Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

A very short post since I'm kind of not exactly in the mood today for this. Tough week, in more than few ways.
But because I want to be at least useful, I offer you a list of search engines that I think you'll find very helpful (if you haven't discovered them yet, of course).
Twitter Search, Scoopler, Collecta, Topsy, CrowdEye, AllInOneNews
What are they about? Well, Twitter Search should tell you enough. My personal favorite is Collecta, but this is just my preference.
So, those search engines are all for live news and live content. We all know Google and what a wonderful job it does when searching for facts and giving you the most adequate information and so on, but when it comes to live search, it's simply not good enough (and that's something good, btw, I like Google, but it's like they try to conquer the world!). So, if you need a real-time information, the best thing to do is to try some of this sites, because they will tell you what's really going on much faster than any other search engines. What they do is basically search trough Twitter, YouTube, blogs and various news sites and they will offer you some summary of what is there. This is particularly useful if you search for recent news, UFO spotting, concert review or something that just happened and didn't make it to the news. Or if you need some local info that you cannot find on the news also. But you must be warned that the information there is extremely dynamical (it's live!) and not very accurate, since the sources are uncheckable. So use it with measure.
I could add some philosophical thoughts on the dynamical search and the place of internet in our lives, but I'll pass this time since my brain got overheated this week. Just remember that the easy access to information is a double-sided sword. It offers you a chance to obtain rough information and make an opinion for yourself, before the official media brainwashes you, but also, it offer an extremely easy way for whoever wants to manipulate the public, since this information is uncheckable and the sources are untraceable. So really, make sure you make your math and use this tools to make a statistics and to gain insights, rather than just to join the mass (hysteria). Our brains are such wonderful tools, we really have to use them more often.

And finally check out this beautiful video about pictures on the sand. You won't sorry, it's marvelous!

Today, obviously is a day dedicated to the barbarism in our society, so my post will fit amazingly well in the over-all picture.
Before starting, I cannot leave behind what happened today. It was a great day, btw, I bought a wonderful (and quite expensive) book on ancient Trakia (or Thrace) written in classical soc-style, but very very beautiful. Today, one cannot find such stuff. It's so beautiful. I know people cannot appreciate such treasures, because in Western countries good book is a good book trough out the decades, but not the same home. Unfortunately, now-a-day everything is propaganda. What an irony, a book from the socialist period to be less propaganda, than a modern book. And the worst is that if people before did it, because they didn't have another option, that was the regime and they had to submit, today, they do it, because they like it.

Maybe I have to elaborate on the meaning of propaganda. In the case, this is a book on history and archeology. So for me, anything that isn't backed by proofs is propaganda. Be it for the sake of the party, for the sake of religion or for the sake of group of people that believe in something, it's still propaganda. When you're blindly following whatever you have in your head and you misread evidences, this is propaganda-you are victim of your own convictions in the best case. And a liar in the worst case.

Unfortunately, people more and more prefer populist books full of lies and speculations, than real, scientific books, written with the idea that they may not be complete or always correct, but written with the best intention to be complete, to be correct, to tell everything you know and admit what you don't know. I don't know what happened with this attitude in science. We see the same behavior in other science too and that is what is really sad. To know you're doing something wrong, something against the spirit of the science, but to do it, because something else requires it. And not only that, but also to repress with modern tools people that want to tell the truth and to do science for the science.

So, back on my post today. It won't be long, since it's getting late and I'm getting tired. It's dedicated to the barbarism around us. Today, I had the bad luck to meet it in one internet site I really love and I'm not very happy about it. I'm very disappointed, but that is another story.
The post is about the obvious destruction of treasure of the human history and civilisation by US soldier in Iraq. You will read the article, but what I really fail to understand is how sick you should be to place your base in a site with international historical meaning. To bring there your heavy machines, your tanks. Why? Isn't there even one better place to do this in the whole country? Or all around Baghdad? Interesting, in Bulgaria the army loves to dig on such sites, to search for treasures, especially gold treasures. I doubt that there is gold in Babylon. I doubt those soldiers are there to search for something, there are probable better places to do it. But I also doubt that they made their base there to protect the site. So the question is obvious. Are they there to destruct? Is this the point?
Without wanting to offend the US readers of my blog, when you watch american movies including some historical sites, they usually end up blown in the air, with beautiful fireworks, but in any case, they are always destroyed. Is there any intrinsic desire to destroy international culture and historical treasures? Because I cannot explain to myself why otherwise, those soldiers are at Babylon. Why?
And why nobody cares about what's happening there. Those ruins are our past. They hide our history. The real history. They are the only place where we can really understand our history from. Everything else is pure speculation, only material evidences count. And we destroy this?

And don't get me wrong, this isn't only the case in Iraq. Remember how the Talibans detonated the Buddha's statues in Afghanistan. Remember all the historical sites that have been destroyed trough out history. I can give fresh examples from Bulgaria and the disappearance of monuments related to ancient Bulgars, also the state in which are currently monuments related to ancient Thraces. What about the monument in Malta, harassed numerous times? Is this intentional?Yes, I think it is. There's no other explanation. Humans, we might be stupid, but in the end, we all want to profit. And such sites offer a lot of profit. If we destroy them, then we don't want them. Why? I don't know.
And yeah, note the second article. I don't have the inner strength to comment it. Too many errors, too many victims. I can only hope that the future will be better.
Hava a good day!

  • UNESCO: US damaged historic Iraqi site of Babylon
  • Did China's Nuclear Tests Kill Thousands and Doom Future Generations?
  • Returned Artifacts Displayed in Kabul
Brutal Destruction Of Iraq's Archaeological Sites Continues (SLIDESHOW)

UNESCO: US damaged historic Iraqi site of Babylon

PARIS (AP) — U.S. troops and contractors inflicted considerable damage on the historic Iraqi site of Babylon, driving heavy machinery over sacred paths, bulldozing hilltops and digging trenches through one of the world' most important archaeological sites, experts for UNESCO said Thursday.

The U.N. cultural agency vowed to make Babylon a World Heritage site and prevent similar vandalism in future wars.

Once home to the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of antiquity, the 4,000-year-old city lies 56 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad. Soon after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the site became military "Camp Alpha."

American troops and contractors, notably from KBR — then a Halliburton subsidiary — dug trenches several hundred yards (meters) long through the ruins, bulldozed hilltops, and drove heavy military vehicles over the fragile paving of once-sacred procession paths, according to a report presented Thursday at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris.

"There has indeed been a considerable amount of damage," said archaeologist John Curtis of the British Museum, who inspected the site just after U.S. troops handed it back to Iraqi authorities in late 2004.

He said nine of the dragon carvings from Babylon's landmark, 2,600-year-old Ishtar Gate, appeared to have been vandalized by looters while the site was under U.S. military control.

U.S. authorities have said the looting would have been worse had its troops not been there.

UNESCO officials stressed that the damage didn't begin with the U.S. military or fully end after it left. Many of Babylon's most famous artifacts were ripped off walls by European archaeologists during the 19th century and remain on display at the Louvre and Pergamon Museums in Paris and Berlin.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein also restored or distorted some of the ruins so badly that it prevented UNESCO from listing Babylon as a World Heritage site in the past, UNESCO officials said.

Looting and black-market trading has continued on a large scale since the site was handed back to Iraqis, they added.

It is not UNESCO's role to ascribe responsibilities for the damage, said Francoise Riviere, the agency's undersecretary general for culture. Damaging cultural artifacts is forbidden under the 1954 additional protocol to The Hague War Conventions, but the text has been largely ignored during conflicts around the world. source

Did China's Nuclear Tests Kill Thousands and Doom Future Generations?

By Zeeya Merali

Enver Tohti remembers the week that it rained dust. That summer of 1973 he was in elementary school in Xinjiang Province, China’s westernmost region, which is inhabited mostly by Uygurs, one of the country’s minority ethnic groups. “There were three days that earth fell from the sky, without wind or any sort of storm. The sky was deadly silent—no sun, no moon,” he recalls. When the kids asked what was happening, the teacher told them that there was a storm on Saturn. Tohti believed her. It was only years later that he realized it was radioactive dust raised by the test detonation of a nuclear bomb within the province.

Three decades on, Tohti, now a medical doctor, is launching an investigation into the toll still being taken—and one that the Chinese government steadfastly refuses to acknowledge. A few hundred thousand people may have died as a result of radiation from at least 40 nuclear explosions carried out between 1964 and 1996 at the Lop Nur site in Xinjiang, which lies on the Silk Road. Almost 20 million people reside in Xinjiang, and Tohti believes that they offer unique insight into the long-term impact of radiation, including the relatively little studied genetic effects that may be handed down over generations. He is establishing the Lop Nur project at Sapporo Medical University in Japan with physicist Jun Takada to evaluate these consequences.

Takada has calculated that the peak radiation dose in Xinjiang exceeded that measured on the roof of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor after it melted down in 1986. Most damage to Xinjiang locals came from detonations during the 1960s and 1970s, which rained down a mixture of radioactive material and sand from the surrounding desert. Some were three-megaton explosions, 200 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, says Takada, who published his findings in a book, Chinese Nuclear Tests (Iryo­ka­gakusha, 2009).

In the early 1990s Takada, who studied radiation effects from tests conducted by the U.S., the former Soviet Union and France, was invited by scientists in Kazakhstan, which borders Xinjiang, to evaluate the hazard from Chinese tests. He devised a computer model to estimate fallout patterns using Soviet rec­ords of detonation size and wind velocity as well as radiation levels measured in Kazakhstan from 1995 to 2002. Takada was not allowed into China, so he extrapolated his model and used infor­mation about the population density in Xinjiang to estimate that 194,000 people would have died as a result of acute radiation exposure. Around 1.2 million received doses high enough to induce leukemia, solid cancers and fetal damage. “My estimate is a conservative minimum,” Takada says.

The figures came as little surprise to Tohti. Ironically, as a teenager, he was proud that his province was chosen for tests marking China’s technological and military progress. His view changed when he became a physician and saw a disproportionate number of malignant lymphomas, lung cancers, leukemia cases, degenerative disorders and babies born with deformities. “Many doctors suspected this was connected to the tests, but we couldn’t say anything,” Tohti recalls. “We were warned away from researching by our superiors.”

Tohti was only able to speak out in 1998, when he moved to Turkey, ostensibly as part of his medical training. There he joined forces with a team of British documentary filmmakers whom he smuggled back into Xinjiang as tourists. Together they uncovered medical records showing that cancer rates were 30 to 35 percent higher in the province than the national average.

For Tohti, the priority is helping the sick. In March the French government announced that it would compensate civilian victims of its nuclear tests, which were conducted in Polynesia. In 2008 the Chinese state news service Xinhua reported that its government is paying undisclosed subsidies to military personnel involved in the tests. Tohti wants aid extended to affected civilians, adding that 80 percent do not have health care. “Right now, they can’t afford treatment,” he says. “So all they can do is wait to die.”

The Lop Nur project is just the tip of an international iceberg, remarks Abel Gonzalez of the Argentine Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Buenos Aires. Radiation researchers have had easy access to only three sites where nuclear blasts occurred—the U.S.’s site Bikini Atoll, the Soviet Union’s Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan and France’s site in Polynesia—and these areas represent just a small fraction of the approximately 500 atmospheric tests the world has seen. “We have a moral responsibility to investigate all nuclear test sites,” Gonzalez says. Certainly for the Xinjiang people affected by the Lop Nur tests, truer words have never been spoken.


Returned Artifacts Displayed in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan —

The National Museum was celebrating the return of about 2,000 artifacts that had been smuggled into Britain over the years of war in Afghanistan. British authorities confiscated the smuggled items and, after several years spent figuring out where the artifacts had come from, sent them back to Afghanistan in February.

The pieces were on public display for the first time on Tuesday. Visitors peered into glass cases holding delicate blue bowls from the 12th century, a bird-shaped oil burner, and an assortment of tools described as cutter, shaver, bayonet and chopper.

Afghanistan founded the museum in the 1920s, shortly after the country gained full control over its affairs from Britain. Situated at the crossroads of four great civilizations — Chinese, Central Asian, Indian and Persian — Afghanistan is a treasure trove for archaeologists.

By the time the Soviet Union invaded in 1979, the museum owned about 100,000 items. But when the pro-Moscow government collapsed in the early 1990s and civil war convulsed the country, artifacts began to disappear.

The neighborhood around the museum became too dangerous for government workers to visit. Archaeologists concerned about the museum’s fate negotiated with a rebel leader for the chance to reinforce it against intruders, but the steel doors they had installed proved ineffective. Thieves pulled them out of the mud walls, stole from the storeroom, and put the doors back.

Most of the artifacts in the Islamic room were burned when a rocket shell punched through the roof. “They were just little lumps of metal,” Mrs. Dupree recalled of the damaged items.

The plunder was devastating. Omara Khan Masoudi, the museum director, estimates that about 70 percent of the museum’s artifacts were stolen from 1992 to 1995, in the brutal years of civil war before the Taliban took over the country. The Taliban were not friends of the country’s archaeological heritage, either; they blew up ancient statues of Buddha in the name of Islam.

But some of the most important pieces the museum had were locked away in a secret location by museum administrators in the last years of the Communist government. The museum closed in 1991 and reopened again in 2004 after 13 years of war.

The items from Britain are not the first to be returned. About 13,000 artifacts have come back to Afghanistan from Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States since the Taliban fell in 2001, according to Mr. Masoudi. source

Because today is the first day of the mass-immunization against swine flu, here's a summary of the feelings before this glorious day. I shortened most of the articles a great deal, so if you're interested, go to the source site and enjoy.
As for me, hmmm. Ok, I have a great trouble deciding what is my position on this issue. Let's recall what happened during the summer. All kind of media were shouting in panic about the pandemic and the death cases. In reality, the flu had only mild symptoms, the fatality was quite low and because it was summer, the epidemic gradually faded. If you read this flu story, however, you'll see another picture - very unpleasant one. Another pictures - here. However, if we compare those stories with the reported fatality rates, something definitely is not right. It's either way more fatal than we currently know (to be precise, the media made it a tragedy and the WHO was in panic - why? the numbers are still not matching - do they know something we don't know?) or there are big money in the game. In reality, we all know there are big money involved, but that alone cannot tell us if we really need that shot or not.
I'm far from talking about autism and other unproved theories, it is not my point. What bothers me is that they want to make vaccination obligatory and now this is something new. I mean, in normal seasonal flu, vaccinations is optional. Which means that people may stay the way they are and the world still can "enjoy" a pandemic. What is the difference? Sorry, but I don't buy that this flu is so different and our immune systems are not ready for it. They should be just as ready as for any other flu. In reality, flu strains are very (and I mean VERY) mutating. The last year's strain out-mutated the vaccine and the pills before the season was over. And most people survived the flu. So, this tell us two things - our immune system will be just as ready as always and the flu will mutate quite quickly (probably) so the vaccine will be worth nothing. Well, besides the billions of taxpayers money that the companies that produce that vaccine will take.

Ok, this is the skeptic me. I'm not saying that the vaccine is useless! Maybe it's indispensable, maybe the world is in front of disaster! What I want to say is that I don't know. And I can't tell from the news we obtain. And when people do something, they have to have rational justification for that action. Where is the justification for the enforcement of those vaccines? If the flu is REALLY dangerous, somebody should tell us why! If they don't tell us, why should I believe they are doing it for my benefit! I'm not a child and the government isn't my parent. If they want me to do something, they have to tell me why. They do not. Doesn't this whole thing remind you of the bad utopias where the people with guns tell you how to live your life?! Well, it looks like this to me. No matter if they're really doing the right thing, I really want to know WHY! What are the facts. What is the problem. I don't have a big problem with what is in the vaccines (well, aside from mercury, which really IS a POISON and has no place in anything that will enter the human body). My problem is when somebody tells me to do something, they force me to do it, and they don't explain why.

I don't know whether I would take the vaccine. If I'm not convinced I have to, I probably won't. After all, they body has a natural mechanism for fighting with such stuff, calling immune system. I don't want mine to get lazy. If I'm convinced the complications from the flu are VERY bad, I will vaccinate myself. Hospitals suck as you probably know. But still, I don't understand why governments don't have any problem making decisions on the public health without informing the people and consulting with them. This is not the way our life should be. Today it is the flu, tomorrow, who knows what. It's not right, ok?!
P.S. Yeah, and check out the article on the political pressure on FDA - how could one trust its decision after this article?

  1. State lifts limit on mercury preservative in swine-flu shots
  2. Benefit and Doubt in Vaccine Additive
  3. F.D.A. Reveals It Fell to a Push by Lawmakers
  4. Swine Flu Shots Revive a Debate About Vaccines
  5. Swine Flu Vaccine Reaches an Anxious Nation

State lifts limit on mercury preservative in swine-flu shots

September 25, 2009

In preparation for swine-flu vaccinations next month, the state's Health Department on Thursday temporarily suspended a rule that limits the amount of a mercury preservative in vaccines given to pregnant women and children under the age of 3.

Who's at risk?

Health officials say those most at risk from swine flu are:

• Pregnant women.

• Those who live with or care for children under the age of 6 months.

• Health-care and emergency-service workers.

• Those age 6 months to 24 years.

• Anyone age 25 to 64 at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

In preparation for swine-flu vaccinations next month, Washington's Health Department on Thursday temporarily suspended a rule that limits the amount of a mercury preservative in vaccines given to pregnant women and children under the age of 3.

The preservative, thimerosal, has never been linked to any health problems, said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. But a vocal minority believes the compound could be linked to autism. The state Legislature adopted the limit in 2006.

Thimerosal has been eliminated from most vaccines in the United States, but it will be added to the bulk of the swine-flu vaccine being produced to stem a pandemic that health officials estimate could sicken more than a third of the state's residents.

Pregnant women and young children are considered at high risk for swine flu, and lifting the mercury limits will give them quicker access to the vaccine, Selecky said.

About 15 percent of the vaccine supply will be mercury-free, but people may have to wait longer for it to become available.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that 6 million to 7 million doses of the vaccine will be available the first week in October, mainly in the form of a nasal spray called FluMist.

About 40 million flu shots should be ready by the middle of October, with an additional 10 million to 20 million doses rolling off the assembly lines every week after that for a total of 250 million doses.

"We will have enough vaccine to immunize every American who wants to be immunized," Sebelius said in a briefing. "But it won't all be available at the same time."

The vaccine itself will be free, Sebelius said, but health-care providers can charge to administer it.

Thimerosal will be added to the vaccine because it is being produced in vials that contain enough medication for 10 shots. The mercury compound kills bacteria, lowering the risk that the drug will be contaminated by needles used to withdraw separate doses.

Mercury-free vaccine will be produced in single-dose vials. Nasal sprays do not contain mercury but are not recommended for children under the age of 2 and pregnant women, because they contain live, weakened virus.

An analysis published Thursday also found that the nasal spray is less effective than shots in adults under 50.

Selecky said the law limiting the mercury preservative will be suspended for six months and applies only to the swine-flu vaccines.

Once common in vaccines, thimerosal has been largely phased out in most wealthy nations. Children's vaccines in the United States are almost exclusively mercury-free, single-dose injections.

However, numerous studies have found no link between thimerosal and disorders in children.


Benefit and Doubt in Vaccine Additive

Published: September 21, 2009

That is the crux of a debate over adjuvants — a class of substances that somewhat mysteriously increase the potency of vaccines. Early studies suggest that adjuvants could allow four times as many people to be immunized against the H1N1 pandemic influenza with a given amount of vaccine. So with the world facing possibly severe shortages of vaccine, the World Health Organization and some health experts have been calling for the use of adjuvants to stretch the vaccine supply.

Wealthy nations have contracted for much of the expected pandemic vaccine production, leaving little for poorer countries. But while Canada and some European nations will use vaccines containing adjuvants, American officials have decided against it for now. They say that they have enough vaccine and that the safety of the additives has not been proved.

Officials also fear that using an adjuvant would raise public fears about vaccine safety at a time when their challenge might be about to shift from procuring enough vaccine to persuading people to use it.

Furthermore, officials say, one reason to use adjuvants is that they can increase a vaccine’s potency against a virus to which it is poorly matched. But the swine flu vaccine is well matched to the virus, which has not mutated.

In the last two weeks, new data has lifted some of the pressure on the government to use adjuvants. Early studies suggest that even without an adjuvant, a single injection of swine flu vaccine — rather than the two anticipated — will confer adequate protection on adults and children at least 10 years old. That effectively doubles the number of people who can be immunized, and last week the government said it would make 10 percent of its roughly 200 million vaccine doses available to other countries. Eight other nations are also releasing some vaccine.

Still, Dr. Tadataka Yamada, president of the global health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that most of the world’s population of six billion people, mostly in poorer countries, would still be without vaccine, especially early in the pandemic.

Less vaccine than expected has been produced so far because of manufacturing problems. Except for the United States, Dr. Oswald said, most countries ordering from Novartis have taken vaccine with adjuvant.

Vaccines once typically contained a weakened or killed pathogen to spur an immune response. Some newer vaccines consist of only proteins or protein fragments from a pathogen, which makes them purer, safer and quicker to produce. But it turns out that the missing parts of the pathogens help to jolt the immune system; without them, an adjuvant is needed. Companies and academic laboratories are racing to develop adjuvants, “mainly because everyone recognizes the adjuvant could be the make-or-break component of a vaccine,” Dr. Monath said. The term adjuvant, from a Latin word meaning “to help,” was coined in the 1920s by Gaston Ramon, a veterinarian at the Pasteur Institute in France, who observed that horses given diphtheria toxin had a stronger immune response if they had some inflammation at the injection site. Among his first adjuvants were bread crumbs and tapioca.

Within a few years, scientists discovered that aluminum salts could prompt an immune response. Alum, as this adjuvant is often called, is now used in various vaccines, including those for tetanus and hepatitis B. It is a relatively weak adjuvant. But about 80 years after its discovery, it is still the only one used in vaccines the United States.

That could soon change. An advisory committee to the F.D.A. recently recommended approval of Cervarix, a vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer. The vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, uses an adjuvant containing a bacterial lipid. (Gardasil, the Merck cervical cancer vaccine already in use, has an aluminum adjuvant.)

Alum is not used in flu shots because it has little effect. But Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline are selling pandemic flu vaccines containing newer adjuvants they have developed. They are oil-in-water emulsions of squalene, a lipid that is found in the body. Glaxo’s also contains vitamin E.

A seasonal flu vaccine containing Novartis’s MF59 adjuvant has been used in Europe since 1997. Glaxo’s adjuvant, called AS03, is in a vaccine approved in Europe for use against the H5N1 bird flu, which spurred fears of a pandemic a few years ago.

For the bird flu, an adjuvant was crucial because vaccines without adjuvants did not work well in tests and required huge doses. Glaxo’s vaccine required only one twenty-fourth as much antigen, the viral component of the vaccine, as another company’s vaccine that did not contain an adjuvant.

While adjuvants tend to increase the temporary pain, swelling or fatigue caused by a vaccine, the main concern is whether they might cause an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. Some animal studies have suggested that possibility.

Adjuvant makers say there is no cause for concern with the flu vaccines. (...)There is less data, he said, on its use among children, younger adults and pregnant women.

F.D.A. Reveals It Fell to a Push by Lawmakers

Published: September 24, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that four New Jersey congressmen and its own former commissioner unduly influenced the process that led to its decision last year to approve a patch for injured knees, an approval it is now revisiting.

The agency’s scientific reviewers repeatedly and unanimously over many years decided that the device, known as Menaflex and manufactured by ReGen Biologics Inc., was unsafe because the device often failed, forcing patients to get another operation.

But after receiving what an F.D.A. report described as “extreme,” “unusual” and persistent pressure from four Democrats from New Jersey — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman — agency managers overruled the scientists and approved the device for sale in December.

All four legislators made their inquiries within a few months of receiving significant campaign contributions from ReGen, which is based in New Jersey, but all said they had acted appropriately and were not influenced by the money. Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the former drug agency’s commissioner, said he had acted properly.

The agency has never before publicly questioned the process behind one of its approvals, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.

“The message here is that there were problems with the integrity of F.D.A.’s decision-making process that have solutions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner, said in a conference call with reporters.


Swine Flu Shots Revive a Debate About Vaccines

Published: October 15, 2009
Anti-vaccinators, as they are often referred to by scientists and doctors, have toiled for years on the margins of medicine. But an assemblage of factors around the swine flu vaccine — including confusion over how it was made, widespread speculation about whether it might be more dangerous than the virus itself, and complaints among some health care workers in New York about a requirement that they be vaccinated — is giving the anti-vaccine movement a fresh airing, according to health experts.

“People who have never asked questions before about vaccines are looking at this one,” Ms. Fisher said.

The increased interest is frustrating to health officials, who are struggling to persuade an already wary public to line up for shots and prevent the spread of the pandemic. According to a CBS News poll conducted last week, only 46 percent said they were likely to get the vaccine.

Web sites, Twitter feeds, talk radio and even elevator chatter are awash with skeptics criticizing the vaccine, largely with no factual or scientific basis. The most common complaint is that the vaccine has been newly formed and quickly distributed without the benefit of clinical trials; in fact, the swine flu vaccine was made using the same techniques as seasonal flu shots over the last two decades, and a small number of clinical trials were conducted this year to determine the adequate dose.

There are also claims that the vaccine contains adjuvants — sometimes added to make vaccines more effective — although they have not been used in this one.

In measuring the risk of the vaccine, there is general consensus among doctors that serious adverse reactions are rare and that pregnant women and young people, in particular, are better off with the vaccine than without it. While most people who get H1N1 experience mild symptoms, a recent New England Journal of Medicine study showed that among Americans hospitalized with swine flu last spring, one in four ended up in intensive care and 7 percent of them died.

The illness, unlike other flu strains, has been particularly tough on children and young adults and appears to have a disproportionately high fatality rate in pregnant women.

Health care officials are concerned that some groups, especially pregnant women, are potentially swayed by the large-scale efforts of vaccine opponents. source

Swine Flu Vaccine Reaches an Anxious Nation

Published: October 5, 2009
She said that New York would be splitting its first shipment of vaccine (in the form of a nasal mist unsuitable for pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions) between health care workers in hospitals and clinics, who are required by state law to be immunized, and doctors treating children.

She said the city expected to get the vaccine into its elementary schools by early November and was considering setting up weekend vaccination clinics for older children.

Some doctors wondered whether the vaccination drive was necessary for a flu that has caused only mild symptoms in most cases. They said some of their patients had expressed doubts about whether the vaccine had been sufficiently tested for safety, and they admitted that they were sympathetic to those fears.

Dr. Jessica Sessions, director of pediatrics at the Ryan Center, which treats many poor patients on the Upper West Side, said that she was reassuring patients that she herself was going to get the vaccination, to protect her twins, who are 4 ½ months old. source

Patents - good or bad , 10.2009

So, back on patents. I have a very special feeling growing on patents and as time goes by, the material on this accumulate. So, I decided to share it with you finally.

The patents are supposed to protect inventors and stimulate them to invent, right? Then why we see so little "american dream" style stories recently? Why people seems to have stopped to invent cool new devices to ease our life? Well, they certainly didn't, but who those people are. The problem is that now, it becomes harder and harder to invent by yourself. Sometimes because the project requires big capital, sometimes, because you need to eat in the meantime, sometimes just because you can't fight the patent laws alone. According to this guide to patents, it seems that a patent is given for a device and lasts 20 years, then it becomes free. It seems pretty easy. Then what the people in the comments here talk about? Quotes:

"My dad works as an engineer for an oil company. He has, IIRC, 12 patents. Because he works for the company, he has to sell each patent he gets to them for 1 dollar (which they do in the form of a silver dollar on a plaque).

Know how much his patents are worth? More than 100 million dollars. This is not an uncommon situation for inventors. Where do you think all those trinkets that Sony and Apple create come from? They come from from contracted engineers.

Patent rights DO NOT protect inventors in any way shape or form. They protect patent holding companies, and that's it. Nothing more."
"The vast majority of patents today are obtained defensively by corporations for the sole purpose of protecting themselves against the great hordes of newly created "patent troll" companies whole sole purpose (and sole source of income) is exploiting patent law to litigate their way to a huge profit over patents for things that they didn't even invent themselves. They trade these patents like commodities, each valued according to its potential for being abused to generate profit. They know that it's nearly impossible for any big company to avoid infringing at least a few patents any time they do *anything*. Big companies' only resort is to obtain huge numbers of defensive patents, which are completely inane and useless for any practical purpose other than defense. Well, okay, they do have one other purpose: offense. Because when a company goes bankrupt, they sell all their "defensive" patents -- and guess who buys them?

Patent law protects against "frivolous" patents, but the majority of such cases are settled out of court, since settlement is usually cheaper than proving frivolousness. Thus, patent abuse is extremely profitable and relatively risk-free (the penalties for frivolousness are laughable.) "

Reading this, I got quite amazed. Because right now, I'm far from the sphere of patents, I don't know how it is there. But to patent a piece of algorithm, this sounds so crazy?! So what, if I use in my algorithm an old one and create something new from it, am I infringing someone's patent? That's absurd! This is like patenting words! I think software is much closer to copyright than to patents. And anyway. How does this stimulate people to invent? How do you work, when on any step, you are afraid of getting sued by the mob that doesn't even produce!

The worst is that I see a very similar mob in my own profession. They're just not that well regulated by law. Yet :)

Anyway, I have the feeling I discussed this comments already, so back to the point. Check out the articles below! The first one is about patenting human genes! Yes, correct! They patented human genes! With the explanation that they invested into purifying those genes. Well, excuse me, but that is absolute nonsense. It's like a physicist patenting the Sun, because s/he figured out a new way to observe it! Hello! You can patent the process, but never the gene itself. Are you going to sue people who have that gene?! As I said - an absurd.

The second article discusses something else - whether the patents are useful at all. They showed that patents are far less stimulating for innovation than open source. Which makes perfect sense, if you're free to change and explore something without the risk of litigation, you'll do it much readily and easily. While if you risk being sued, you'll have to use the backing of a big company. And in the same way of thinking, as I said on physorg, open source products still find ways to bring profit to people who support them. It's just different and usually now to brutal as this of the normal companies (though, that is arguable, of course).

So, obviously, patents are good only for really big companies, because it ensures them 20 years of happy earning. But for me, there are many questions - what kind of products can apply for patent, for how long (20 years seems long for me), under what conditions and so on. Personally, I'm kind of against patents. Or let's say it like this - patents are good, as long as the profit goes to the actual inventor, because it gives him/her/them some form of control over the invention. But when the corporation comes to town, patents should leave. They can get along with trade secret. And still to profit.

Anyway, enough from me, enjoy the articles, if you like, comment. Maybe I'm wrong, I just say the things as I understand it for now. If it was very simple, I'm sure we would have a perfect patent system. It's not simple, but we have to perfect the system, it's our loss otherwise.

P.S. An interesting article on patents as market - here, but I must say that patents are already a market, so maybe the question is how to regulate this market in the best way.

New Lawsuit Challenges the Patenting of Human Genes

A major new lawsuit is challenging the notion that human genes can be patented just like the latest mousetrap built by a basement inventor. The case focuses on two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that are linked to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and which were patented by the company Myriad Genetics more than 10 years ago. Now, the ACLU has organized a lawsuit backed by organizations representing more than 100,000 doctors and geneticists, and will argue that the information contained in each person’s DNA should not be private property.

The plantiffs also include individual cancer patients like Genae Girard, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and took Myriad’s genetic test to see if her genes also put her at increased risk for ovarian cancer, which might require the removal of her ovaries. The test came back positive, so she wanted a second opinion from another test. But there can be no second opinion [The New York Times]. Since Myriad owns the patent to both the two genes and the test that looks for them, no other company can develop a competing test.

The decision to allow gene patents was controversial from the start; patents are normally not granted for products of nature or laws of nature. The companies successfully argued that they had done something that made the genes more than nature’s work: they had isolated and purified the DNA, and thus had patented something they had created — even though it corresponded to the sequence of an actual gene [The New York Times]. Patents are awarded to reward companies for the time and money spent developing a new product or idea, but in this case the plantiffs argue that Myriad had really just found something that already existed in nature, and hadn’t created anything new. They also allege that Myriad’s patent has held back medical research, and has prevented cancer patients from getting the best possible care.

A striking 20 percent of all human genes have been patented. However, now that all 20,000 to 25,000 human genes have been mapped and sequenced through the Human Genome Project, they are in the public domain, meaning they would no longer be considered “new” for the purposes of patents…. Now, patents on human genes must specify a new use, such as a diagnostic test [CNN]. The patents on genes also expire after 20 years, meaning that existing patents on human genes will gradually run out.

Some ethicists do not take issue with Myriad’s patents but with how the company uses them. Part of the ALCU’s argument is that Myriad charges $3,000 for its diagnostic cancer test, a price that prevents some women from seeking this preventive measure. source

Study finds patent systems may discourage innovation

July 27th, 2009 by Sherry Main
( -- A new study challenges the traditional view that patents foster innovation, suggesting instead that they may hinder technological progress, economic activity and societal wealth. These results could have important policy implications, because many countries count on patent systems to spur new technology and promote economic growth.

To examine the effect of patents on , Bill Tomlinson of UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences and Andrew Torrance of the University of Kansas School of Law developed an online game simulating the U.S. system.

PatentSim features an abstract model of the innovation process, a database of potential innovations and a network through which users can interact with one another to license, assign, buy, infringe and enforce patents. The software allows players to simulate the innovation process under a traditional patent system; a “commons” system, in which no patent protection is available; or a system with both patents and open-source protection.

“In PatentSim, we found that the patent system did not work to spur innovation,” said Tomlinson, associate professor of informatics. “In fact, participants were more likely to innovate when there was no intellectual property protection at all, or when they could open-source their innovations and share them with other people.”

The researchers measured the efficacy of the three systems based on innovation, the number of inventions; productivity, a measure of economic activity; and societal wealth, the ability to generate money.

Players were first-year law students who had never had intellectual property coursework. Tomlinson and Torrance plan further studies with subjects of different backgrounds, including M.B.A. students at Harvard University.

“Current patent laws are based on century-old assumptions that patents spur technological progress, and few have questioned this,” said Torrance, associate professor of law. “If it turns out that our laws are based upon misinformation and bad assumptions, society may be failing to promote beneficial new technologies that could improve quality of life.” source

Brain matters, 10.2009

The vacation is finally over, so I'm hopefully returning to regular blogging.
For a starter, I'm offering you some articles on human brain. I'm sorry if they are too different and/or too long, but bear with me, it's worthy. At least if you are interested in having healthy brain that is.
I won't comment a lot, it's pretty straight forward - meditation and exercises are good for you on more levels than you might expect and the statistics show it. I'm starting to think whether "in healthy body - healthy spirit" isn't supposed to mean the opposite - the healthy and strong spirit, leads to healthy and strong body. Who knows...
As for this antidepressant, it's very interesting story, because only this one has such beneficial action. Enjoy the articles and stay healthy :)

  1. Meditation increases brain gray matter
  2. Ageing Brains Show Great Promise for Rejuvenation
  3. Mindfulness Training Improves Sleep Quality; Lessens Need for Sleep Medicines
  4. Antidepressant directly stimulates brain growth factor receptors

Meditation increases brain gray matter

May 12th, 2009

But what can one do to build a bigger brain? Meditate.

That's the finding from a group of researchers at UCLA who used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of people who meditate. In a study published in the journal NeuroImage and currently available online (by subscription), the researchers report that certain regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger than in a similar control group.

Specifically, meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus — all regions known for regulating emotions.

"We know that people who consistently meditate have a singular ability to cultivate positive emotions, retain emotional stability and engage in mindful behavior," said Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. "The observed differences in anatomy might give us a clue why meditators have these exceptional abilities."

Research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of . In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of and bolstered immune systems. But less is known about the link between meditation and brain structure.

In the study, Luders and her colleagues examined 44 people — 22 control subjects and 22 who had practiced various forms of meditation, including Zazen, Samatha and Vipassana, among others. The amount of time they had practiced ranged from five to 46 years, with an average of 24 years.

More than half of all the meditators said that deep concentration was an essential part of their practice, and most meditated between 10 and 90 minutes every day.

The researchers used a high-resolution, three-dimensional form of MRI and two different approaches to measure differences in brain structure. One approach automatically divides the brain into several regions of interest, allowing researchers to compare the size of certain brain structures. The other segments the brain into different tissue types, allowing researchers to compare the amount of within specific regions of the brain.

The researchers found significantly larger cerebral measurements in meditators compared with controls, including larger volumes of the right hippocampus and increased gray matter in the right orbito-frontal cortex, the right thalamus and the left inferior temporal lobe. There were no regions where controls had significantly larger volumes or more gray matter than meditators.

Because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion, Luders said, "these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators' the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way."

What's not known, she said, and will require further study, are what the specific correlates are on a microscopic level — that is, whether it's an increased number of neurons, the larger size of the neurons or a particular "wiring" pattern meditators may develop that other people don't. source

Ageing Brains Show Great Promise for Rejuvenation

June 24th, 2009

( -- UQ neuroscientists have, for the first time, been able to demonstrate that moderate exercise significantly increases the number of neural stem cells in the ageing brain.

In research published in Stem Cells, Dr Daniel Blackmore and his colleagues at the Queensland Institute (QBI) have shown that moderate exercise directly increases the number of stem cells in the ageing brain.

Despite the conventional wisdom that we only have a set number of neurons or , neuroscientists have known for some time that, in healthy brains, the creation of new neurons is an ongoing and lifelong mechanism.

However, it has also been known for more than a decade that the number of new neurons we produce slowly declines with age.

In controlled models of ageing, the number of produced by animals participating in voluntary exercise (running wheel) were significantly higher than in animals of the same age which did not exercise (no running wheel)."Ultimately, this should allow us to discover how to harness the brain's regenerative capacity, and to bring about new and effective treatments for conditions caused by trauma, disease, or even normal ageing."

QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett FAA said the research represented another significant understanding of the why neural stem cells were so important to brain function.

"It is the first experimental data that shows how we can change the propensity of the brain to make new neurons through increasing the number of stem cells - even in the aged animal," Professor Bartlett said.

"We can now show that exercise directly causes an increase in the number of stem cells in the brain.

"Stem cells develop into neurons and a good supply of is essential for good mental health," he said. source

Mindfulness Training Improves Sleep Quality; Lessens Need for Sleep Medicines

June 25th, 2009

( -- Stressed-out people sleep better and take sleep medication less often when they learn to let go of intrusive thoughts, according to researchers at Duke Integrative Medicine.

Their data shows participants who took an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course reported less trouble sleeping through the night, and also less sleepiness during the day. This is the first study to document several positive effects of mindfulness training on in a group of generally healthy, but stressed, individuals.

"When we don't know what to do with intrusive and persistent thoughts, the mind and body feel threatened, says Jeff Greeson, PhD, MS, a clinical health psychologist at Duke who presented his preliminary results at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

"That signals the ‘fight or flight' response which starts a cascade of sleep-robbing emotions like agitation and anxiety."

Greeson's study followed 151 adults, three-quarters of whom were women, who underwent eight weeks of MBSR training. He validated improvements in sleep quality using a nationally recognized sleep quality scale -- The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Statistically significant improvements were noted in overall sleep quality (26 percent), , i.e., waking up at night and feeling uncomfortable (16 percent), frequency of using prescription or over-the-counter sleep medications (25 percent), and improvements in experiencing sleepiness during the day (28 percent).

"Before beginning the MSBR program, 70 percent of the study participants met the clinical cutoff for poor sleep quality" Greeson said. "After MBSR, 50 percent of participants reported clinically significant sleep disturbances. That's a 20 percent improvement rate.

"When people become more mindful," he explained, "they learn to look at life through a new lens. They learn how to accept the presence of thoughts and that may keep them up at night. They begin to understand that they don't have to react to them. As a result, they experience greater emotional balance and less sleep disturbances."


Antidepressant directly stimulates brain growth factor receptors

June 25th, 2009

The widely used antidepressant and pain medication amitriptyline--but not other closely related drugs -- can impersonate the brain's own growth factors, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have shown.

Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant first introduced in the 1960s, and other tricyclics are thought to exert their effects by increasing the levels of the messenger chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

But the delay required for antidepressants to work has led scientists to the idea that a secondary effect, pushing neurons to survive and grow, must occur indirectly.

The finding that amitriptyline can directly stimulate molecules that help neurons grow and resist toxins suggests a separate mechanism by which some antidepressant and pain relief compounds may function.

Keqiang Ye, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, and his colleagues were looking for chemicals that could imitate a protein in the known as NGF (nerve growth factor).

NGF has been used experimentally to treat Alzheimer's disease and the degeneration of nerves in the extremities caused by diabetes. However, NGF cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and has puzzled investigators with its side effects, such as increased sensitivity to pain.

Working in Ye's laboratory, postdoctoral fellow Sung-Wuk Jang sorted through a library of chemicals to find those that could stimulate one of NGF's "receiver dish" molecules on nerve cells, called TrkA. The way NGF works is to pull together two TrkA molecules on the cell surface.

"We were surprised to find that amitriptyline has these same properties," Ye says. "This is an antidepressant that has been used for decades."

Doctors also prescribe amitriptyline for chronic pain such as migraine headaches or the nerve damage caused by diabetes, he notes.

In laboratory tests, amitriptyline could protect neurons from oxygen and glucose deprivation or the toxin kainic acid. Only amitriptyline, and not other antidepressants, could duplicate NGF's ability to stimulate neurons to send out "neurites," small projections thought to be the beginnings of connections to other neurons.

Amitriptyline directly binds TrkA and a related molecule called TrkB, the authors found. Amitriptyline could also bring together a mismatched pair of TrkA and TrkB - a phenomenon not seen before, Ye says.

Also surprising was the finding that other tricyclic antidepressants, even those with a similar molecular structure such as imipramine, could not match amitriptyline's ability to stimulate cells through TrkA. source

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