This week we review disturbing vaccine study requirements, CBD an incredible gem if possibly protecting the lungs and restoring oxygen levels, and a strong correlation as to shoes being an unrecognized major disease vector. In addition to looking at COVID data correlations to which countries are locking down in response Sars-COV-2 to those which have not or have done little. #covidvaccine #covidvector #covidnews Data Sources API for DataFrames: The COVID Tracking Project Our wold in Data (Oxford) Links: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uoo-ecw102220.php#.X5N_7_DuPM0.wordpress https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/b-cvt102020.php#.X5OGbCHAYR8.wordpress https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/mcog-chr101620.php#.X45lOsCeu4k.wordpress https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0885_article
Our weekly review of the current COVID data and country comparisons as well as other oddities such as Mask Litter, Trash Cans, and Shoes being unintended spreaders. All this under the guise of Amateur Python Analytics. Brief CSV File Request Code below (Pandas). That will allow you to pull Oxford University Data up to the current date. Enjoy 😉
This is a long one, next week I will make it A LOT shorter.
#covid19 #sarscov2 #data
import pandas as pd
younameit = pd.read_csv(‘https://covid.ourworldindata.org/data/owid-covid-data.csv’)
Published time: April 23, 2014 00:59
American workers who previously made up the wealthiest middle class in the world have lost that distinction, according to new research that attributes the economic stagnation on rising income inequality in the US.
Economic growth in the US continues to be as strong if not stronger than other developed nations, although fewer Americans are reaping the benefit of their hard work. An analysis of income and spending numbers published Tuesday by the New York Times indicated that the wealthiest tax brackets are enjoying more financial growth, while the lower and middle income tiers are now lagging behind their counterparts throughout the world. Continue reading “Wealth of US middle class now lower than Canada’s – report”
EEV: This is a requested Re-Post from MAY 2013
Russian ‘Attack’ Raises Questions Over Sweden’s Readiness
By GERARD O’DWYER |
HELSINKI — Sweden’s Defense Ministry is set to discuss the implementation of new advance warning and rapid reaction structures after the disclosure that Russian aircraft conducted a nighttime “simulated” attack on key Swedish military and civilian installations last month.
The incident, which took place on March 30 close to Sweden’s southeastern archipelago, has generated sharp criticism from opposition leaders who questioned the military command system’s ability or willingness to deliver a rapid reaction response to the “threat” presented by Russian aircraft engaged in exercises close to the Swedish island of Gotska Sandön in the Baltic Sea.
Although the Swedish Armed Force’s (SAF’s) early warning radar system identified the “threat” as two Tu-22M3 (NATO ID Backfires) heavy bombers flanked by four Su-27 fighters, there was no command response to scramble Swedish Air Force Gripen interceptors. Continue reading “Requested Re-Post from MAY 2013 – Russian aircraft conduct a nighttime “simulated” attack on key Swedish military and civilian installations”
For the past two years, a mysterious online organisation has been setting the world’s finest code-breakers a series of seemingly unsolveable problems. But to what end? Welcome to the world of Cicada 3301
By Chris Bell
11:00AM GMT 25 Nov 2013
One evening in January last year, Joel Eriksson, a 34-year-old computer analyst from Uppsala in Sweden, was trawling the web, looking for distraction, when he came across a message on an internet forum. The message was in stark white type, against a black background.
“Hello,” it said. “We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
The message was signed: “3301”.
A self-confessed IT security “freak” and a skilled cryptographer, Eriksson’s interest was immediately piqued. This was – he knew – an example of digital steganography: the concealment of secret information within a digital file. Most often seen in conjunction with image files, a recipient who can work out the code – for example, to alter the colour of every 100th pixel – can retrieve an entirely different image from the randomised background “noise”.
It’s a technique more commonly associated with nefarious ends, such as concealing child pornography. In 2002 it was suggested that al-Qaeda operatives had planned the September 11 attacks via the auction site eBay, by encrypting messages inside digital photographs.
Richard Orange in Malmö
- theguardian.com, Monday 11 November 2013 11.33 EST
Sweden has experienced such a sharp fall in the number of prison admissions in the past two years that it has decided to close down four prisons and a remand centre.
“We have seen an out-of-the-ordinary decline in the number of inmates,” said Nils Öberg, the head of Sweden’s prison and probation services. “Now we have the opportunity to close down a part of our infrastructure that we don’t need at this point of time.”
Prison numbers in Sweden, which have been falling by around 1% a year since 2004, dropped by 6% between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to do the same again both this year and next, Öberg said.
As a result, the prison service has this year closed down prisons in the towns of Åby, Håja, Båtshagen, and Kristianstad, two of which will probably be sold and two of which will be passed for temporary use to other government authorities.
Öberg said that while nobody knew for sure why prison numbers had dropped so steeply, he hoped that Sweden’s liberal prison approach, with its strong focus on rehabilitating prisoners, had played a part.
“We certainly hope that the efforts we invest in rehabilitation and preventing relapse of crime has had an impact, but we don’t think that this could explain the entire drop of 6%,” he said.
In the opinion piece in Sweden’s DN newspaper in which he announced the closures, Öberg said that Sweden needed to work even harder on rehabilitating prisoners, doing more to help them once they had returned to society.
One partial explanation for the sudden drop in admissions may be that Swedish courts have given more lenient sentences for drug offences following a ruling of the country’s supreme court in 2011. According to Öberg, there were about 200 fewer people serving sentences for drug offences in Sweden last March than a year previously.
Sweden’s prison services will retain the option to reopen two of the closed prisons should the number of inmates rise.
“We are not at the point of concluding that this is a long-term trend and that this is a change in paradigm,” Öberg said. “What we are certain of is that the pressure on the criminal justice system has dropped markedly in recent years.”
Hanns von Hofer, a criminology professor at Stockholm University, said that much of the fall in prison numbers could be attributed to a recent shift in policy towards probationary sanctions instead of short prison sentences for minor thefts, drugs offences and violent crimes.
Between 2004 and 2012, the number of people jailed for theft, drug offences and violent crimes fell by 36%, 25%, and 12% respectively, he pointed out.
According to official data, the Swedish prison population has dropped by nearly a sixth since it peaked at 5,722 in 2004. In 2012, there were 4,852 people in prison in Sweden, out of a population of 9.5 million.
How the rest of the world compares with Sweden
According to data collected by the International Centre for Prison Studies, the five countries with the highest prison population are the US, China, Russia, Brazil and India.
The US has a prison population of 2,239,751, equivalent to 716 people per 100,000. China ranks second with 1,640,000 people behind bars, or 121 people per 100,000, while Russia’s inmates are 681,600, amounting to 475 individuals per 100,000.
Brazilian prisons hold 548,003 citizens, 274 people per 100,000; finally, India’s prison population amounts to 385,135, with a per capita rate of just 30 inmates per 100,000 citizens.
Among the countries with the smallest prison populations are Malta, Equatorial Guinea, Luxembourg, French Guyana and Djibouti. Sweden ranked 112th for its prison population.
A 65-year-old man who pleasured himself on a Stockholm beach acquitted of sexual assault because he ‘was not targeting a specific person’
A court in Sweden has ruled that a man who openly masturbated on a beach in Stockholm did not commit an offence because he was not “pleasuring himself towards a specific person”.
The 65-year-old man had been charged with sexual assault after he was seen on 6 June removing his shorts and masturbating near the water’s edge.
The district court of Södertörn issued a judgement in which it said that it “may be proven that the man exposed himself and masturbated on this occasion”, according to the Swedish English-language news website The Local.
Yet the court acquitted the man, and said the man had not committed an offence because he did not direct his activities towards a specific person.
And it appears that Sweden’s prosecution service will accept the ruling, with public prosecutor Olof Vrethammar telling the Mitti newspaper that he wasn’t planning to appeal.
“For this to be a criminal offence it’s required that the sexual molestation was directed towards one or more people. I think the court’s judgement is reasonable,” he said.
When asked if it was now acceptable to masturbate in public if you don’t direct it towards a specific individual the prosecutor said it was “okay”.
“The district court has made a judgement on this case. With that we can conclude that it is okay to masturbate on the beach.”
Mr Verthammar added that acts of masturbation in public may still be regarded as “disorderly conduct”.
- Dr Nigel Barber’s book debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children
- He said the market for formal religion is being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sport and entertainment in more developed countries
- Added that atheists are heavily concentrated in richer countries and religion will decrease as individuals’ personal wealth increases
PUBLISHED: 10:32 EST, 7 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:53 EST, 7 August 2013
Religion, such as Buddhism, will have died out in many developed countries by 2041, according to one biopychologist
Religious people in many developed countries will be a minority by 2041, according to one Irish biopsychologist.
A study into the beliefs of people living in 137 countries, which forms the basis for a new book, found atheism increases in more developed places as people become increasingly materially rich.
The book also debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children.
Biopsychologist Dr Nigel Barber has based his book, ‘Why atheism will replace religion,’ on the findings to draw his controversial conclusions.
Biopsychologists examine the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic and developmental mechanisms of behaviour in humans.
In an article in Psychology Today, Dr Barber explains that in his book he questions how long it would take for the average country in the world to reach a similar level of wealth and development as countries that already have secular minorities.
This transition was defined as a minority of the population believing in a god, or a minority considering that a god is important to their lives.
This was measured in terms of a country’s GDP, local prices and Human Development Index (HDI) and allowed Mr Barber to come to the conclusion the average country will transform into a secular society in 2041.
He said atheists are heavily concentrated in economically developed countries and religion will decrease as individuals’ personal wealth increases.
The book proposes that people do not have to rely on supernatural influences when material possessions are catering to their needs, according to Science World Report.
Religion declines not only because people are becoming richer, but also due to the increasing quality of life, decline of serious diseases, better education and welfare states, the author said.
He believes there is less demand for religion in societies such as Japan and Sweden where normal people are relatively comfortable and consequently the majority of the populations are already secular.
Dr Barber concentrates on the emotional benefits of religion that favored its evolution amongst our ancestors, who faced many different challenges to their daily lives.
The book links the cause of religion’s emergence with reasons for its potential decline and the Amazon description for the book likens organised religion to a Dodo.
Will cathedrals be empty in 2041? A study into the beliefs of people living in 137 countries, which forms the basis for a new book, found atheism increases in more developed places as people become more materially rich
DISTRIBUTION OF ATHEISTS
- There is almost no Atheism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- But there are more atheists in Europe:
- 64% of people are non-believers in Sweden
- 48% of individuals are atheist in Denmark
- 44% of French citizens do not subscribe to a religion
- 42% of Germans do not believe in a god.
- The figures come from a 2007 report by Zuckerman via Psychology Today
The description says: ‘Religion evolved to help our ancestors cope with anxiety and insecurity.
‘Supernatural belief is in decline everywhere that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances.
‘The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment.
‘Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer.’
Dr Barber also said it is unlikely religious communities will continue to dominate atheistic groups as they have children more frequently, as has been previously suggested.
Dr Barber said: ‘Noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve.’
He believes as women become more integrated into the workplace they will have less children, whether they are religious or atheist.
Jewish men pray at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. Dr Barber’s book says religion evolved to help our ancestors cope with anxiety and insecurity, but now people enjoy a decent standard of living, formal religion is being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2385958/Religion-disappear-2041-people-replaced-God-possessions-claims-leading-psychologist.html#ixzz2bMMvvogQ Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Each person has a different way of looking at the world, but these views are often bundled in the form of prejudices. In his new book, “Atlas of Prejudice,” recently published in Germany, Bulgarian designer Yanko Tsvetskov, 38, has created satirical maps based on national and historical clichés. In Germany, the book has been published by Knesebeck Verlag. An English edition is expected soon. In Germany, apparently, when people think of Sweden, it is IKEA that comes to mind.
According to Tsvetskov’s satirical map, when Spaniards think of Germany, it’s a caricature of “Cruella De Merkel” that comes to mind
And when Poles think of neighboring Germany, they think of a “Western Bully”. It’s perhaps not surprising given that Germany long tried to keep its labor market closed to its Eastern European neighbor.
Yanko Tsvetskov / alphadesigner.com
A week of disturbances in Sweden’s capital has tested the Scandinavian nation’s reputation for tolerance, reports Colin Freeman
By Colin Freeman, Husby
1:36PM BST 25 May 2013
Like the millions of other ordinary Swedes whom he now sees himself as one of, Mohammed Abbas fears his dream society is now under threat. When he first arrived in Stockholm as refugee from Iran in 1994, the vast Husby council estate where he settled was a mixture of locals and foreigners, a melting pot for what was supposed to be a harmonious, multi-racial paradise.
Two decades on, though, “white flight” has left only one in five of Husby’s flats occupied by ethnic Swedes, and many of their immigrant replacements do not seem to share his view that a new life in Swedenis a dream come true. Last week, the neighbourhood erupted into rioting, sparking some of the fiercest urban unrest that Sweden has seen in decades, and a new debate about the success of racial integration.
“In the old days, the neighbourhood was more Swedish and life felt like a dream, but now there are just too many foreigners, and a new generation that has grown up here with just their own culture,” he said, gesturing towards the hooded youths milling around in Husby’s pedestrianised shopping precinct.
“Also, in Sweden you cannot hit your children to discipline them, and this is a problem for foreign parents. The kids can feel they can cause whatever trouble they want, and the police don’t even arrest any of them most of the time.”
This weekend, after six consecutive nights of rioting, Mr Mohammed was not the only one questioning the Swedish social model’s preference for the carrot over the stick. Many Swedes were left asking why a country that prides itself on a generous welfare state, liberal social attitudes and a welcoming attitude towards immigrants should ever have race riots in the first place.
The disturbances erupted in Husby last weekend, after police shot dead an elderly man brandishing a machete inside his house. Angered at what they saw as police heavyhandedness, youths torched cars and buildings and stoned police and firefighters. Police were then forced to draft in extra manpower from outside Stockholm as the trouble spread to other immigrant-dominated suburbs of the capital and towns such as Orebro in central Sweden, where 25 masked youths set fire to a school on Friday night.
Up too in smoke has gone the notion that egalitarian Sweden, which has largely avoided the global recession, might be immune from the social problems blighting less affluent parts of Europe.
Sweden’s centre-right prime minister, Frederik Reinfeldt, blamed “hooligans” but also talked sympathatically of the difficult “transition period between different cultures”. Meanwhile politicians from the Swedish Left, which ruled the country for most of the post-war period, blamed the trouble on social spending cuts introduced by Mr Reinfeldt, whose Moderate Party vowed to trim – though not slash – the welfare budget when he took office in 2006.
But amid the soulsearching last week, perhaps the most telling comment was the one from Kjell Lindgren, the spokesman for Stockholm Police. “We don’t know why they are doing this,” he said, when asked for a cause for the riots. “There is no answer to it.”
Certainly, wandering around Husby last week, it was hard at first glance to see quite what the problem was. Built in the 1970s as part of the “Million Programme” that aimed to give affordable housing for all Swedes, the estate is one of dozens on Stockholm’s outskirts that now house mainly immigrant populations, including large numbers from Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, comparisons to the Paris “banlieus”, or indeed riot-hit Tottenham or Salford, are limited. Between the rows of clean-looking housing blocks are well-tended flowerbeds and neatly- kept public gardens, and in the shopping precinct, where an ornamental fountain still bubbles away, there are bars, shops, and a smart cafe-bakery that would not look too out of place in an IKEA catalogue. At eight per cent, Husby’s joblessness rate is three times the Swedish average, but only slightly higher than that in the UK.
Likewise, although the rioting has been large scale by Swedish standards, seen up close it has less of the ferocity of the 2011 disturbances in Britain. When The Sunday Telegraph visited Husby late on Wednesday night, the highlight was a hit-and-run arson attack on two parked cars. Police were hardly to be seen, and when they did arrive, it was purely to protect the firefighters dealing with the car blaze rather than make arrests.
Instead, teams of well-intentioned volunteers from local community groups and Islamic associations mingled with the crowds of excited onlookers, politely suggesting that they expressed their grievances peacefully.
Among a large group gathered on an overhead walkway was Mohammed Abdu, 27, whose family came to Sweden from Eritrea when he was aged three, and who now works as a security guard. While he condemned the violence as “hooliganism”, he claimed that many Husby residents still suffered from discrimination from the police and employers. Besides, he added, living in such a prosperous, advanced country offered no real satisfaction for those so conspicuously at the bottom of the heap.
“It’s true that the welfare system here is an example to the rest of the world, so if you fall here you do not fall all the way to the bottom,” he said. “But people don’t like being dependent on social welfare, and there is hidden racism.”
Not so, argued Yusuf Carlos, 32, a construction worker from Palestine. “It is just kids causing this trouble, that is why the police are not doing much about it,” he said. “Sweden is fair towards immigrants and it isn’t hard to find work, or not before these riots anyway. The problem is that the Swedish people are angry now. They don’t know why people here in Husby are doing this, only that they come from this neighbourhood.”
Certainly, claims of racism upset many Swedes, who have little colonial history, and whose decision to admit large numbers of Third World migrants from the 1980s onwards was born of no particular political obligation, more just a very Swedish sense of humanitarian duty to the wider world. From the very start, the government also sought to avoid creating a German-style “guest worker” class by promoting immigrants’ rights and introducing a plethora of programmes to promote racial integratkion.
Yet despite Swedish language education being offered free to all long-term immigrants, ghettos of foreigners have flourished in recent years. So too have Far Right parties challinging the political class’s long-standing pro-immigration consensus, who now command up to 10 per cent of the vote and may increase their share in next year’s elections.
“We have tried harder than any other European country to integrate, spending billions on a welfare system that is designed to help jobless immigrants and guarantee them a good quality of life,” said Marc Abramsson, leader of the National Democrats Party. “Yet we have areas where there are ethnic groups that just don’t identify with Swedish society. They see the police and even the fire brigade as part of the state, and they attack them. We have tried everything, anything, to improve things, but it hasn’t worked. It’s not about racism, it’s just that multi-culturalism doesn’t recognise how humans actually function.”
Aje Carlbom, a Swedish academic and author of a critical study into Swedish immigration policy, added that despite the increasing appeal of Far Right parties, mainstream Swedish politicians were still reluctant to even ask the kind of questions that the likes of Mr Abramsson was already offering answers to.
“Anyone who wants to regulate immigration is immediately classified as a nationalist, which also implies a racist as well,” he said. “It is still almost impossible to debate this question.”
Still, some of Husby’s younger generation argue that it is unreasonable of Swedes to expect them to be perennially “grateful” for taking them in, even from the dire circumstances in their homelands.
Among them is local youth worker Rami al Khamisi, 25, whose family escaped to Sweden from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq back in 1994, smuggling themselves first through Turkey and Russia and then across the Baltic in a fishing boat commandeered by a people smuggler. “I was six years old and the boat was packed with about 60 people,” he said. “An old man died, and they threw him in the water because his body was smelling a lot.”
That, though, he says, is his only real memory of the hardships of his early life, and as such, he finds it hard to be as thankful as his parents still are to his adopted homeland. “They compare it to Baghdad or Somalia,” he said. “But we younger immigrants only really know Sweden, and we just compare our situation to the one around us.”
With Stockholm still burning this weekend, though, that may be asking for just a little too much understanding – even in compassionate, generous Sweden.
Russian ‘Attack’ Raises Questions Over Sweden’s Readiness
By GERARD O’DWYER |
HELSINKI — Sweden’s Defense Ministry is set to discuss the implementation of new advance warning and rapid reaction structures after the disclosure that Russian aircraft conducted a nighttime “simulated” attack on key Swedish military and civilian installations last month.
The incident, which took place on March 30 close to Sweden’s southeastern archipelago, has generated sharp criticism from opposition leaders who questioned the military command system’s ability or willingness to deliver a rapid reaction response to the “threat” presented by Russian aircraft engaged in exercises close to the Swedish island of Gotska Sandön in the Baltic Sea.
Although the Swedish Armed Force’s (SAF’s) early warning radar system identified the “threat” as two Tu-22M3 (NATO ID Backfires) heavy bombers flanked by four Su-27 fighters, there was no command response to scramble Swedish Air Force Gripen interceptors.
“The interception needed wasn’t performed by Swedish fighters, but by Danish F-16s operating out of a NATO air base in Lithuania who were scrambled to shadow the Russian aircraft. It is completely incomprehensible that a country like us that spends [US] $6.5 billion on defense annually cannot even manage to have two aircraft on 24/7 standby alert,” said Peter Rådberg , a Green Party member of Parliament who sits on the Parliamentary Committee on Defense (PCoD).
The SAF said the Russian aircraft were tracked and monitored while they remained in international airspace off Gotska Sandön, about 55 miles from Sweden’s southeast coast.
The Russian aircraft departed after conducting a range of maneuvers.
The PCoD is to convene an extraordinary session to discuss the incident and the lack of a tactical response in coming weeks.
The committee will also investigate whether the lack of a reaction by the SAF was due to funding issues or the absence of any effective Emergency Readiness System by the military, said the PCoD’s chairman, Peter Hultqvist.
“The committee will need to talk to the chief of defense and ask him to explain how this incident transpired and how the response system, which we would assume exists, actually works. At least we have never been informed that Sweden does not have a 24/7 fighter readiness system,” Hultqvist said.
The SAF has defended its inaction, claiming that its Air-Surveillance Command’s radar stations had tracked and monitored the location of the Russian bombers and fighters while they were engaged in exercises in the Baltic Sea.
“In this case, we made a judgment that we would not have any capability on standby,” SAF spokesman Lt. Gen. Anders Silwer said during a news conference April 22. “We do not react to everything. We had no advance warning that Russian aircraft planned to hold maneuvers in the Baltic Sea.”
Hultqvist countered: “It is a decidedly serious matter if we discover that Swedish preparedness does not work. We must have a 24/7 rapid reaction capability. For Russian aircraft to run a mock bombing exercise apparently simulating attacks against Swedish targets reminds me of the Cold War era. This confirms our image that Russia means business when it comes to raising its military capacity.”
The incident has once again raised serious questions over whether the Swedish military is capable of protecting the country’s territorial sovereignty, Rådberg said.
Sweden will not seek a formal explanation for the unusual night-time maneuvers. However, the incident, said Defense Minister Karin Enström, reaffirmed Sweden’s view that Russia is engaged in capacity-building muscle-flexing in the High North and Baltic Sea regions.
“We have observed that Russia has stepped up its training exercises and that they are behaving in a different way than before. We intend to maintain a close watch on the situation,” Enström said in a statement.
- Wikileaks releases database of U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976
- Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser
- Julian Assange worked on project inside Ecuadorian Embassy in London
- Australian Wikileaks founder, 41, sought refuge at the embassy last June
By Mark Duell
PUBLISHED: 20:00 EST, 7 April 2013 | UPDATED: 20:00 EST, 7 April 2013
Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks today published more than 1.7million U.S. records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world.
The data released today includes more than 1.7million U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 – covering a traffic of cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S. confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.
Collection: The data released today includes more than 1.7million US diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976
Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 41, during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer.
The Australian sought refuge at the embassy last June over fears that he would be sent to the U.S. if he was extradited to Sweden to face sexual offence claims by two women – charges he denies.
The Ecuadorian Government has granted Mr Assange political asylum and has repeatedly offered Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him at the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Assange said the information showed the ‘vast range and scope’ of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.
On the inside: Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer
Records database: WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S. confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications
Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or sent to him.
Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret or confidential.
Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had undertaken a detailed analysis of the communications, adding that the information eclipsed Cablegate, a set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year.
These documents were released after being anonymously leaked, detailing U.S. foreign policy over the last decade.
Across Africa: Henry Kissinger was U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Adviser during the period covered by the collection, and many of the reports were written by him or sent to him
The collection published today has not been leaked, but Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had been working for the past year to analyse and assess a vast amount of data held at the U.S. national archives before releasing it in a searchable form.
Mr Assange said WikiLeaks had developed sophisticated technical systems to deal with ‘complex and voluminous’ data.
Top secret documents were not available, while some others were lost or irreversibly corrupted for periods including December 1975 and March and June 1976, said Mr Assange.
He added that his mother, who lives in Australia, had told him he was being kept at the embassy ‘with nothing to do but work on WikiLeaks material’.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2305437/Julian-Assange-WikiLeaks-release-1-7m-US-diplomatic-intelligence-reports.html#ixzz2PpsZ8Wlh Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
- Chinese authorities found cake contained high levels of coliform bacteria
- Nearly two tons of the chocolate almond cake was destroyed last year
- The company was caught up in the horsemeat scandal last week
By Steve Nolan
PUBLISHED: 09:37 EST, 5 March 2013 | UPDATED: 10:57 EST, 5 March 2013
Almost two tons of cake imported by Swedish firm Ikea to China have been destroyed after authorities found it contained bacteria present in sewage.
Quarentine officials in Shanghai confirmed that 1,872kg of chocolate almond cake imported by the company contained excessive levels of coliform bacteria which is found in human faeces.
The news comes just a week after Ikea became embroiled in the horsemeat scandal.
Food scandal: Cake imported to China by Swedish firm Ikea failed to meet food hygiene standards, officials have said
The company had to withdraw meatballs from 24 countries last week over fears that they could contain horse DNA.
Ikea spokesman Ylva Magnusson said that the cakes were destroyed in November and December but the company’s head office had only found out about it on Monday.
She said: ‘The product was stopped and destroyed. So none of the cakes made it to our restaurants.’
She added that the supplier has tested the same batch of almond cakes and found no presence of E. coli or human intestinal bacteria.
The cake, which is made by a Swedish supplier, is sold in Ikea stores in the majority of countries that it operates in.
A statement released by Ikea said that the product has now been withdrawn from 23 countries – but added that the UK and Ireland are not affected.
It read: ‘Traces of coliform bacteria have been found in two isolated production batches of Almond cake with chocolate and butterscotch, produced for the Restaurant, from one supplier in Sweden.
‘There is no health risk associated with consuming this product.
‘The production batches have, as per safety and quality routines, been tested for bacteria that can cause health issues, such as E.coli, and none of these pathogen bacteria have been found.’
Coliform bacteria can be found in soil, vegetation, water and everyday human environments, as well as in the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals.
Not on sale: The firm had already had to remove meatballs from 24 countries because it was feared that there could be horse DNA in them
The Shanghai quarantine bureau said this week that Kraft cream cheese and 2.7 tons of Nestle chocolate bars also were among dozens of imported products destroyed in its latest round of quality inspections.
Chinese authorities have stepped up food inspections in recent years after a series of scandals over fake or shoddy goods.
The Nestle chocolate apparently contained too much sorbitol, a sweetener that in large amounts can cause bowel problems, the agency said in a statement.
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Results consistent with findings from Finland and Sweden, but may still be overestimated
The results are consistent with previous studies from Finland and Sweden and indicate that the association is not confined to Scandinavian populations. However, the authors stress that the risk may still be overestimated, and they call for longer term monitoring of the cohort of children and adolescents exposed to Pandemrix to evaluate the exact level of risk.
In 2009, pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus spread rapidly, resulting in millions of cases and over 18,000 deaths in over 200 countries. In England the vaccine Pandemrix was introduced in October 2009. By March 2010, around one in four (24%) of healthy children aged under 5 and just over a third (37%) aged 2-15 in a risk group had been vaccinated.
In August 2010 concerns were raised in Finland and Sweden about a possible association between narcolepsy and Pandemrix. And in 2012 a study from Finland reported a 13-fold increased risk in children and young people aged 4-19.
But a lack of reported cases in other countries led to speculation that any possible association might be restricted to these Scandinavian populations.
Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder of excessive daytime sleepiness, often accompanied by sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong emotion (known as cataplexy). To evaluate the risk after vaccination in England, a team of researchers reviewed case notes for 245 children and young people aged 4-18 from sleep centres and child neurology centres across England.
Of these, 75 had narcolepsy (56 with cataplexy) with onset after 1 January 2008. Eleven had been vaccinated before onset of symptoms; seven within six months.
After adjusting for clinical conditions, vaccination at any time was associated with a 14-fold increased risk of narcolepsy, whereas vaccination within six months before onset was associated with a 16-fold increased risk.
In absolute numbers, this means that one in 52,000 to 57,500 doses are associated with narcolepsy, say the authors.
They write: “The increased risk of narcolepsy after vaccination with ASO3 adjuvanted pandemic A/H1N1 2009 vaccine indicates a causal association, consistent with findings from Finland. Because of variable delay in diagnosis, however, the risk might be overestimated by more rapid referral of vaccinated children.”
While further use of this vaccine for prevention of seasonal flu seems unlikely, they say their findings “have implications for the future licensure and use of AS03 adjuvanted pandemic vaccines containing different subtypes such H5 or H9.”
And they conclude: “Further studies to assess the risk, if any, associated with the other A/H1N1 2009 vaccines used in the pandemic, including those with and without adjuvants, are also needed to inform the use of such vaccines in the event of a future pandemic.”
Contact: Natasha Pinol firstname.lastname@example.org 202-326-6440 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in rivers and streams inspire changes in wildlife
|IMAGE: This is a perch (Perca fluviatilis).|
Pharmaceutical drugs that end up in the world’s waterways after being excreted, flushed and treated at wastewater treatment plants may lead to unexpected ecological impacts, according to a new study of wild European perch. Tomas Brodin and colleagues from Umeå University in Sweden discovered that the fish ate faster, became bolder and acted less social after being subjected to an anxiety-moderating drug, known as Oxazepam.
The psychiatric drug is used to treat anxiety in humans. But, Oxazepam residues often wind up in natural aquatic systems, downstream from sewage treatment plants, where their effects on ecosystems have been unknown. Now, Brodin and the other researchers have dosed wild perch with amounts of Oxazepam equivalent to those found in Sweden’s rivers and streams, and their results suggest that even small amounts of the drug can alter the behavior and the foraging rates of these fish.
The related report appears in the 15 February issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
“While alone, fish that were exposed to Oxazepam dared to leave safe refuge and enter novel, potentially dangerous areas,” explained Brodin. “In contrast, unexposed fish stayed hidden in their refuge. The exposed fish seemed much less stressed and scared, behaving calmer and bolder.”
|IMAGE: These are shoaling perch.|
Perch that were exposed to the drug also devoured their food quicker than unexposed fish—a behavioral quirk that the researchers say could alter the composition of species in the water and lead to ecological events, such as increased algal blooming, over time. Since fish are generally integral pieces of their food webs, changes in their eating patterns could disturb ecological balances, according to the researchers.
The fish that were given Oxazepam during the study also became anti-social, distancing themselves from other perch and putting themselves at greater risk of predation. “Perch that were exposed to Oxazepam lost interest in hanging out with the group, and some even stayed as far away from the group as possible,” explained Brodin.
The fish in the study accumulated concentrations of the drug in their muscle tissues that were comparable to those found in wild fish, according to the researchers. So it’s likely that the fish in Sweden’s surface waters, many of which are being exposed to similarly diluted doses of Oxazepam, may be experiencing changes in their behavior and feeding rates as well, they say.
|IMAGE: This is the Umeå University research team in front of the mass spectrometer, where the water and fish samples were analyzed. From left to right: Micael Jonsson, Jonatan Klaminder, Tomas…|
This study by Brodin and his colleagues singled out a particular psychiatric drug that has been found in natural systems. But, a veritable cocktail of drugs can be found in waterways worldwide, making the discovery of Oxazepam’s effects on fish that much more important.
More comprehensive studies are needed before general conclusions can be drawn about how such pharmaceutically induced changes to behavior might affect ecosystems, but these current findings suggest that the concentrations of Oxazepam in Sweden’s surface waters could have unexpected ecological and evolutionary consequences over time.
“The solution to this problem isn’t to stop medicating people who are ill but to try to develop sewage treatment plants that can capture environmentally hazardous drugs,” concluded Jerker Fick, a co-author of the Science report, in a press release from Umeå University.
The report by Brodin et al. was supported by a Young Researcher Award from Umeå University, the Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsrådet and FORMAS, and a small starting grant from the strong research environment “The environment’s chemistry—from molecules to the ecosystem.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent | Reuters – 8 mins ago
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Emelie is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she’s often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.
Emelie is one of around 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe who developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder, after being immunized with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in 2009.
Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain have told Reuters it will show a similar pattern in children there.
Their fate, coping with an illness that all but destroys normal life, is developing into what the health official who coordinated Sweden’s vaccination campaign calls a “medical tragedy” that will demand rising scientific and medical attention.
Europe’s drugs regulator has ruled Pandemrix should no longer be used in people aged under 20. The chief medical officer at GSK’s vaccines division, Norman Begg, says his firm views the issue extremely seriously and is “absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this”, but adds there is not yet enough data or evidence to suggest a causal link.
Others – including Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world’s leading experts on narcolepsy, who is being funded by GSK to investigate further – agree more research is needed but say the evidence is already clearly pointing in one direction.
“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Pandemrix increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries – and probably in most countries,” says Mignot, a specialist in the sleep disorder at Stanford University in the United States.
30 MILLION RECEIVED PANDEMRIX
In total, the GSK shot was given to more than 30 million people in 47 countries during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. Because it contains an adjuvant, or booster, it was not used in the United States because drug regulators there are wary of adjuvanted vaccines.
GSK says 795 people across Europe have reported developing narcolepsy since the vaccine’s use began in 2009.
Questions about how the narcolepsy cases are linked to Pandemrix, what the triggers and biological mechanisms might have been, and whether there might be a genetic susceptibility are currently the subject of deep scientific investigation.
But experts on all sides are wary. Rare adverse reactions can swiftly develop into “vaccine scares” that spiral out of proportion and cast what one of Europe’s top flu experts calls a “long shadow” over public confidence in vaccines that control potential killers like measles and polio.
“No-one wants to be the next Wakefield,” said Mignot, referring to the now discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield who sparked a decades-long backlash against the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot with false claims of links to autism.
With the narcolepsy studies, there is no suggestion that the findings are the work of one rogue doctor.
Independent teams of scientists have published peer-reviewed studies from Sweden, Finland and Ireland showing the risk of developing narcolepsy after the 2009-2010 immunization campaign was between seven and 13 times higher for children who had Pandemrix than for their unvaccinated peers.
“We really do want to get to the bottom of this. It’s not in anyone’s interests if there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed,” said GSK’s Begg.
Emelie’s parents, Charles and Marie Olsson, say she was a top student who loved playing the piano, taking tennis lessons, creating art and having fun with friends. But her life started to change in early 2010, a few months after she had Pandemrix. In the spring of 2010, they noticed she was often tired, needing to sleep when she came home from school.
But it wasn’t until May, when she began collapsing at school, that it became clear something serious was happening.
As well as the life-limiting bouts of daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy brings nightmares, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and episodes of cataplexy – when strong emotions trigger a sudden and dramatic loss of muscle strength.
In Emelie’s case, having fun is the emotional trigger. “I can’t laugh or joke about with my friends anymore, because when I do I get cataplexies and collapse,” she said in an interview at her home in the Swedish capital.
Narcolepsy is estimated to affect between 200 and 500 people per million and is a lifelong condition. It has no known cure and scientists don’t really know what causes it. But they do know patients have a deficit of a brain neurotransmitter called orexin, also known as hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness.
Research has found that some people are born with a variant in a gene known as HLA that means they have low hypocretin, making them more susceptible to narcolepsy. Around 25 percent of Europeans are thought to have this genetic vulnerability.
When results of Emelie’s hypocretin test came back in November last year, it showed she had 15 percent of the normal amount, typical of heavy narcolepsy with cataplexy.
The seriousness of her strange new illness has forced her to contemplate life far more than many other young teens: “In the beginning I didn’t really want to live any more, but now I have learned to handle things better,” she said.
Scientists investigating these cases are looking in detail at Pandemrix’s adjuvant, called AS03, for clues.
Some suggest AS03, or maybe its boosting effect, or even the H1N1 flu itself, may have triggered the onset of narcolepsy in those who have the susceptible HLA gene variant.
Angus Nicoll, a flu expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), says genes may well play a part, but don’t tell the whole story.
“Yes, there’s a genetic predisposition to this condition, but that alone cannot explain these cases,” he said. “There was also something to do with receiving this specific vaccination. Whether it was the vaccine plus the genetic disposition alone or a third factor as well – like another infection – we simply do not know yet.”
GSK is funding a study in Canada, where its adjuvanted vaccine Arepanrix, similar to Pandemrix, was used during the 2009-2010 pandemic. The study won’t be completed until 2014, and some experts fear it may not shed much light since the vaccines were similar but not precisely the same.
It all leaves this investigation with far more questions than answers, and a lot more research ahead.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
In his glass-topped office building overlooking the Maria Magdalena church in Stockholm, Goran Stiernstedt, a doctor turned public health official, has spent many difficult hours going over what happened in his country during the swine flu pandemic, wondering if things should have been different.
“The big question is was it worth it? And retrospectively I have to say it was not,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Being a wealthy country, Sweden was at the front of the queue for pandemic vaccines. It got Pandemrix from GSK almost as soon as it was available, and a nationwide campaign got uptake of the vaccine to 59 percent, meaning around 5 million people got the shot.
Stiernstedt, director for health and social care at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, helped coordinate the vaccination campaign across Sweden’s 21 regions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the 2009-2010 pandemic killed 18,500 people, although a study last year said that total might be up to 15 times higher.
While estimates vary, Stiernstedt says Sweden’s mass vaccination saved between 30 and 60 people from swine flu death. Yet since the pandemic ended, more than 200 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Sweden.
With hindsight, this risk-benefit balance is unacceptable. “This is a medical tragedy,” he said. “Hundreds of young people have had their lives almost destroyed.”
PANDEMICS ARE EMERGENCIES
Yet the problem with risk-benefit analyses is that they often look radically different when the world is facing a pandemic with the potential to wipe out millions than they do when it has emerged relatively unscathed from one, like H1N1, which turned out to be much milder than first feared.
David Salisbury, the British government’s director of immunization, says “therein lies the risk, and the difficulty, of working in public health” when a viral emergency hits.
“In the event of a severe pandemic, the risk of death is far higher than the risk of narcolepsy,” he told Reuters. “If we spent longer developing and testing the vaccine on very large numbers of people and waited to see whether any of them developed narcolepsy, much of the population might be dead.”
Pandemrix was authorized by European drug regulators using a so-called “mock-up procedure” that allows a vaccine to be authorized ahead of a possible pandemic using another flu strain. In Pandemrix’s case, the substitute was H5N1 bird flu.
When the WHO declared a pandemic, GSK replaced the mock-up’s strain with the pandemic-causing H1N1 strain to form Pandemrix.
GSK says the final H1N1 version was tested in trials involving around 3,600 patients, including children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, before it was rolled out.
The ECDC’s Nicoll says early warning systems that give a more accurate analysis of a flu strain’s threat are the best way to minimize risks of this kind of tragedy happening in future.
Salisbury agrees, and says progress towards a universal flu vaccine – one that wouldn’t need last-minute changes made when a new strain emerged – would cuts risks further.
“Ideally, we would have a better vaccine that would work against all strains of influenza and we wouldn’t need to worry about this ever again,” he said. “But that’s a long way off.”
With scientists facing years of investigation and research, Emelie just wants to make the best of her life.
She reluctantly accepts that to do so, she needs a cocktail of drugs to try to control the narcolepsy symptoms. The stimulant Ritalin and the sleeping pill Sobril are prescribed for Emelie’s daytime sleepiness and night terrors. Then there’s Prozac to try to stabilize her and limit her cataplexies.
“That’s one of the things that makes me feel most uncomfortable,” she explains. “Before I got this condition I didn’t take any pills, and now I have to take lots – maybe for the rest of my life. It’s not good to take so many medicines, especially when you know they have side effects.”
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Will Waterman)
Effect similar to classic risk factors such as weight and blood pressure
Research: Muscular strength in male adolescents and premature death: cohort study of one million participants
Low muscle strength in adolescence is strongly associated with a greater risk of early death from several major causes, suggests a large study published on bmj.com today.
The effect is similar to well established risk factors for early death like being overweight or having high blood pressure, leading the authors to call for young people, particularly those with very low strength, to engage in regular physical activity to boost their muscular fitness.
High body mass index (BMI) and high blood pressure at a young age are known risk factors for premature death, but whether muscular strength in childhood or adolescence can predict mortality is unclear.
So a team of researchers, led by Professor Finn Rasmussen at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, tracked more than one million Swedish male adolescents aged 16 to 19 years over a period of 24 years.
Participants underwent three reliable muscular strength tests at the start of the study (knee extension strength, handgrip strength and elbow flexion strength). BMI and blood pressure were also measured. Premature death was defined as death before age 55 years.
During the follow-up period, 26,145 participants (2.3% of the group) died. Suicide was the most common cause of death (22.3%) compared with cardiovascular diseases (7.8%) or cancer (14.9%).
High muscular strength was associated with a 20-35% lower risk of early death from any cause and also from cardiovascular diseases, independently of BMI or blood pressure. No association was seen with cancer deaths.
Stronger adolescents also had a 20-30% lower risk of early death from suicide and were up to 65% less likely to have any psychiatric diagnosis, such as schizophrenia and mood disorders. These results suggest that physically weaker individuals might be more mentally vulnerable, say the authors.
In contrast, male adolescents with the lowest level of muscular strength showed the greatest all-cause mortality and also the greatest mortality in cardiovascular disease and suicide before age 55 years.
Death rates from any cause (per 100,000 person years) ranged between 122.3 and 86.9 for weakest and strongest adolescents respectively. Rates for cardiovascular diseases were 9.5 and 5.6 and for suicide were 24.6 and 16.9.
The authors say that low muscular strength in adolescents “is an emerging risk factor for major causes of death in young adulthood, such as suicide and cardiovascular diseases.” The effect sizes of these associations “are similar to classic risk factors such as body mass index and blood pressure,” they add.
They suggest that muscular strength tests, in particular handgrip strength, could be assessed with good reliability in almost any place, including clinical settings, schools and workplaces.
They also support the need for regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence, saying: “People at increased risk of long term mortality, because of lower muscular strength, should be encouraged to engage in exercise programmes and other forms of physical activity.”
2010 study posted for filing
People who take aspirin regularly for a year or more may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Led by Dr Andrew Hart of UEA’s School of Medicine, the research will be presented for the first time at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans today.
Crohn’s disease is a serious condition affecting 60,000 people in the UK and 500,000 people in the US. It is characterized by inflammation and swelling of any part of the digestive system. This can lead to debilitating symptoms and requires patients to take life-long medication. Some patients need surgery and some sufferers have an increased risk of bowel cancer.
Though there are likely to be many causes of the disease, previous work on tissue samples has shown that aspirin can have a harmful effect on the bowel. To investigate this potential link further, the UEA team followed 200,000 volunteers aged 30-74 in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy. The volunteers had been recruited for the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) between 1993 and 1997.
The volunteers were all initially well, but by 2004 a small number had developed Crohn’s disease. When looking for differences in aspirin use between those who did and did not develop the disease, the researchers discovered that those taking aspirin regularly for a year or more were around five times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease.
The study also showed that aspirin use had no effect on the risk of developing ulcerative colitis – a condition similar to Crohn’s disease.
“This is early work but our findings do suggest that the regular use of aspirin could be one of many factors which influences the development of this distressing disease in some patients,” said Dr Hart.
“Aspirin does have many beneficial effects, however, including helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. I would urge aspirin users to continue taking this medication since the risk of aspirin users possibly developing Crohn’s disease remains very low – only one in every 2000 users, and the link is not yet finally proved.”
Further work must now be done in other populations to establish whether there is a definite link and to check that aspirin use is not just a marker of another risk factor which is the real cause of Crohn’s disease. The UEA team will also continue its wider research into other potential factors in the development of Crohn’s disease, including diet.
2010 study posted for filing
A substance found in breast milk can kill cancer cells, reveal studies carried out by researchers at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Although the special substance, known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells), was discovered in breast milk several years ago, it is only now that it has been possible to test it on humans. Patients with cancer of the bladder who were treated with the substance excreted dead cancer cells in their urine after each treatment, which has given rise to hopes that it can be developed into medication for cancer care in the future.
Discovered by chance
HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. Further studies showed that HAMLET comprises a protein and a fatty acid that are both found naturally in breast milk. So far, however, it has not been proven that the HAMLET complex is spontaneously formed in the milk. It is speculated, however, that HAMLET can form in the acidic environment of the babies´ stomachs. Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills 40 different types of cancer, and the researchers are now going on to study its effect on skin cancer, tumours in the mucous membranes and brain tumours. Importantly, HAMLET kills only cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells.
2010 study posted for filing
Researchers at Umeå University and the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered that traces of many medicines can be found in fish that have been swimming in treated waste water. One such medicine, the hormone levonorgestrel, was found in higher concentrations in the blood of fish than in women who take the contraceptive pill. Elevated levels of this hormone can lead to infertility in fish.
The study is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The fish in the study were exposed to treated waste water from three sewage treatment works in Stockholm, Umeå and Gothenburg. The study shows that levonorgestrel – which is found in many contraceptive pills, including the morning-after pill – can impact on the environment and constitutes a risk factor for the ability of fish to reproduce. Levonogestrel is designed to mimic the female sex hormone progesterone and is produced synthetically.
A study from Germany showed very recently that less than a billionth of a gram of levonorgestrel per litre inhibited the reproduction of fish in aquarium-based trials. ”We are finding these levels in treated waste water in Sweden,” explains Jerker Fick at the Department of Chemistry at Umeå University.
For around ten years it has been known that synthetic oestrogen from contraceptive pills can affect fish that live downstream from sewage treatment works. The new study shows that synthetic progesterone-like hormones in contraceptive pills also carry risks.
The fish in the study were exposed to undiluted waste water, whilst in the natural environment there tends to be a degree of dilution in watercourses. But the study pointed out that there are also watercourses with very little dilution, and probably treatment plants that filter out the hormone less effectively than those included in the study. These findings will help to improve our understanding of which substances need to be removed from waste water.
“If we know how our medicines affect the environment, we will be in a better position to choose environmentally friendly alternatives, though we must always put the health of patients first,” says Joakim Larsson at the Sahlgrenska Academy, one of the researchers behind the study.
Combined contraceptive pills contain synthetic forms of female sex hormones, such as synthetic oestrogen and progesterone-like hormones. The hormones that go into the pills vary between products, but levonorgestrel is a progesterone-like hormone that is used in many contraceptive pills, hormone implants and morning-after pills. It is thought that around 80-90 million women use the contraceptive pill worldwide, and that around 400,000 of them are Swedish.
The study was carried out as part of the MistraPharma research programme (www.mistrapharma.se).
Carbon dioxide – our salvation from a future ice age?
Mankind’s emissions of fossil carbon and the resulting increase in temperature could prove to be our salvation from the next ice age. According to new research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the current increase in the extent of peatland is having the opposite effect.
“We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we’re not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide”, says researcher Professor Lars Franzén.
Looking back over the past three million years, the earth has experienced at least 30 periods of ice age, known as ice age pulses. The periods in between are called interglacials. The researchers believe that the Little Ice Age of the 16th to 18th centuries may have been halted as a result of human activity. Increased felling of woodlands and growing areas of agricultural land, combined with the early stages of industrialisation, resulted in increased emissions of carbon dioxide which probably slowed down, or even reversed, the cooling trend.
“It is certainly possible that mankind’s various activities contributed towards extending our ice age interval by keeping carbon dioxide levels high enough,” explains Lars Franzén, Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Gothenburg.
“Without the human impact, the inevitable progression towards an ice age would have continued. The spread of peatlands is an important factor.”
Peatlands act as carbon sinks, meaning that they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are a dynamic landscape element and currently cover around four percent of the earth’s land area. Most peatlands are found in temperate areas north and south of the 45th parallel.
Around 16 percent of Sweden is covered by peatland. Peatlands grow in height and spread across their surroundings by waterlogging woodlands. They are also one of the biggest terrestrial sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Each year, around 20 grams of carbon are absorbed by every square metre of peatland.
“By using the National Land Survey of Sweden’s altitude database, we have calculated how much of Sweden could be covered by peatlands during an interglacial. We have taken a maximum terrain incline of three degrees as our upper limit, and have also excluded all lakes and areas with substrata that are unsuitable for peatland formation.”
The researchers found that around half of Sweden’s surface could be covered by peat. In such a case, the carbon dioxide sink would increase by a factor of between six and ten compared with the current situation.
“If we accept that rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to an increase in global temperature, the logical conclusion must be that reduced levels lead to a drop in temperature.”
The relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature is not linear. Instead, lower levels result in a greater degree of cooling than the degree of warming achieved by a corresponding increase.
“There have been no emissions of fossil carbon during earlier interglacials. Carbon sequestration in peatland may therefore be one of the main reasons why ice age conditions have occurred time after time.”
Using calculations for Swedish conditions, the researchers are also producing a rough estimate of the global carbon sink effect if all temperate peatlands were to grow in the same way.
“Our calculations show that the peatlands could contribute towards global cooling equivalent to five watts per square metre. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are near the end of the current interglacial.”
Professor Franzén and three other researchers have published their findings in the journal Mires and Peat.
1. Franzén, L.G., F. Lindberg, V. Viklander & A. Walther (2012) The potential peatland extent and carbon sink in Sweden, as related to the Peatland / Ice Age Hypothesis.
Mires and Peat 10(8):1-19. http://www.mires-and-peat.net/map10/map_10_08.pdf
Lars Franzén, Professor of Physical Geography
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg
+46 (0)31 786 1958,
+46 (0)706 198267,
Thursday, 01 November 2012
Under a scheme organised by the local authorities in the town of Soderhamn and by Sweden’s national employment office, anyone aged between 18 and 28 can volunteer to take a “Job Journey” to Oslo and attempt track down gainful employment.
Those who sign up get a ticket to the Norwegian capital and are put up in an Oslo youth hostel for a month, with Soderhamn council picking up the Ł20 a night bill. The package also includes on-the-spot guidance on how to get a job in Sweden’s northern neighbour.
“We had an unemployment rate of over 25 per cent, so we had to find solutions,” Magus Nilsen, the man in charge of the project at Soderhamn council, told the Daily Telegraph. “Going to Norway to find work has always been quite popular with young people, but sometimes they want to go but don’t know how to find a job or accommodation so we thought we’d give them a bit of help with both.”
So far around 100 people have decided to leave Soderhamn, a town of 12,000, 250 kilometres due north of Stockholm, to try their luck in the bright lights of Oslo, and some, at least, have struck gold.
After two years on the doll in his hometown Andreas Larsson opted for a “Job Journey” to Norway and now works as a lorry driver in Oslo.
“I came here on a Thursday and on Monday morning I had a job, so it was fast,” he told Swedish Radio. “It almost felt a bit unreal, as if you have come to the promised land.”
Editors Top Five:
1. US researchers find traces of toxic mercury in high-fructose corn syrup
2. Arginine discovery could help fight human obesity
3. Even natural perfumes may cause allergies
4. Vigorous Exercise May Help Prevent Vision Loss
5. Indoor plants can reduce formaldehyde levels
In this issue:
1. Even natural perfumes may cause allergies
2.Researchers Disprove 15-year-old Theory about the Nervous System
3.Plan offers guidance for evaluating menopause-like condition in girls and young women
4. Arginine discovery could help fight human obesity
5. Pharmaceuticals sold in Sweden cause serious environmental harm in India
6. Gut bacteria can manufacture defenses against cancer and inflammatory bowel disease
7. Mutant rats resist warfarin
8. Vigorous Exercise May Help Prevent Vision Loss
9. BGU researchers identify vitamin B12 as an effective canker sore therapy
10. New lab evidence suggests preventive effect of herbal supplement in prostate cancer
11. Herpesvirus: To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate Scientists Weigh Risks and Benefits
12. Food counterfeiting, contamination outpace international regulatory systems
13. Arab-American women need supplement to boost dangerously low vitamin D levels
14. Supplement of probiotics provides a new therapy for ulcerative colitis
15. Indoor plants can reduce formaldehyde levels
16. US researchers find traces of toxic mercury in high-fructose corn syrup
Health Research Report
50th Issue Date 17 FEB 2009
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano
Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging showed on Thursday.
The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 percent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.
“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”, told AFP.
Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes.
“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.
“In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.
There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.
“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Hansen suggested.
“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added,
In Norway, which has long tradition of gender equality, childrearing is generally shared equally between mothers and fathers (in seven out of 10 couples), said Hansen, speaking notably from a park where he was minding his children.
But when it comes to housework, women in Norway still account for most of it in seven out of 10 couples.
The study also pointed out however that those women were largely satisfied with the situation, and their overall happiness was very close to those women who lived in “modern” couples
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
Survey ‘magic trick’ causes attitude reversal.
- Zoë Corbyn 19 September 2012
People can be tricked into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions, researchers report today in PLoS ONE1.
The researchers, led by Lars Hall, a cognitive scientist at Lund University in Sweden, recruited 160 volunteers to fill out a 2-page survey on the extent to which they agreed with 12 statements — either about moral principles relating to society in general or about the morality of current issues in the news, from prostitution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
But the surveys also contained a ‘magic trick’. Each contained two sets of statements, one lightly glued on top of the other. Each survey was given on a clipboard, on the back of which the researchers had added a patch of glue. When participants turned the first page over to complete the second, the top set of statements would stick to the glue, exposing the hidden set but leaving the responses unchanged.
Two statements in every hidden set had been reworded to mean the opposite of the original statements. For example, if the top statement read, “Large-scale governmental surveillance of e-mail and Internet traffic ought to be forbidden as a means to combat international crime and terrorism,” the word ‘forbidden’ was replaced with ‘permitted’ in the hidden statement.
Participants were then asked to read aloud three of the statements, including the two that had been altered, and discuss their responses.
About half of the participants did not detect the changes, and 69% accepted at least one of the altered statements.
People were even willing to argue in favour of the reversed statements: A full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements, the authors write. Hall and his colleagues have previously reported this effect, called ‘choice blindness’, in other areas, including taste and smell2 and aesthetic choice3.
“I don’t feel we have exposed people or fooled them,” says Hall. “Rather this shows something otherwise very difficult to show, [which is] how open and flexible people can actually be.”
The study raises questions about the validity of self-report questionnaires, says Hall. The results suggest that standard surveys “are not good at capturing the complexity of the attitudes people actually hold”, he says, adding that the switching technique could be used to improve opinion surveys in the future.
Tania Lombrozo, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that the experiment is “creative and careful”, but adds that it would be good to see the findings replicated with a more diverse group of participants and a broader range of claims, including those more likely to play a role in people’s everyday judgement and behaviour. “For example, would people fail to notice a change in their judgement concerning the ethics of meat consumption and subsequently provide a justification for a view that isn’t their own?” she asks.
The possibility of using the technique as a means of moral persuasion is “intriguing”, says Liane Young, a psychologist at Boston College in Massachusetts. “These findings suggest that if I’m fooled into thinking that I endorse a view, I’ll do the work myself to come up with my own reasons [for endorsing it],” she says.
Tim Berners-Lee: the internet has no off switch
There is no “off switch” for the internet, says the British inventor of the world wide web – and that is a good thing, because it could only be undone by governments around the world coordinating to turn it into a centralised system.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who launched the first web page on Christmas Day 1990, was speaking at the launch of a global league table showing which countries put the web to work best.
His “off switch” comments came after concerns were expressed last year that the former Egyptian regime led by Hosni Mubarak had suppressed the use of the web to try to damp down the revolution that eventually overthrew it.
Berners-Lee, 57, said: “The way the internet is designed is very much as a decentralised system. At the moment, because countries connect to each other in lots of different ways, there is no one off switch, there is no central place where you can turn it off.
“In order to be able to turn the whole thing off or really block, suppress one particular idea then the countries and governments would have to get together and agree and co-ordinate and turn it from a decentralised system to being a centralised system.
“And if that does happen it is really important that everybody fights against that sort of direction.”
His comments came on the same day that Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of the collaborative online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, gave evidence to MPs about proposals to monitor and store details about emails and other internet communications. Wales has frequently expressed strong opposition to the suggestion of extending government control of the internet; earlier this year he called for a blackout of Wikipedia to protest at a proposed US law which would have been able to shut down non-US sites alleged to infringe copyright.
Berners-Lee told the Guardian earlier this year that the government should abandon the proposals, calling them “a destruction of human rights” and warning that “the amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing.”
The global league table, launched on Wednesday by the World Wide Web Foundation, showed Sweden as the top country for its use of the web, with the US second and the UK in third place. Nepal, Cameroon and Mali were the bottom three of 61 countries measured using indicators such as the political, economic and social impact of the web, connectivity and use.
The league table, which will be updated annually and will also try to measure absolute as well as relative improvements, uses data from the past five years, and compares elements such as the extent to which relevant and useful content is available to citizens; the political, economic and social impact of the web; the speed of connections; and levels of censorship. The UK’s scores were lowest for web usage and social impact. China, despite having the world’s largest internet population, ranked 29th, and was 42nd in terms of political impact out of the 61 countries examined.
Newborn mice that are exposed to Bisphenol A develop changes in their spontaneous behavior and evince poorer adaptation to new environments, as well hyperactivity as young adults. This has been shown by researchers at Uppsala University. Their study also revealed that one of the brain’s most important signal systems, the cholinergic signal system, is affected by Bisphenol A and that the effect persisted into adulthood.
Our environment contains a number of pollutants, including Bisphenol A, which is used in plastics in a number of different applications. When plastic products are used, Bisphenol A can leak out, which is especially problematic as it is used in baby bottles, tin cans, plastic containers, plastic mugs, which are used by people of all ages. Both in Sweden and globally, Bisphenol A is widely used, and the substance has been found in human placentas, fetuses, and breast milk.
In recent years measurable amounts of Bisphenol have been found in dust from regular homes, but opinion differs regarding any negative effects of Bisphenol A, and risk assessments from various parts of the world present contradictory recommendations, even though the information used comes from the same research reports. Here in Sweden the Swedish Chemicals Agency and the Medical Products Agency are working on a ban for Bisphenol A in baby bottles and certain other plastic products.
In humans and mammals, the brain develops intensively during a limited period of time. In human babies, this brain development period runs from the seventh month of gestation through the first two years of life. The corresponding period for mice takes place during the 3-4 first weeks after birth. Uppsala researchers have shown in previous research studies that various toxic compounds can induce permanent damage to brain function when they are administered to newborn mice during this developmental period. Examples of such compounds are so-called brominated flame-retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and DDT.
In an entirely new study these researchers examined whether exposure to Bisphenol A during the neonatal period can cause permanent damage to brain function. In the experiment different doses of Bisphenol A were given to mice when they were ten days old. The mice underwent a so-called spontaneous behavior test as young adults, in which they were made to change cages from their well-known home cage to another identical one during one hour. Normal mice are very active during the first 20 minutes, exploring the new home environment. This activity declines during the next 20 minutes, and in the final 20 minutes it drops even more, and the mice settle down and sleep.
“In our study we found that a single exposure to Bisphenol A during the short critical period of brain development in the neonatal period leads to changes in spontaneous behavior and poorer adaptation to new environments, as well as hyperactivity among young adult mice. When this is examined again later in their adult life, these functional disturbances persist, which indicates that the damage is permanent and do not in fact disappear,” says Henrik Viberg at the Department of Organism Biology.
Using the same behavioral method, it was also examined whether the individuals that had received Bisphenol A during their neonatal period reacted differently than normal individuals to adult exposure to nicotine, which would indicate that one of the brain’s most important signal systems, the cholinergic signal system, was affected. Normal animals exposed as adults to the given dose of nicotine experience dramatically increased activity compared with animals that were not exposed to nicotine. Animals that had been exposed to Bisphenol A during their neonatal period and then received nicotine as adults did not evince the same hyperactivity as normal animals at all. This indicates that the choligernic signal system had been affected and that these individuals had had developed increased sensitivity to this type of exposure in adulthood. Once again, this effect was induced during the neonatal period but persisted into adulthood.
“We have previously seen this type of effect from several other environmental toxins that are still prevalent in both indoor and outdoor environments. As these effects are similar to each other, it’s possible that several different environmental toxins, including Bisphenol A, may work together in causing disturbances during brain development. This in turn may mean that the individual dosages of the various environmental toxins that are required to cause disturbances may be lower than those we examined in our studies of, for example, Bisphenol and brominated flame-retardants,” says Henrik Viberg.
This research is published in the scientific journal Toxicology.
Dose-dependent behavioral disturbances after a single neonatal Bisphenol A dose, Toxicology, In Press, Uncorrected Proof, Henrik Viberg, Anders Fredriksson, Sonja Buratovic, Per Eriksson doi:10.1016/j.tox.2011.09.006
For more information please contact Henrik Viberg, tel: 46-18-471 7695; mobile: 46-70-171 9060, e-mail: email@example.com
By Robert Booth, The Guardian
Friday, August 24, 2012 19:19 EDT
It is the “restricted” official document that sums up the Metropolitan police’s tactics towards Julian Assange. “Action required: Assange to be arrested under all circumstances,” says the handwritten note that was photographed under a policeman’s arm on Friday detailing a “summary of the current position” on Assange’s exile inside the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge.
It is no surprise that a fugitive from a European arrest warrant that demands removal to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault should face such a fate. Police officers are stationed right up against the front and back of the embassy where Assange has sought sanctuary and he recently claimed to have heard them “swarming” behind the fire escape.
There should be no escape, the note suggests, ordering that Assange is arrested if “he comes out with dip [presumably a diplomat] … as dip bag [which allows immunity from search for diplomatic communications, and which could be as large as a suitcase, crate or even a shipping container], in dip car …. in dip vehicle.”
The note mentions “SS10 to liaise”. The Met police press office said it had no idea what this might mean. Could it be a misspelling of SO10, the colloquial name for the Met’s covert operations group? The later mention of SO20 suggests what Assange and his supporters have always feared: that the western powers that WikiLeaks has done so much to embarrass might consider him some sort of terrorist. SO20 is the Met’s counter-terrorism protective security command.
However, on Friday night the Met said the reference to SO20 was not connected to the Assange case and were notes from a briefing on another matter.
Environmental toxicants such as dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides can pose a risk for cardiovascular disease. For the first time a link has been demonstrated between atherosclerosis and levels of long-lived organic environmental toxicants in the blood. The study, carried out by researchers at Uppsala University, is being published online this week in ahead of print in the prestigious journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the most common cause of death in industrialized countries, and the most important underlying cause of these diseases is atherosclerosis. Unbalanced blood fats, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure are traditionally recognized risk factors for atherosclerosis.
Previous studies have also reported possible links between cardiovascular disease and high levels of persistent (long-lived and hard-to-degrade) organic environmental toxicants, such as dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides. These compounds are fat-soluble and can therefore accumulate in vessel walls. However, no earlier studies have investigated possible links between exposure to these compounds and atherosclerosis.
The current study measured the circulating levels of the above group of compounds in about 1,000 Swedes living in Uppsala. Atherosclerosis in the carotid artery was also measured using ultrasound.
The findings show a clear connection between increasing levels of environmental toxicants and atherosclerosis, even after taking into consideration the traditional risk factors. There was also a link to tangible signs of fat accumulation in vessel walls.
“These findings indicate that long-lived organic environmental toxicants may be involved in the occurrence of atherosclerosis and thereby lead to future death from cardiovascular diseases,” says Lars Lind, professor at the Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University.
“In Sweden, and in many countries in the world, many of these substances are forbidden today, but since they are so long-lived they’re still out there in our environment. We ingest these environmental toxicants with the food we eat, and since they are stored in our bodies, the levels grow higher the older we get,” says Monica Lind, Associate Professor in Environmental Medicine at Occupational and Environmental Medicine
These researchers are now going on to study how these compounds affect atherosclerosis in experimental models. They are also going to monitor the individuals included in their study to determine whether a direct connection exists between exposure to these substances and the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes in humans
Breast cancer mortality statistics in Sweden are consistent with studies that have reported that screening has limited or no impact on breast cancer mortality among women aged 40-69, according to a study published July 17 in the Journal of The National Cancer Institute.
Since 1974, Swedish women aged 40-69 have increasingly been offered mammography screening, with nationwide coverage peaking in 1997. Researchers set out to determine if mortality trends would be reflected accordingly.
In order to determine this, Philippe Autier, M.D., of the International Prevention Research Institute (iPRI) in France and colleagues, looked at data from the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare from 1960-2009 to analyze trends in breast cancer mortality in women aged age 40 and older by the county in which they lived. The researchers compared actual mortality trends with the theoretical outcomes using models in which screening would result in mortality reductions of 10%, 20%, and 30%.
The researchers expected that screening would be associated with a gradual reduction in mortality, especially because Swedish mammography trials and observational studies have suggested that mammography leads to a reduction in breast cancer mortality. In this study, however, they found that breast cancer mortality rates in Swedish women started to decrease in 1972, before the introduction of mammography, and have continued to decline at a rate similar to that in the prescreening period. “It seems paradoxical that the downward trends in breast cancer mortality in Sweden have evolved practically as if screening had never existed,” they write. “Swedish breast cancer mortality statistics are consistent with studies that show limited or no impact of screening on mortality from breast cancer.”
The researchers do note certain limitations of their study—namely, that it was observational, so unable to take into account the potential influence of other breast cancer risk factors such as obesity, which may have masked the effect of screening on mortality. They also write that population mobility may have biased the results.
In an accompanying editorial, Nereo Segnan, M.D., MSc Epi, CPO Piemonte, of the Unit of Cancer Epidemiology at ASO S Giovanni Battista University Hospital in Italy and colleagues write that, in the assessment the efficacy of the introduction of screening, the paradox is that descriptive analyses of time trends of breast cancer mortality rates are used to confute the results of incidence based mortality studies, employing individual data and conceived for overcoming some of their limitations, or of randomized trials.
The conclusion by Autier et al that the 37% decline in breast cancer mortality in Sweden was not associated with breast cancer screening seems therefore difficult to justify and partially unsupported by data (two groups of Swedish Counties do show a mortality decrease that, according to the stated criteria, could be linked to screening).
They also feel that “it is time to move beyond an apparently never-ending debate on at what extent screening for breast cancer in itself conducted in the seventies through the nineties of the last century has reduced mortality for breast cancer, as if it was isolated from the rest of health care …. The presence of an organized screening program may have promoted the provision of more effective care by monitoring the treatment quality of screen-detected cancers and by favoring the creation of multidisciplinary units of breast cancer specialists”.
In another accompanying editorial, Michael W. Vannier, M.D. of the Department of Radiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, feels that it’s hard to see mortality reduction as a screening benefit because outliers such as the natural history of the disease, along with the frequency of screening as well as the duration of follow up may misrepresent the time patterns in the mortality reductions. “We know that isolating screening as an evaluable entity using death records fails to reveal major benefits,” he writes, adding that even if screening were 100% effective, the number of deaths may remain unchanged. Still he feels that without a better alternative, mammography screening will continue to be used. “As our tools improve, we can begin to fully realize the promise of breast cancer screening to arrest this dread disease at its earliest stage with the least morbidity and cost.”