder.

      This is such a secretive and shameful situation that even trying to document it in public can be a fraught business. In 2006, a paper was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), one of the biggest medical journals in the world, describing how common it was for researchers doing industry-funded trials to have these kinds of constraints placed on their right to publish the results. The study was conducted by the Nordic Cochrane Centre and it looked at all the trials given approval to go ahead in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. (If you’re wondering why these two cities were chosen, it was simply a matter of practicality: the researchers applied elsewhere without success, and were specifically refused access to data in the UK.) These trials were overwhelmingly sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry (98%) and the rules governing the management of the results tell a story that walks the now familiar line between frightening and absurd.

      For 16 of the 44 trials, the sponsoring company got to see the data as it accumulated, and in a further 16 it had the right to stop the trial at any time, for any reason. This means that a company can see if a trial is going against it, and can interfere as it progresses, distorting the results. Even if the study was allowed to finish, the data could still be suppressed: there were constraints on publication rights in 40 of the 44 trials, and in half of them the contracts specifically stated that the sponsor either owned the data outright (what about the patients, you might say?), or needed to approve the final publication, or both. None of these restrictions was mentioned in any of the published papers.

      When the paper describing this situation was published in Jama, Lif, the Danish pharmaceutical industry association, responded by announcing, in the Journal of the Danish Medical Association, that it was “both shaken and enraged about the criticism, that could not be recognised”. It demanded an investigation of the scientists, though it failed to say by whom or of what. Lif then wrote to the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, accusing the Cochrane researchers of scientific misconduct. We can’t see the letter, but the researchers say the allegations were extremely serious – they were accused of deliberately distorting the data – but vague, and without documents or evidence to back them up.

      Nonetheless, the investigation went on for a year. Peter Gøtzsche, director of the Cochrane Centre, told the British Medical Journal that only Lif’s third letter, 10 months into this process, made specific allegations that could be investigated by the committee. Two months after that, the charges were dismissed. The Cochrane researchers had done nothing wrong. But before they were cleared, Lif copied the letters alleging scientific dishonesty to the hospital where four of them worked, and to the management organisation running that hospital, and sent similar letters to the Danish medical association, the ministry of health, the ministry of science and so on. Gøtzsche and his colleagues felt “intimidated and harassed” by Lif’s behaviour. Lif continued to insist that the researchers were guilty of misconduct even after the investigation was completed.

      Paroxetine is a commonly used antidepressant, from the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. It’s also a good example of how companies have exploited our long-standing permissiveness about missing trials, and found loopholes in our inadequate regulations on trial disclosure.

      To understand why, we first need to go through a quirk of the licensing process. Drugs do not simply come on to the market for use in all medical conditions: for any specific use of any drug, in any specific disease, you need a separate marketing authorisation. So a drug might be licensed to treat ovarian cancer, for example, but not breast cancer. That doesn’t mean the drug doesn’t work in breast cancer. There might well be some evidence that it’s great for treating that disease, too, but maybe the company hasn’t gone to the trouble and expense of getting a formal marketing authorisation for that specific use. Doctors can still go ahead and prescribe it for breast cancer, if they want, because the drug is available for prescription, it probably works, and there are boxes of it sitting in pharmacies waiting to go out. In this situation, the doctor will be prescribing the drug legally, but “off-label”.

      Now, it turns out that the use of a drug in children is treated as a separate marketing authorisation from its use in adults. This makes sense in many cases, because children can respond to drugs in very different ways and so research needs to be done in children separately. But getting a licence for a specific use is an arduous business, requiring lots of paperwork and some specific studies. Often, this will be so expensive that companies will not bother to get a licence specifically to market a drug for use in children, because that market is usually much smaller.

      So it is not unusual for a drug to be licensed for use in adults but then prescribed for children. Regulators have recognised that this is a problem, so recently they have started to offer incentives for companies to conduct more research and formally seek these licences.

      When GlaxoSmithKline applied for a marketing authorisation in children for paroxetine, an extraordinary situation came to light, triggering the longest investigation in the history of UK drugs regulation. Between 1994 and 2002, GSK conducted nine trials of paroxetine in children. The first two failed to show any benefit, but the company made no attempt to inform anyone of this by changing the “drug label” that is sent to all doctors and patients. In fact, after these trials were completed, an internal company management document stated: “It would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy had not been demonstrated, as this would undermine the profile of paroxetine.” In the year after this secret internal memo, 32,000 prescriptions were issued to children for paroxetine in the UK alone: so, while the company knew the drug didn’t work in children, it was in no hurry to tell doctors that, despite knowing that large numbers of children were taking it. More trials were conducted over the coming years – nine in total – and none showed that the drug was effective at treating depression in children.

      It gets much worse than that. These children weren’t simply receiving a drug that the company knew to be ineffective for them; they were also being exposed to side-effects. This should be self-evident, since any effective treatment will have some side-effects, and doctors factor this in, alongside the benefits (which in this case were nonexistent). But nobody knew how bad these side-effects were, because the company didn’t tell doctors, or patients, or even the regulator about the worrying safety data from its trials. This was because of a loophole: you have to tell the regulator only about side-effects reported in studies looking at the specific uses for which the drug has a marketing authorisation. Because the use of paroxetine in children was “off-label”, GSK had no legal obligation to tell anyone about what it had found.

      People had worried for a long time that paroxetine might increase the risk of suicide, though that is quite a difficult side-effect to detect in an antidepressant. In February 2003, GSK spontaneously sent the MHRA a package of information on the risk of suicide on paroxetine, containing some analyses done in 2002 from adverse-event data in trials the company had held, going back a decade. This analysis showed that there was no increased risk of suicide. But it was misleading: although it was unclear at the time, data from trials in children had been mixed in with data from trials in adults, which had vastly greater numbers of participants. As a result, any sign of increased suicide risk among children on paroxetine had been completely diluted away.

      Later in 2003, GSK had a meeting with the MHRA to discuss another issue involving paroxetine. At the end of this meeting, the GSK representatives gave out a briefing document, explaining that the company was planning to apply later that year for a specific marketing authorisation to use paroxetine in children. They mentioned, while handing out the document, that the MHRA might wish to bear in mind a safety concern the company had noted: an increased risk of suicide among children with depression who received paroxetine, compared with those on dummy placebo pills.

      This was vitally important side-effect data, being presented, after an astonishing delay, casually, through an entirely inappropriate and unofficial channel. Although the data was given to completely the wrong team, the MHRA staff present at this meeting had the wit to spot that this was an important new problem. A flurry of activity followed: analyses were done, and within one month a letter was sent to all doctors advising them not to prescribe paroxetine to patients under the age of 18.

      How is it possible that our systems for getting data from companies are so poor, they can simply withhold vitally important information showing that a drug is not only ineffective, but actively dangerous? Because the regulations contain ridiculous loopholes, and it’s dismal to see how GSK cheerfully exploited them: when the investigation was published in 2008, it concluded that what the company had done – withholding important data about safety and effectiveness that doctors and patients clearly needed to see – was plainly unethical, and put children around the world at risk; but our laws are so weak that GSK could not be charged with any crime.

      After this episode, the MHRA and EU changed some of their regulations, though not adequately. They created an obligation for companies to hand over safety data for uses of a drug outside its marketing authorisation; but ridiculously, for example, trials conducted outside the EU were still exempt. Some of the trials GSK conducted were published in part, but that is obviously not enough: we already know that if we see only a biased sample of the data, we are misled. But we also need all the data for the more simple reason that we need lots of data: safety signals are often weak, subtle and difficult to detect. In the case of paroxetine, the dangers became apparent only when the adverse events from all of the trials were pooled and analysed together.

      That leads us to the second obvious flaw in the current system: the results of these trials are given in secret to the regulator, which then sits and quietly makes a decision. This is the opposite of science, which is reliable only because everyone shows their working, explains how they know that something is effective or safe, shares their methods and results, and allows others to decide if they agree with the way in which the data was processed and analysed. Yet for the safety and efficacy of drugs, we allow it to happen behind closed doors, because drug companies have decided that they want to share their trial results discretely with the regulators. So the most important job in evidence-based medicine is carried out alone and in secret. And regulators are not infallible, as we shall see.

      Rosiglitazone was first marketed in 1999. In that first year, Dr John Buse from the University of North Carolina discussed an increased risk of heart problems at a pair of academic meetings. The drug’s manufacturer, GSK, made direct contact in an attempt to silence him, then moved on to his head of department. Buse felt pressured to sign various legal documents. To cut a long story short, after wading through documents for several months, in 2007 the US Senate committee on finance released a report describing the treatment of Buse as “intimidation”.

      But we are more concerned with the safety and efficacy data. In 2003 the Uppsala drug monitoring group of the World Health Organisation contacted GSK about an unusually large number of spontaneous reports associating rosiglitazone with heart problems. GSK conducted two internal meta-analyses of its own data on this, in 2005 and 2006. These showed that the risk was real, but although both GSK and the FDA had these results, neither made any public statement about them, and they were not published until 2008.

      During this delay, vast numbers of patients were exposed to the drug, but doctors and patients learned about this serious problem only in 2007, when cardiologist Professor Steve Nissen and colleagues published a landmark meta-analysis. This showed a 43% increase in the risk of heart problems in patients on rosiglitazone. Since people with diabetes are already at increased risk of heart problems, and the whole point of treating diabetes is to reduce this risk, that finding was big potatoes. Nissen’s findings were confirmed in later work, and in 2010 the drug was either taken off the market or restricted, all around the world.

      Now, my argument is not that this drug should have been banned sooner because, as perverse as it sounds, doctors do often need inferior drugs for use as a last resort. For example, a patient may develop idiosyncratic side-effects on the most effective pills and be unable to take them any longer. Once this has happened, it may be worth trying a less effective drug if it is at least better than nothing.

      The concern is that these discussions happened with the data locked behind closed doors, visible only to regulators. In fact, Nissen’s analysis could only be done at all because of a very unusual court judgment. In 2004, when GSK was caught out withholding data showing evidence of serious side-effects from paroxetine in children, their bad behaviour resulted in a US court case over allegations of fraud, the settlement of which, alongside a significant payout, required GSK to commit to posting clinical trial results on a public website.

      Nissen used the rosiglitazone data, when it became available, and found worrying signs of harm, which they then published to doctors – something the regulators had never done, despite having the information years earlier. If this information had all been freely available from the start, regulators might have felt a little more anxious about their decisions but, crucially, doctors and patients could have disagreed with them and made informed choices. This is why we need wider access to all trial reports, for all medicines.

      Missing data poisons the well for everybody. If proper trials are never done, if trials with negative results are withheld, then we simply cannot know the true effects of the treatments we use. Evidence in medicine is not an abstract academic preoccupation. When we are fed bad data, we make the wrong decisions, inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering, and death, on people just like us.

      • This is an edited extract from Bad Pharma, by Ben Goldacre, published next week by Fourth Estate at £13.99. To order a copy for £11.19, including UK mainland p&p, call 0330 333 6846, or go to

      Massive worldwide slaughter of farm animals set to push food prices up 14 percent

      By Rupert Neate, The Guardian
      Wednesday, September 19, 2012 6:38 EDT

      Beef cows via Stephen Denness / Shutterstock

      Farmers who cannot afford feed ‘liquidating’ pig and cattle herds will drive food inflation to record high, says Rabobank report

      The mass slaughter of millions of farm animals across the world is expected to push food prices to their highest ever levels.

      As well as hitting consumers’ pockets, the predicted 14% jump in food prices will also dash the Bank of England’s hopes of pushing inflation down to 2% by next year.


      Farmers across the world have begun a mass slaughter of their pig and cattle herds because they cannot afford the cost of feed, which has soared following the worst US drought in living memory, according to a report published on Wednesday.

      Experts at investment bank Rabobank warn that the mass “herd liquidation” will contribute to a 14% jump in the price of the average basket of food by next summer.

      On Tuesday, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said lower food prices had help bring inflation down to 2.5% in August.

      That brings it closer to the Bank’s 2% target and should help consumers who have seen their spending power shrink as wages fail to match inflation. The Bank expects inflation to ease below the 2% target by early next year, but that could be scuppered by rising food, oil and commodity prices.

      Rabobank said the slaughter of millions of pigs has already led to a 31% increase in the price of pork and the costs of other meats are also expected to soar as “US livestock herds are likely to be liquidated at an accelerating pace in the first half of 2013″.

      Nicholas Higgins, a Rabobank commodities analyst and author of the report, said: “There will be an initial glut in meat availability as people slaughter their animals to reduce their feed bills. But by next year herds will be so reduced that there won’t be enough animals to meet expected demand and prices will soar.”


      US farmers, who are suffering from the worst drought since the 1930s, have already reduced their cattle herd to the smallest since 1973.

      While all meat lovers will be affected by the record-breaking price rises, Higgins said bacon butty fans may suffer the biggest increases because it is easier for farmers to slash and rebuild pig herds that cattle.

      “Farmers cut back pigs because they can rebuild them the quickest. Replacement cattle take a lot longer to breed – a year and a half compared to six months for pigs,” he said.

      The report said the mass slaughter of pigs had led to a steep decline in the price of pork for delivery next month, but a 31% increase for pork delivered in July 2013.

      Because meat and dairy products already account for 52% of the cost of the average global basket of food Rabobank predicts the overall price of the basket will soar to a record 243 on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) index next summer.

      If Higgins’ prediction is correct it will be the highest the index has ever reached and 175% higher than it was in 2000.

      Higgins said he did not expect a repeat of the 2007-8 food riots in developing countries across the world because most meat is consumed in the west.

      “People are less likely to be irate over meat prices when they can switch back to staples – an option not available in 07/08 due to severe shortages of wheat and rice,” he said. “The risk [of riots and social unrest] is still there but it is not as high as 07-08. The prices will hurt here [in the west] more.”

      But he said western consumers are unlikely to significantly change their diets or become vegetarian in response to price rises.

      Higgins said the major danger to global stability was the threat of countries stockpiling supplies. “We’ve already seen the first indications of that, with Indonesia hinting it is going to increase corn stock pile levels, South Korea considering a domestic purchasing regime and very strong wheat purchases in Iran disproportionately higher than in its past history.”

      While the food price spike is likely to lead to an increase in starvation and malnutrition across the world, global food traders are expecting bumper profits. The multimillionaire head of Glencore has said the US drought will be “good” for the commodities trader because it will lead to opportunities to exploit soaring prices. © Guardian News and Media 2012

      Cyberattacks originating from China hit Japan in island controversy: police

      By Agence France-Presse Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:15 EDT


      At least 19 Japanese websites, including those of a government ministry, courts and a hospital, have come under cyberattack, apparently from China, police said Wednesday.

      Many of the websites were altered to show messages proclaiming Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands, a Japanese-administered chain Tokyo calls Senkaku, the National Police Agency (NPA) said in a statement.

      The NPA has confirmed that about 300 Japanese organisations were listed as potential targets for cyberattack on the message board of Honker Union, a Chinese “hacktivism” group, it said.

      The police also confirmed around 4,000 people had posted messages about planned attacks and schemes on China’s leading chat site “YY Chat”, it said.

      The targeted sites include those of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and Tohoku University Hospital, police said.

      The website of the ministry’s statistics bureau seemed to have come under a “distributed denial of service (DDoS)” attack, where huge volumes of data are sent in a short period to paralyse the targeted server, Kyodo News said.

      On Sunday afternoon, when the attack was most intense, 95 percent of traffic to the bureau’s website was from China, Kyodo said, citing minister Tatsuo Kawabata.

      Beijing and Tokyo have been locked in an intensifying spat over the uninhabited but strategically important outcrops in the East China Sea.

      The dispute has been rumbling for decades, but took a sudden lurch for the worse when Japan bought three of the islands from their private Japanese owner this month

      Federal court allows top donors to tax-exempt groups to remain secret

      By Eric W. Dolan Tuesday, September 18, 2012 17:03 EDT

      Money via AFP

      The D.C. Circuit Court on Tuesday ruled that tax-exempt groups like Crossroads GPS only had to disclose donors who give money for the specific purpose of funding campaign ads.

      The Court of Appeals reversed (PDF) the decision of a lower court, which held that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) had created a loophole by limiting disclosure of donors to only those who explicitly contributed “for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.”

      Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), who challenged the FEC regulation, argued that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act required organizations engaged in campaign activities to identify all contributors who donated over $1,000. By including the “purpose” language in their regulation, the FEC allowed for outside campaign groups to improperly keep many of their top donors a secret, he alleged.

      “Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals struck a blow against transparency in the funding of political campaigns and reinstated the flawed regulation that rendered the disclosure requirements meaningless – made clear by the fact that millions of dollars of special interest money has flooded the airwaves with ads from anonymous sources,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “The Court of Appeals’ decision today will keep the American people, for the time being, in the dark about who is attempting to influence their vote with secret money.”

      The Center for Individual Freedom and the Hispanic Leadership Fund argued against Van Hollen, saying that forcing tax-exempt groups to disclose their donors was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

      The case will return to the lower court for further consideration, giving the FEC a chance to conduct a new rulemaking.

      “Hopefully, either the FEC will issue a new disclosure regulation that actually requires disclosure or the District Court will strike down the existing regulation as arbitrary and capricious,” Van Hollen said. “We will continue to examine all of our options as we move forward.”

      Court restores Obama’s indefinite detention power

      By Stephen C. Webster Tuesday, September 18, 2012 14:15 EDT

      Protesters outside of an American embassy in London demonstrate against the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Photo: Pres Panayotov,

      A federal appeals court has temporarily frozen a lower court’s order that blocked the Obama administration from arresting and imprisoning American citizens without evidence or trial.

      Judge Raymond Lohier, nominated by President Barack Obama to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, issued a stay Tuesday on an earlier ruling by a district court in New York that found the power of indefinite detention to be in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.

      The stay restores the Obama administration’s authority to detain anyone it chooses on allegations that they’re connected to terrorism. A full appeal hearing before the Second Circuit is set for Sept. 28.

      Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who writes for The Nation Institute, claims in his lawsuit that the power of indefinite detention stifles his right to free speech by making him fearful that communicating with people on both sides of a military conflict might cause his imprisonment.

      U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed with Hedges, saying in her ruling last week that he provided ample evidence proving his rights are infringed by the mere possibility that the administration make exercise its newfound power.

      The provision was embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 by congressional Republicans, who crafted the bill to make it nearly impossible for Obama to shut down the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

      In a lengthy signing statement, Obama explained he views the power to be “ill conceived” and “unnecessary,” and vowed to interpret the law in a manner that’s consistent with Constitutional requirements.

      Flame cyber virus linked to more malware: report

      By Agence France-Presse Monday, September 17, 2012 16:29 EDT

      Flame virus via AFP


      WASHINGTON — The Flame virus believed to be part of a cyberwarfare effort against Iran was developed as early as 2006 and is linked to at least three other malware programs, a new analysis said Monday.

      The report suggests that the effort to develop Flame, widely reported to be part of a US-Israeli effort to slow Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons drive, has been going on longer than initially believed and has more components, including some not yet fully understood.

      The report by the Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab with US-based Symantec, Germany’s computer emergency response team and the International Telecommunication Union’s cybersecurity arm showed that development of the Flame platform dates back to 2006.

      An earlier analysis by Kaspersky had reported the code for Flame, which is likely related to Stuxnet and other viruses, was written in 2009.

      Kaspersky said the latest analysis shows that “at least three other Flame-related malicious programs were created” but added that “their nature is currently unknown.”

      It added that “one of these Flame-related unknown malicious objects is currently operating in the wild.”

      A Kaspersky statement said development of Flame’s Command and Control platform started “as early as December 2006″ and was “disguised” to hide its true purpose.

      A security blog post by Symantec said that Flame was designed in a way to delete any effort to find its source.

      “The systems were configured to disable any unnecessary logging events and entries in the database were deleted at regular intervals,” the posting said.

      “Existing log files were securely deleted from the server on a regular basis. These steps were taken in order to hamper any investigation should the server be acquired by third parties.”

      Flame previously has been linked to Stuxnet, which was designed to attack computer control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens and commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other critical infrastructure.

      Most Stuxnet infections have been discovered in Iran, giving rise to speculation it was intended to sabotage nuclear facilities there. The worm was crafted to recognize the system it was to attack.

      Some reports say US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop the computer worm to sabotage Iran’s efforts to make a nuclear bomb.

      Taking Prozac? Don’t drive: Pills raise risk of you having an accident by 70%

      By Sophie Borland

      PUBLISHED:19:15 EST, 12  September 2012| UPDATED:19:15 EST, 12 September 2012


      Taking common antidepressants heightens the risk of accidents greatly 

      Taking common antidepressants heightens the risk of  accidents greatly

      Taking happy pills before driving makes you  more prone to accidents, researchers claim.

      They have found that taking common  antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat heightens the risk by 70 per  cent.

      Even patients who have only been on the pills  for a few hours are far more likely to have a crash if they get behind the  wheel.

      Although some manufacturers put warning  notices on boxes telling patients their judgment may be impaired, they don’t  specifically tell them not to drive.

      But it is now thought that the same chemical  changes that improve mood among those who take the pills also slows down  reaction times.

      Researchers say the study shows that doctors  should be banning patients from getting behind the wheel as soon as they put  them on a course of drugs.

      Recently the number prescriptions for  antidepressants have soared and last year nearly 50 million were handed out, a  rise of a quarter in four years.

      Campaigners have blamed the economic woes but  also say GPs have become better at diagnosing the illness so are more likely to  hand out the pills.

      Researchers from the University of Taiwan  looked at data on 36,000 and compared the likelihood of them having an accident  to whether they were on antidepressants.

      They also looked at other drugs including  sleeping pills and antipsychotics which are taken for mental illnesses as well  as dementia.

      Collectively all of these drugs are known as  psychotropic medication which means they affect mental activity or  behaviour.

      Those taking a common group of  antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which  include Prozac and Seroxat were 72 per cent more at risk.

      Careful: It is now thought that the same chemical changes that improve moods also slow down reaction times 

      Careful: It is now thought that the same chemical  changes that improve moods also slow down reaction times

      Even patients who had only started the course  of drugs that day were 74 per cent more likely to have an accident within 24  hours than those not on medication.

      Those on a type of sleeping pills called  benzodiazepines were 56 per cent more at risk of accidents while antipsychotics  increased the likelihood by just 9 per cent.

      Lead researcher Hui-Ju Tsai, who is based at  the National Health Research Institutes in Zhunan, Taiwan, said: ‘ Our findings  underscore that people taking these psychotropic drugs should pay increased  attention to their driving performance in order to prevent motor vehicle  accidents.

      ‘Doctors and pharmacists should choose safer  treatments, provide their patients with accurate information and consider  advising them not to drive while taking certain psychotropic  medications

      Read more:

      Polish exorcism boom leads to launch of ‘Egzorcysta’ magazine

      By Agence France-Presse Tuesday, September 11, 2012 14:45 EDT

      Exorcism via Shutterstock

      With exorcism booming in Poland, Roman Catholic priests have joined forces with a publisher to launch what they claim is the world’s first monthly magazine focused exclusively on chasing out the devil.

      “The rise in the number or exorcists from four to more than 120 over the course of 15 years in Poland is telling,” Father Aleksander Posacki, a professor of philosophy, theology and leading demonologist and exorcist told reporters in Warsaw at the Monday launch of the Egzorcysta monthly.

      Ironically, he attributed the rise in demonic possessions in what remains one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic nations partly to the switch from atheist communism to free market capitalism in 1989.

      “It’s indirectly due to changes in the system: capitalism creates more opportunities to do business in the area of occultism. Fortune telling has even been categorised as employment for taxation,” Posacki told AFP.

      “If people can make money out of it, naturally it grows and its spiritual harm grows too,” he said, hastening to add authentic exorcism is absolutely free of charge.

      Posacki, who also serves on an international panel of expert Roman Catholic exorcists, highlighted what he termed the “helplessness of various schools of psychology and psychiatry” when confronted with extreme behaviours that conventional therapies fail to cure.

      “Possession comes as a result of committing evil. Stealing, killing and other sins,” he told reporters, adding that evil spirits are chased out using a guide of ritual prayers approved by Polish-born pope John Paul II in 1999.

      “Our hands are full,” admitted fellow exorcist and Polish Roman Catholic priest Father Andrzej Grefkowicz, revealing exorcists have a three month waiting list in the capital Warsaw.

      Priests performing exorcism also work with psychiatrists in order to avoid mistaking mental illness for possession, he said.

      “I’ve invited psychiatrists to meetings when I’ve had doubts about a case and often we’ve both concluded the issue is mental illness, hysteria, not possession,” he said.

      According to both exorcists, depictions of demonic possession in horror films are largely accurate.

      “It manifests itself in the form of screams, shouting, anger, rage — threats are common,” Posacki said.

      “Manifestation in the form or levitation is less common, but does occur and we must speak about it — I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he added.

      With its 62-page first issue including articles titled “New Age — the spiritual vacuum cleaner” and “Satan is real”, the Egzorcysta monthly with a print-run of 15,000 by the Polwen publishers is selling for 10 zloty (2.34 euros, 3.10 dollars) per copy.

      California telecom companies push bill to quash oversight on Internet regulation

      By American Independent Monday, September 10, 2012 15:00 EDT

      Women in shock at computer via Shutterstock



      California could be the latest state to enact a law that dramatically curbs regulatory oversight of telecommunications services in the state, handing a significant victory to the industry players that have lobbied for the bill’s passage.

      On its face, SB 1161 seems simple enough. The text of the bill explains that it seeks only to “preserve the future of the Internet by encouraging continued investment and technological advances” and “supporting continued consumer choice.” But to achieve that, the measure would gut the regulatory authority of the California Public Utilities Commission, a key state oversight body, over many Internet-based communications technologies.

      What that means: California customers would no longer have an official regulatory body to address their concerns over the quality and affordability of these new, emerging services, which would not be bound to the same consumer protections that apply to traditional, wire-based telephone systems. To date, the commission has not signaled a strong intention to regulate this growing sector of the communications industry. By preventing it from doing so in the future, critics say, SB 1161 addresses a problem—an overeager regulatory commission—that does not exist.

      Consumer advocates argue that SB 1161 would bar the CPUC from keeping close tabs on big telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon—two of the bill’s big backers—and safeguarding customer protections. Supporters, meanwhile, say that the CPUC and any regulations it might pass will only hinder the tech industry and stymie job creation. Proponents like tech industry analyst and columnist Larry Downes say that Governor Jerry Brown should quickly sign SB 1161 into law and begin to roll back the authority of a commission whose budget has risen by $300 million over the past year.

      The state assembly and senate passed the bill in late August. Now, Gov. Brown has until September 30 to decide whether to sign the measure into law.

      Voice-over IP

      Two parts of SB 1161 are of particular concern for its critics. Section 710(a) would prevent the CPUC from enacting new regulations that affect Internet-based phone services, such as Skype and Google Voice. These services fall under the rubric of what’s known as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), a rapidly growing segment of the communications market. Most of these services are free for users, and are more reliable than traditional, copper-based landline service. Meanwhile, section 710(b) of the bill would pre-empt any department, agency, commission, or “political subdivision of the state” from passing new laws or rules that regulate VoIP.

      But this vaguely worded section also goes one sizable step further: it would keep localities from issuing new rules on any other Internet protocol (IP)-enabled service—potentially, a far broader de-regulatory stroke. In a memo written in June, Lynn Sadler, the CPUC’s director of governmental affairs, sharply criticized SB 1161, writing that it would  “tie the Commission’s hands if it decides in the future that there is a need to reassess its regulatory role over VoIP.”

      Grasping the implications of this provision requires a basic understanding of the quickly shifting landscape for traditional, wire-based phone service. Increasingly, these networks are using IP to expedite the distribution and transmission of phone signals. Meanwhile, two of the entrenched telecommunications providers, AT&T and Verizon, have publicly announced their intentions to gradually shift their customers out of wire-based service and into more IP-enabled networks.

      But if these companies begin shifting to newer, more internet-based modes of communication, state regulators would be prevented by the new legislation from stepping in to address consumer complaints. Given the growing prominence of IP in basic telecommunications services, any law that cuts regulatory supervision over this technology is likely to register a strong impact on the future telecommunications environment. In other words: as providers move towards a more IP-centric model, SB 1161 could prevent the CPUC and local jurisdictions from issuing regulations that keep the industry in check.

      Under current law, a traditional telephone customer can file a complaint with the commission and receive a hearing, after which the commission votes on the validity of the complaint. But under SB 1161, that chain of oversight and responsiveness would be in peril. While the bill would allow the commission to “continue to monitor and discuss VoIP services,” it would only be allowed to issue reports to the FCC and the legislature, and take no formal action. Instead, the commission would be able to respond “informally” to complaints, and provide information on how to contact the proper state and federal authorities. A source connected with the commission who asked not to be identified described this as a substantial step down for the body.

      SB 1161 does preserve the commission’s authority over state emergency telephone services, universal service programs, existing requirements for backup power systems, and the ability “to address or affect the resolution of disputes” over intercarrier compensation, or the charges paid by one carrier to another to originate, carry, or terminate telecommunications traffic. It also maintains the commission’s authority over support structures and other facilities involved in the transmission of signals—a key concession extracted from the bill’s proponents, according to an official familiar with the matter.

      The commission did manage to successfully lobby for several amendments in the final version of the bill, including a provision that the bill would not impact its “existing regulation of, proceedings governing, or existing commission authority over, non-VoIP and other non-IP enabled” phone service, “including regulations governing universal service and the offering of basic service and lifeline service, and any obligations to offer basic service.” But this could mean little in a communications environment where IP-enabled communication has displaced traditional, wire-based service.

      For the commission, the concern is that as non-VoIP and non-IP enabled, traditional phone services become a thing of the past, this exception would basically become meaningless over time. The CPUC would have the power to address issues related to a sector of service that is quickly shrinking.

      In April, the Los Angeles Times reported that Michael Peevey, the commission’s president, had broken with the rest of the body, which opposed the SB 1161. “We should be very careful before we jump off the cliff here as commissioners and say we oppose this,” Peevey said at a meeting of the group. “My view is that Silicon Valley is the economic engine of the state…I don’t want to support anything that in any way would diminish that.”

      But Lynn Sadler’s June memo asserted that concerns like Peevey’s could be overblown. “There is no current problem addressed by the bill,” Sadler wrote. “Rather, the author and supporters of the bill fear that the CPUC will impose unnecessary regulations on providers of IP-enabled services if this bill is not enacted.”

      In an August 18 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, CPUC commissioner Mike Florio suggested SB 1161 could pose dangers to consumers, and argued that the commission has made no moves to restrict VoIP that should be of concern to the industry.

      “It’s not at all clear under this bill that we’d be able to touch anything having to do with quality-of-service problems,” Florio warned. “It’s going to mean lawyers and lawsuits and a lot of time and money and energy that doesn’t need to be spent. We’ve done nothing to regulate computer applications like Skype, have no desire to do so, and that’s not what this is about.” AT&T declined to comment for this story, and Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.

      Industry analyst Larry Downes views the regulations of a body like the CPUC as costly impositions on the growth of a new technology—one that it is unqualified to regulate. In a recent column urging Gov. Brown to sign the bill, Downes pointed out that wire-based phone service in California has decreased by 17 percent between 2008 and 2010, versus a 46 percent increase in VoIP accounts over that period.

      “[T]he PUC has little expertise to offer in regulating VoIP or any other Internet service. Nor should it. State utility commissions were created to oversee, well, utilities. You know—telephone poles, power lines, and water pipes.…Control of physical infrastructure, thanks to technological innovation, is no longer much of a constraint on consumer choice or pricing for voice services,” Downes wrote. The VoIP industry in California, he says, should be allowed to flourish, free of regulation.

      According to TeleGeography, a telecommunications market research firm, the VoIP sector is exploding. In 2011, the firm estimated that the number of Skype calls would jump by 48 percent, while calls made through traditional phone companies would increase by a paltry 4 percent. Given those growth expectations, plus the increasing convergence between copper-based service and IP, the industry’s interest in SB 1161 is obvious.

      Jim Hawley, a spokesperson for TechNet, a Silicon Valley-based trade group that supports the bill, argues that the regulatory process could be a costly, threatening burden for a young start-up trying to attract investors. “If you’re going to expand monopoly-style regulation to a vibrant new industry…the legislature should make that decision, not a regulatory body,” Hawley says.

      But Regina Costa, the Telecommunications Director at The Utility Reform Network (TURN) in California, warns that SB 1161 prevents the CPUC from keeping tabs on VoIP. “What ability do state regulators have in the future to identify these problems and solve them?” Under SB 1161, the CPUC “wouldn’t have the authority to say to Verizon, ‘Your VoIP wasn’t reliable.’ Verizon could tell them to go stuff it.”

      Lobbying strength

      Other states have considered or passed bills that deregulate sections of the telecommunications industry or remove obligations for phone service providers to offer basic phone service for all customers—known as “carrier-of-last-resort” obligations, or a guarantee to provide low-cost, landline based telephone service to homes. As The Washington Post has reported, several states have passed laws that remove these obligations.

      In California, the telecom industry has joined forces with Silicon Valley, as Fabiola Carrion, a broadband analyst with the Progressive States Network, explains. Technology trade groups in Silicon Valley, including TechAmerica, TechNet, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, released a fact sheet arguing that SB 1161 would clear the road of costly regulatory hurdles. SB 1161, they say in a joint website urging Gov. Brown to sign the bill, clears the road of “protracted regulatory proceedings that create delay and unnecessary expense.”

      SB 1161’s cadre of deep-pocketed supporters include telecom companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, and trade groups representing the tech sector. According to an analysis by Map Light, a public interest group that tracks the influence of money in politics, state senators received nearly 11 times as much in campaign contributions from interest groups that support SB1161 than from those who oppose it.

      Coming in at number four on the list is Sen. Alex Padilla, the Democrat from Los Angeles who introduced SB 1161 and who has chaired the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee since 2008. Data compiled by Influence Explorer shows that the telecommunications industry has taken care of Padilla since he was first elected to the assembly in 2006. From 2006 to 2010, Padilla received just over $109,000 from the telephone utilities and telecom services and equipment industry, including a number of sizable donations from senior executives at AT&T and Verizon.

      Nearly 80 percent of those contributions came from AT&T, the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and Verizon Wireless and executives with the companies—all of whom support SB 1161. Padilla also received $5,000 from CALTEL during that same span. CALTEL initially supported the bill, but later dropped its support.  Padilla’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

      As the Los Angeles Times reported in April, AT&T enjoys considerable influence on politics in California—or pays generously for it, at least.  The paper reported that AT&T spent over $225,000 on last year’s Speaker’s Cup, a $12,000-a-head weekend Democratic fundraiser boasting “world-class golf…free-flowing wine and four-star cuisine,” body wraps, and massages. The Times also reported that from 1999 to 2011, AT&T has spent more trying to influence California officials than any other corporation.

      Industry motivation: an ear for the future

      AT&T, for its part, has poured nearly $3.3 million into lobbying the California state house through the first six quarters of the 2011-12 legislative session, notably increasing its spending by about $70,000 and  $200,000 in the fifth and sixth quarters, respectively, after the introduction of SB 1161. Verizon and the California Cable & Telecommunications Association have also lobbied on SB 1161.

      Their interest in the measure isn’t difficult to discern. AT&T currently offers a voice communications platform called U-Verse, which is delivered through VoIP. Verizon also offers VoIP over FiOS, its fiber-line based service that bundles together Internet, telephone, and television service.

      Meanwhile, Verizon is also making a strong push towards IP and VoIP services. At an investors’ conference in June, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam made the company’s position on VoIP abundantly clear. “Every place we have FiOS, we are going to kill the copper,” McAdam said, according to a transcript of the vent. “We are going to just take it out of service and we are going to move those services onto FiOS. … And then in other areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got [wireless service] built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there.”

      McAdam also had some pointed words about the ongoing “battle” over future regulation. “The pendulum has swung a bit more to the regulators putting their thumb on the scale and we don’t like that,” he said, insisting that new regulations slow down investment and innovation while endangering prospects for job growth.

      “The regulatory environment has got to loosen up a little bit, mostly in the states and so we are working that,” McAdam said, indicating that Verizon was pleased with de-regulatory measures that have passed recently in Florida, Virginia and Texas. Such laws allow the company “to be a lot more flexible in the marketplace and…invest where customers want  us to invest and start to sunset some of the older technology.”

      In other words, “if you’re a copper-based customer, you’re moving over to that network whether you’ve chosen it or not,” Regina Costa says. Rural customers, Costa says, will not benefit from wireless, which is notoriously unreliable in remote areas.

      Sean McLaughlin, the executive director of Access Humboldt, a community media organization in northern California, says that SB 1161’s impact will be acutely felt in the less dense, more remote stretches of the state along the northern coast.

      In these places, existing providers find it less profitable to extend broadband service. This is because laying cable across vast, sparsely populated stretches is a costly proposit0ion, with little guarantee of a worthwhile return on that investment. In response, media activists like McLaughlin have built a number of locally owned and operated broadband networks to service these stretches of northern California.

      “We have remote areas that lack reliable basic phone service,” McLaughlin says of Humboldt. “We’re familiar with what it looks like when it’s not profitable” to provide service to such areas, he says.

      If SB 1161 becomes law, McLaughlin worries that the county would no longer possess the authority to take charge. “SB 1161 ties hands of local governments. Not only can the PUC not make any rule that touches VoIP communications … no subdivisions of the state can do that,” McLaughlin says. SB 1161’s “whole frame is that there’s no constructive role for local governments,” he contends, pre-empting them from making any rule that would regulate IP-enabled services.

      According to Christopher Mitchell, the director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, phasing copper-line customers into wireless falls right in line with Verizon’s long-standing plans for rural service. “Verizon is interested in wireless because it can charge so much more. So I imagine rural folks will be worse off if we allow these companies to abandon” wire-based service, he says.

      Dan O’Connell, a VoIP analyst at Gartner, a telecommunications research firm, estimates that fully replacing a copper-based network will likely to take at least a decade. But companies like Verizon and AT&T want to set the regulatory stage now, through bills like SB 1161 and others like it around the nation.

      “CEOs of companies like Verizon and AT&T are laying out the argument” for de-regulation, O’Connell says. “They will say, ‘We’re taking [copper] down in five years. In reality, it could be 12 or 15. Nonetheless, Verizon or AT&T want to make sure they’ll have this stuff running 15 or 20 years from now.”

      Broader implications

      CALTEL, a trade group that started as a firm supporter of SB 1161, has recently aligned with its opponents. CALTEL’s membership consists of local carriers that provide voice and broadband services to residential, business, and wholesale customers, coupling their own networks with copper lines leased from providers like AT&T and Verizon. Most offer VoIP service, and harness IP-enabled technology to provide service to customers.

      When Sen. Padilla first introduced SB 1161 in February, CALTEL quickly signed on, believing that it would protect services using copper and IP, while ensuring reasonable rates for consumers.

      But CALTEL soon reversed its position. In an August 24 letter written to Gov. Jerry Brown encouraging him to veto the bill, CALTEL executive director Sarah DeYoung wrote that “the benefit of regulatory certainty for VoIP providers” offered by SB 1161 “is far outweighed by the harmful effect that [it] would have on competitive carriers’ ability” to offer affordable, competitive, high-quality broadband service to consumers.

      In her letter, DeYoung cites Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam’s comments about his company’s intentions to phase out copper service. She also excerpts portions of comments filed this past spring by both AT&T and Verizon in response to an FCC rural broadband initiative called the Connect America Fund.

      In the comments cited by DeYoung, AT&T and Verizon urged the FCC to free the new, IP-based telecommunications world from the strictures of the old regime. The telecommunications titans argued that regulatory requirements like carrier of last resort obligations and universal service are  “vestiges” of a bygone telecommunications age, “designed for a different time, a different network, and a different business model to the new world of IP interconnection for voice service.” Such obligations, the companies wrote, drive up costs and “impair their ability to compete effectively with largely unregulated cable broadband services.”

      As such, AT&T and Verizon say, these obligations should not apply to IP-enabled services. Their argument: because IP-based telecommunications are still in their relative infancy, regulatory requirements like carrier of last resort would place an unfair burden on their ability to grow and thrive in this market.

      The California bill, CALTEL argues, would “completely foreclose” the state of California’s ability to protect broadband competition once the current providers shift over to IP technology.

      A number of consumer advocates contacted by The American Independent view SB 1161 as another salvo in the industry’s nationwide de-regulatory battle. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Chris Mitchell, the companies supporting this type of legislation hope to clear the field of service requirements that, they claim, will slow them down on their march towards an all-IP environment. “The broad stroke is that these companies are trying to reduce the amount of regulation they face and are trying to justify it by pointing to expensive investments they have made,” in new, IP-based services.

      “They want to get rid of all [carrier-of-last-resort obligations] from what I can tell,” Mitchell says. “[T]hey want the ‘market’ to decide who gets access to communications technology and how.”

      Originally published at The American Independent.

      [Women in shock at computer screen via Shutterstock]

      Harvard psychology professor ‘faked data and fudged results in monkey experiments’

      • Marc Hauser, 52, researched evolutionary  roots of human abilities
      • Probe by Office of Research Integrity found  Hauser responsible for six cases of scientific misconduct
      • Allegedly fabricated data in a paper on  monkeys’ ability to learn syllables
      • Currently works with at-risk youth at Cape  Cod Collaborative

      By Daily Mail Reporter

      PUBLISHED:17:26 EST, 5  September 2012| UPDATED:17:48 EST, 5 September 2012


      Fall from grace: A federal probe found former Harvard psychology professor Marc Hauser to be responsible for six cases of research misconduct Fall from grace: A federal probe found former Harvard  psychology professor Marc Hauser to be responsible for six cases of research  misconduct

      Federal investigators have found that a  Harvard University psychology professor who resigned after being accused of  scientific transgression fabricated data and manipulated results in  experiments.

      The findings detailing Marc Hauser’s  transgressions were contained in a report by the Department of Health and Human  Services Office of Research Integrity (ORI) released Wednesday  online.

      Hauser, 52, left Harvard last summer, ten  months after a faculty investigation found him ‘solely responsible’ for eight  instances of scientific misconduct at the prestigious Ivy League school, the Boston  Globe reported.

      The federal document found six cases in which  Hauser engaged in research misconduct in work supported by four National  Institutes of Health grants. One paper was retracted and two were corrected.  Other problems were found in unpublished work.

      Hauser released a statement Wednesday, saying  that although he has fundamental differences with the findings, he acknowledges  that he made mistakes.

      ‘I let important details get away from my  control, and as head of the lab, I take responsibility for all errors made  within the lab, whether or not I was directly involved,’ he stated.

      ‘I am saddened that this investigation has  caused some to question all of my work, rather than the few papers and  unpublished studies in question.

      ‘I remain proud of the many important papers  generated by myself, my collaborators and my students over the years. I am also  deeply gratified to see my students carve out significant areas of research at  major universities around the world,’ Hauser said.

      Internal probe: A three-year investigation at Harvard found in 2010 that Hauser had committed eight instances of scientific misconductInternal probe: A three-year investigation at Harvard  found in 2010 that Hauser had committed eight instances of scientific  misconduct

      In one instance, investigators determined  that Hauser fabricated half the data in a bar graph in a research paper on  cotton-top tamarind monkeys’ ability to learn syllables that was published in  2002 in the journal Cognition.

      According to the findings of the probe, the  52-year-old professor ‘falsified the coding’ of some monkeys’ responses to sound  stimuli in two unpublished papers to ensure that a particular finding does not  appear random, and ‘falsely reported the results and methodology’ for one of  seven experiments in a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in  2007.

      A paper examining monkeys’ abilities to learn  grammatical patterns included false descriptions of how the monkeys’ behavior  was coded, ‘leading to a false proportion or number of animals showing a  favorable response,’ the report stated.

      The document, which will be published in the  Federal Register Thursday, comes on the heels of a three-year internal  investigation at Harvard that found in 2010 that the popular professor had  committed eight instances of scientific misconduct.

      According to the report, Hauser ‘neither  admits nor denies committing research misconduct but accepts ORI has found  evidence of research misconduct.’ As part of a voluntary settlement, the former  professor has accepted several professional restrictions for the next three  years.

      New job: Hauser currently works with at-risk youth at the Alternative Education Program at Cape Cod CollaborativeNew job: Hauser currently works with at-risk youth at  the Alternative Education Program at Cape Cod Collaborative

      Hauser has agreed to have any research  supported by the U.S. Public Health Service supervised, to exclude himself from  serving as an adviser to the PHS, and to have his employer guarantee the  accuracy of his data and methodology before applying for federal funding.

      According to his LinkedIn profile, Hauser  currently works with at-risk youth at the Alternative Education Program at Cape  Cod Collaborative.

      Houser, a published author of popular books  favored by the media, gained wide recognition for his research into the  evolutionary roots of human abilities, including language, and whether morality  was inborn or learned.

      Less than a week ago, Hauser’s former Ivy  League employer made national headlines after it has been revealed that 125  students at the prestigious institution are being investigated for allegedly  cheating on a take-home exam.

      Read more:

      30 per cent of drugs prescribed to under-18s – and up to 95 per cent of drugs given to babies in intensive care – have never been tested on children. (U.K.)

      One third of junior drugs are not tested on children sparking demand for  probe

      • Official study calls for urgent  investigation after ‘high number of drug errors’
      • 95 per cent of all hospital medicines for  babies affected

      By Jo Macfarlane

      PUBLISHED:16:00 EST, 1  September 2012| UPDATED:16:00 EST, 1 September 2012

      Untested: A third of medicines for children are not tested on minors
      Untested: A third of medicines for children are not  tested on minors

      Children are being prescribed unlicensed  medicines that could be causing harm, a report has warned.

      The Government study is demanding an urgent  investigation into  the ‘unacceptable’ fact that almost a third of drugs  given to sick children are officially approved for only adult use.

      It warns of ‘a high number of drug errors’ in  which children may be wrongly prescribed too much of a medicine because the  doses are meant for adults.

      Historically, pharmaceutical companies have  not had an obligation  to test medicines on youngsters. The law  changed in  2007 and new drugs coming to market must now be tested on  children before they  can be used on them.

      But this still means about 30 per cent of  drugs prescribed to under-18s – and up to 95 per cent of drugs given to babies  in intensive care – have  never been tested on children.

      These include common antibiotics,  painkillers, asthma inhalers and cancer medicines.

      The use of unlicensed drugs is so common that  many parents will  not even  be told that their child  is receiving  medication ‘off-label’.

      Over-the-counter medicines designed for  children – such as Calpol and Nurofen for Children – which parents can buy from  high street pharmacies are not affected.

      The report, commissioned by the  Department  of Health and written by leading child health experts, warns  that unlicensed  medicines may be causing side effects that could be  going unreported.

      It is  calling for an investigation by the  drugs watchdog, the Medicines and  Healthcare products Regulatory Agency,  because it is not known how many  children may potentially have been harmed – or  how much it is costing  the NHS.

      Open wide: Junior medicines face new questions after the Government study
      Open wide: Junior medicines face new questions after the  Government study

      The report, from the Children and Young  People’s Health Outcomes Forum, says: ‘New medicines account for a relatively  small percentage of those used by children, and those introduced before [the  2007] legislation largely remain unregulated and, critically, therefore possibly  untested formally in children.

      ‘This contributes to the high number  of drug  errors and leads  to wider implications – including  the fact  that  the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will not  give advice  on unlicensed medicines and this limits the guidance that  they can offer on  care for children.’

      It goes on to caution: ‘The Forum believes  that the situation with  regard to the absence of licensing for the majority of  children and  young people’s medicines in this country is  unacceptable.’

      Historically, it has been difficult  to  test medicines on children because regulators have made it hard for  drugs  companies to get ethical approval to do so.

      Safe: Over-the-counter medicines such as Calpol are not affected
      Safe: Over-the-counter medicines such as Calpol are not  affected

      There has also been no legal responsibility  for the pharmaceutical industry to conduct the tests once they have a licence  for their drug to be used in adults, which is more commercially  beneficial.

      In the past, doctors have waited  up to  ten years after a drug is introduced before giving it to children, to make sure  there are no serious side effects. But this has left children’s medicine at a  disadvantage.

      The medics’ and pharmacists’ bible, the  British National Formulary for Children, publishes recommended dosages for  licensed and unlicensed medicines based on evidence from doctors and regulators.

      Warren Lenney, professor of respiratory child  health at Keele University and chair of the paediatric formulary committee at  the BNFC, said: ‘The people who say we shouldn’t prescribe unlicensed or  off-label medicines don’t know what they’re talking about.

      ‘By no means are we using dangerous  medicines. If a medicine has been on the market for 30 years, no company is  going to spend millions of pounds testing it on children.

      What has been shown is that using an  unlicensed medicine in children does increase the risk of side effects. We don’t  know why. It is one possibility that we are really underestimating the number of  side effects – but I don’t want to scaremonger.’

      The Children and Young People’s Health  Outcomes Forum was set up this year to look at how the reorganisation of the NHS  could improve the health of children.

      Co-chair Professor Ian Lewis, medical  director of Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Most of the drugs  we use in children’s cancer like leukaemia have not been formally tested in  children but have cured many of them.

      ‘It’s very expensive for pharmaceutical  companies to do this additional testing, and the question that must be asked is  whether there’s enough incentive for them.’

      But Dr Helen Sammons, vice chair of the  medicines committee of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘Parents shouldn’t be concerned that children are being treated with unlicensed  and off-label medicines.

      ‘We know what we should be  giving  children and that it works based on our experience and evidence, but there’s no  legal drive to update the licences sometimes.’

      A spokesman for the MHRA said: ‘We’re fully  aware of the recommendations outlined in the report and are working closely with  the Department of Health to best take forward these recommendations.’

      A spokesman for the Department of Health said  it would have a formal response to the recommendations later this  year.

      Read more:

      Progestogen-only contraceptive pills were three times more likely to have a mental illness than women who were not on any medication

      Depression alert over progesterone-only Pill as doctors are warned to  prescribe with caution

      By Mail On Sunday Reporter

      PUBLISHED:16:46 EST, 4  August 2012 | UPDATED:08:50 EST, 5 August 2012

      Women who take the most widely prescribed  type of contraceptive pill may be less likely to suffer depression.

      New research shows that those taking the  combined Pill – which contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen (of which  progesterone is the most commonly known form) – were two-thirds less likely to  develop a mood disorder, but those using progestogen-only contraceptive pills  were three times more likely to have a mental illness than women who were not on  any medication.

      Women who take the most widely prescribed type of contraceptive pill may be less likely to suffer depressionWomen who take the most widely prescribed type of  contraceptive pill may be less likely to suffer depression

      The researchers who carried out the study say  that doctors should use caution in prescribing progestogen-only pills because of  these potential side effects.

      In the new study, in the Journal of Affective  Disorders, psychiatrists from universities in Australia and Norway, including  Melbourne and Bergen, looked at Pill use and the prevalence of mood disorder in  women aged 20 to 50.

      Progestogen is known to act on the brain  chemical glutamate, and research has shown that higher than usual levels of the  chemical are found in the brains of patients with bipolar disorder and major  depression

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