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

Simulation of the known universe (video) - amazing video for a starter.

You all heard of "climate-gate". The scandal that emerged after someone (probably a very very well-paid one) hacked into the emails of certain top academics and published them. It turned out that those academics have manipulated data and prevented people to publish contradicting to them data trough their peer-reviewing. For most people, that meant that the whole idea of global warming is a fraud and that we all have to continue driving our SUVs and be happy. Obviously, that's nonsense. It's so damn clear that the weather is changing and it's damn clear that man-kind finally reached that density and intellectuality that enable us to affect our planet.

I don't quite understand how anyone could doubt that we have to change our life-style - it's not science, it's common sense. The consumerist model was created to accommodate US economy and create prosperity for the USA. But the situation is different today than in the 70s - today many countries that were poor before are getting richer. And of course they take the same US model and they also want to consume. But the base of this model is the abundance that out-sourcing creates - companies thrive on the cheap Asian workers and resources. What would happen if those workers are no longer cheap. And who's going to work for the rich Asian people who also want to consume. And where all those resources will come from? As we see China is already stopping the export of some substances, how far would they go? I'm sure most people can follow this line of reasoning to the obvious question. Who's going to feed and produce for us, if we continue to follow the consumerist model - consume and throw up? And how much heat and pollution the atmosphere can take before it starts being bad with us? So for me the question is not "if", but "when". Even if it's not today, it will be tomorrow - even if we're not now the major reason for the warming, we will be tomorrow, and the sooner we act the better. So I have no doubts that we have to act now and to change our life-style to something more efficient.

However, there was one more important question that "climate-gate" opened. And it was about peer-reviewing. For non-scientists or unfamiliar with the word - peer-reviewing happens when an author sends an article to a scientific journal. The journal editor will send the article to usually 2 scientists from the same field to review it (I hope I'm not wrong with the number, but I'm new to this too). Those people will communicate with the author usually anonymously and tell him/her if the article is ok to be published, if something has to be changed or if the article cannot be published in this form. It sounds clear and ideally, it ensures that the articles published in that journal will be scientifically valuable and written well. So peer-reviewing should be good.

What happens in reality? Since the reviewers are anonymous and experts from the same field , they are direct competitors and there is enormous ground for conflict of interests. In same cases, the reviewers can stall the article until they prepare similar article and publish it BEFORE the original! It has happened. I'm not saying that happens always, no! Most reviewers don't do that, since it's immoral, unethical and disgusting. Such things are never forgiven after all and the scientific community is not that big. But it can happen and has happened.

What's the even bigger threat is that some people use peer-reviewing for oppressing other scientists that disagree with them. Sometimes it's not even direct, sometimes people do that automatically from the fear that the big names in that field will get mad on them for allowing such article to be published. And the authors have not much choice - if you want to get a grant, you have to publish in famous and respected journals, famous and respected journals are reviewed by certain people, you have to "please" those people or you stay without a grant. And pleasing in science means agreeing. Or at least, disagreeing but not directly. It's almost an art - how to disagree without "offending".

As you see, it's a vicious circle. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because this applies to fundamental science. What happens in applied science, especially medicine?! You need those article published to get the approval for your new drug. The money invested in that drug can vary and reach digits with a lot of zeros! And if all that is between you and the return of your investment are few articles in peer-reviewed journals, what you do? You find a way to get them published!!! And it's not far-fetched, AT ALL! You can see it in first article I pasted.

In the second article, you can see how a drug company wanted to sue a scientist for contradicting them in public!!! Can you imagine this at all? Does this sound right? Could the fear such legal actions induce in scientists leads to a safe drug? I believe not. And I think this is outrageous! Each and every person should be entitled to an opinion. Even if it's not well justified, that's a common right. And every scientist should be free to express disagreement with a theory or a statement, even if it's not completely backed up and polished. After all, was it backed up, that scientist wouldn't "express an opinion", but s/he would go directly to court or safety authorities and ask for legal actions against that product. But everyone has the right of opinion! And any country that allows companies to threaten scientists this way is doomed to catastrophes. I mean, if everyone is too scared to announce their fears or discoveries in public, how do you ensure that a product is safe. Because the scientists in the safety authorities are the same scientists! Obviously, this is wrong and dangerous path to walk.

Why I write this? Because I'm afraid that the public mistrust in science will continue to grow. And I'm convinced that we have to stop that in time. The scientists are not better persons, they are just the same persons as anyone else - there are good people, there are bad people. That's why, there is a need for regulations that makes sure that science is responsible and transparent. And that's not a contradiction to what I discussed so far. I believe the one of the main problems is in peer-reviewing. I think that if reviewers are known to everyone and there are clear deadlines for the reviews and probably guidelines for them, everything will go much more smoothly. After all, you are reviewing a scientific paper, you have to stand behind your reviews and not be ashamed by them. You're not doing something wrong, you're improving the article and working for the science. And if you're doing something bad, you have to be held responsible for that.

And of course second part, I think the government should be very strict in any interference in science by corporations. What I mean? It's clear that corporations that do science will do science. But they will do it behind their "walls". When this science gets out of those walls, it should be public and the process of confirming that science should be free of interferences. That would mean, you cannot review a paper that contradicts to certain statements if you got paid for something by the company that defends that statement. It's a clear conflict of interests and it should be avoided.

And then, the public can trust the scientists again. Maybe there are other things to be done, but that's at least the beginning. And note, I shared some of those thoughts in a blog post on climate-gate in New Scientists and what happened? That opinion NEVER appeared! That's what I call censure and that's what people in that business fear. That the immense conflict of interests will be made public. But I believe that it will become much more public if we don't act NOW and we don't change the status-quo. Things can change and they can change for the better. It's up to us to do it. And if we don't, people will stop trusting science and when they do - there won't be money for us. And then, there will be no scientists. And I think, that would be very bad for the world. So why wait for that, let's change it while we can. Let's restore public trust and respect in science.

The third article is a rare good news and victory - finally the access to scientific journals become almost open. And this is fair, because if public money pay for your research then the public has the right to access this research freely. So, this is really a good news. Even if so far, it's applied only for health articles. I hope that the NSF will join that soon enough - after authors get so little out of publishing, it's non-sense to claim it's crucial for the field. It simply is not. It's inertia that serves publishers, but it would eventually stop. After all, why buying any journal when everything is available in "arxiv.org"?! No?

  • Quoth Elsevier: "Whoops, I did it again." (Six times, actually)
  • US drug firm drops libel action against scientist
  • Publishers and consumers of scientific journals reach consensus on 'open access'

Quoth Elsevier: "Whoops, I did it again." (Six times, actually)

Posted on: May 11, 2009 3:00 PM, by Orac

Whoops, Elsevier did it again. Six times:
Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted.

Elsevier is conducting an "internal review" of its publishing practices after allegations came to light that the company produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the "journal" was corporate sponsored.

The allegations involve the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, a publication paid for by pharmaceutical company Merck that amounted to a compendium of reprinted scientific articles and one-source reviews, most of which presented data favorable to Merck's products. The Scientist obtained two 2003 issues of the journal -- which bore the imprint of Elsevier's Excerpta Medica -- neither of which carried a statement obviating Merck's sponsorship of the publication.

So far this appears to have occurred only in Australia--that we know of. I still can't help but wonder whether other divisions of Elsevier other than the the one in Australia have engaged in this deceptive practice. Once again, I can't emphasize just how bad this looks for Elsevier. We expect drug companies to do whatever they can to try to sell their products. It's what they do. It's in their nature. However, a publishing house that publishes peer-reviewed scientific literature is expected, well, to publish peer-reviewed scientific literature. Such behavior as that of Elsevier risks turning its journals into advertising arms of the pharmaceutical companies. source

US drug firm drops libel action against scientist

A US corporation, GE Healthcare, has dropped the controversial British libel action it brought against a scientist who criticised one of its drugs, saying the firm did not mean to stifle academic debate.

Lawyers for leading Danish radiologist Henrik Thomsen said today: "He will be obviously relieved. Now he won't have to worry about his future financial position, and won't have to keep looking over his shoulder before he says anything."

At a 2007 Oxford medical conference, Thomsen criticised use of Omniscan, GE's best-selling contrast agent injected into patients so their tissues show up better during MRI scans.

Use of the drug, which contains a toxic metal, gadolinium, has now been halted for a small group of patients with previously malfunctioning kidneys, after hundreds of them developed permanently crippling side-effects from a condition called NSF.

The financial terms of the settlement were secret, Thomsen's lawyer, Andrew Stephenson of Carter-Ruck, said yesterday. But the solicitors had defended the case on a no-win no-fee basis, so it is expected by observers that they will have gained a sizeable payment.

In agreed statements released today, Thomsen said: "I stand by my publicly expressed opinion, based on my experience and research on published papers, that there is an association between the chemical formulation of gadolinium-based contrast agents and NSF."

He added: "It was not my intention to suggest on the basis of the evidence then available to me that GE Healthcare had marketed Omniscan knowing that it might cause NSF."

The company, a subsidiary of the giant US corporation General Electric, said it had not intended to "stifle academic debate" by suing Thomsen for libel, and accepted that his concerns were expressed in good faith: "GE Healthcare objected to statements made by Professor Thomsen which it interpreted as suggesting that it had known from the outset that Omniscan caused NSF."

The company said it welcomed what it called a "principled debate" about safety issues.

The use of British libel laws against scientists by commercial organisations has been the subject of increasing controversy, and a Ministry of Justice working party is considering reforms. source


Publishers and consumers of scientific journals reach consensus on 'open access'

A committee of individuals drawn from all sides of the ongoing debate over free access to the peer-reviewed scientific literature has urged each federal agency that funds research to quickly develop and implement its own policy for providing the material to the public for free. In a consensus report commissioned by the House Committee on Science and Technology, the group known as the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable left the divisive issue of "embargoes"—the post-publication period when journals restrict access to scholarly articles to their subscribers—and their duration, up to individual agencies. While an embargo of up to 12 months will suffice for journals in many science disciplines, the committee said, a longer duration may be needed for those of other fields, particularly for humanities and social sciences.

Since April 2008, all peer-reviewed articles that are published from research funded entirely or in part by the National Institutes of Health are required to be made available for free no later than one year after their publication in a scientific journal. That work is deposited in the PubMed Central database operated by the NIH's National Library of Medicine. The open-access mandate was enshrined in an NIH appropriations bill after a years-long struggle between journal publishers and open-access proponents. The requirement has not yet spilled over to apply to research that is funded by other agencies, such as NSF, Department of Energy, NASA, or Department of Defense.

Many scientific societies depend on their journal publishing for much, or most of their revenues. They have argued, with limited success, that libraries would likely drop their subscriptions if they could simply obtain the articles from the free repositories that are operated by federal agencies. Open-access mandates, of course, would apply only to that body of work that is publicly funded.

House S&T Committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said the roundtable's recommendations "strike a good balance by allowing public access to the results of research paid for with federal funds, while preserving the high quality and editorial integrity of scholarly publishing so critical to the scientists and seasoned science writers on whose expertise we all depend."

OSTP's review occurs in the context of Obama's directive—issued on his first full day in office—for agencies to take steps wherever possible to improve openness and transparency in their operations.

In the Senate, a bill called the Federal Research Public Access Act (S. 1373), introduced in July 2009 by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) would require that agencies provide free access to the articles from research they sponsor within six months of their publication in a journal. But that bill has yet to have had a hearing, despite having been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which Lieberman chairs. No comparable measure has been introduced in the House.

David Kramer source


Hi all! Sorry for being away for so long, but it was a complicated week and I had to write some stuff against the GMO invasion in Europe that you can find on "myeuropeandream.blogspot.com". I would publish it here as well, I just need some time to make it better. Because this fight is worthy the trouble.
But anyway, we'll stay on similar subject with my beloved pharmaceutical companies. I get more and more convinced that those guys seems not to really want to cure us. More likely, they want to keep us paying for as long as possible. Which of course isn't compatible with qualitatively changing our lifestyles. So here you are some articles to expose the never-ending flaws of this industry.
I realise that modern medicine is indispensable part of our current society. It's stupid to think that we can live a dynamical and interesting life if every time we get sick or broken, we simply lie down on the ground like animals. We need modern medicine. But the fact is that the medicine also needs us. So it will be nice if those companies treat their patients with more respect and care. Because let's face it - I'm pretty sure there is much better cancer treatments available. But instead, they'd treat you with chemo and cut you and radiate you, because it's more expensive and lasts longer. They won't kill you (if possible), but they won't quite cure you neither. And that's wrong. Because it's not serious to think that after you cure one disease, there won't be any new ones. Our bodies evolve, so the pharmacy companies won't go bankrupt, they'll always have new challenges. They'll always have market and source of profit. But to artificially keep us from changing - I can't respect or approve this.
And that is precisely why I keep on posting those article about the ugly side of the giants. I don't think there should be no giants, I only think that our governments and agencies that get payed trough our taxpayer money, should do better job in balancing corporations and public interest. Ans so far - there is not balance - corporations buy scientists, cheat on trials, misrepresent evidences - all for the profit. And even if a drug is good for one thing, they make it more harmful than helpful, because of they hunger for profits. And that's wrong. We have to change that and I'm glad I see signs that it's not only me that thinks like this (article 1. and 4. ). But it's simply not enough. We need more actions and we need it now. We did develop an explosive capitalism and it was good for a while, but now, we really have to stop and take what is good and leave what is bad. Our society should evolve.

P.S. Article 3. is quite interesting. Last but not least, because it claims certain drug prevents breast cancer, but it doesn't mention its clinic trials and the conditions under which it should be prescribed. Neither the actual cost of the treatment. Because let's face it - breast cancer is so spread, women deserve a chance to stop it. If that drug works the way they say, I would give it all the chances it needs.

  1. Menopause, as Brought to You by Big Pharma
  2. Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform
  3. Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken
  4. Harvard Teaching Hospitals Cap Outside Pay
Quandary With Mammograms: Get a Screening, or Just Skip It?

Menopause, as Brought to You by Big Pharma

Published: December 12, 2009

MILLIONS of American women in the 1990s were told they could help their bodies ward off major illness by taking menopausal hormone drugs. Some medical associations said so. Many gynecologists and physicians said so. Respected medical journals said so, too.

Along the way, television commercials positioned hormone drugs as treatments for more than hot flashes and night sweats — just two of the better-known symptoms of menopause, which is technically defined as commencing one year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.

One commercial about estrogen loss by the drug maker Wyeth featured a character named Dr. Heartman in a white coat discussing research into connections between menopause and heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and blindness.

Connie Barton, then a medical office assistant in Peoria, Ill., was one woman who responded to such messages. She says she took Prempro, a hormone drug made by Wyeth, from 1997, when she was 53, until 2002, when she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. As part of her cancer treatment, she had a mastectomy to remove her left breast.

Now Ms. Barton, who said in an interview that she used Prempro in part because her doctor told her it could help prevent heart disease and dementia, is one of more than 13,000 people who have sued Wyeth over the last seven years, claiming in courts across the country that its menopause drugs caused breast cancer and other problems.

The suits also assert, based on recently unsealed court documents, that Wyeth oversold the benefits of menopausal hormones and failed to properly warn of the risks.

In October, a jury in a Pennsylvania state court awarded Ms. Barton $75 million in punitive damages from Wyeth on top of compensatory damages of $3.75 million.

The drug giant Pfizer, which absorbed Wyeth and its hormone drugs in a merger this year, says that Prempro is a safe, federally approved drug that did not cause Ms. Barton’s breast cancer. Chris Loder, a Pfizer spokesman, says Wyeth acted responsibly by including a clear warning about a breast cancer risk on Prempro labels and by updating the warning as new evidence emerged.

Mr. Loder also notes that Pfizer plans to appeal every product-liability case on menopausal drugs it loses, including Ms. Barton’s.

To be sure, even some doctors who think hormone therapy has risks say it is the most effective treatment for symptoms directly associated with menopause.

The documents that have surfaced in the Wyeth cases offer a rare glimpse inside the file cabinets and hard drives of a major drug company.

PREMPRO is a combination of Premarin, an estrogen drug derived from the urine of pregnant mares and first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1942, with an additional hormone, progestin.

Part of the Premarin saga shows how a drug maker successfully and cannily expanded a franchise whose central ingredient is horse estrogens into a billion-dollar panacea for aging women. Yet several hundred pages of court documents also raise questions about another aspect of Premarin’s trajectory: how Wyeth worked over decades to maintain the image and credibility of its hormone drugs even as the products were repeatedly under siege.

Pfizer representatives say court documents paint an unfair picture of Wyeth’s practices and that plaintiffs’ lawyers have cherry-picked documents for out-of-context comments to sway juries.

Still, the documents offer a snapshot of Wyeth’s efforts. Taken together, they depict a company that over several decades spent tens of millions of dollars on influential physicians, professional medical societies, scientific publications, courses and celebrity ads, inundating doctors and patients with a sea of positive preventive health messages that plaintiffs’ lawyers say deflected users’ attention from cancer concerns.

Even as evidence mounted of an association of the drugs with cancer — first in the 1970s with Premarin and endometrial cancer, then in the 1990s with Prempro and breast cancer — Wyeth tried to contain the concerns, the court documents show.

In 2002, researchers halted the largest clinical trial ever conducted of women’s health because participants who took certain combined hormones had an increased risk of breast cancer — as well as a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clots in the lungs — compared with those taking a placebo.

Other parts of the same federal study, called the Women’s Health Initiative, later found that hormone drugs increased the risk of dementia in a subset of participants, those age 65 and older.

Sales of Wyeth’s hormone drugs peaked at about $2 billion in 2001, but after results of the 2002 study came out sales plummeted.

Pfizer is now fighting the Prempro litigation along with lawsuits over its progestin drug, Provera. Mr. Loder, the Pfizer spokesman, says Pfizer and Wyeth had fully informed patients, doctors and regulators of the risks of their menopause drugs, based on the best available science at the time of the disclosures.

But last month, a federal appellate court in St. Louis ruled in the case of a plaintiff named Donna Scroggin that Wyeth’s inaction over accumulating evidence — and the company’s attempts to mitigate cancer concerns by trying to undermine unfavorable scientific reports — could allow a jury to find Wyeth guilty of malicious conduct and award punitive damages.

Over the next decade, Wyeth paid DesignWrite to prepare at least 60 articles for publication in medical journals on the potential benefits of hormone therapy for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, colon cancer, vision loss and other health problems, the court documents show.

In response to an e-mail query, Michael Platt, president of DesignWrite, wrote that the articles were all medically and scientifically accurate and valid and peer reviewed.

source

Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform

Published: November 15, 2009

Even as drug makers promise to support Washington’s health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation’s drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.

In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation’s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.

The drug trend is distinctly at odds with the direction of the Consumer Price Index, which has fallen by 1.3 percent in the last year.

Drug makers say they have valid business reasons for the price increases. Critics say the industry is trying to establish a higher price base before Congress passes legislation that tries to curb drug spending in coming years.

A Harvard health economist, Joseph P. Newhouse, said he found a similar pattern of unusual price increases after Congress added drug benefits to Medicare a few years ago, giving tens of millions of older Americans federally subsidized drug insurance. Just as the program was taking effect in 2006, the drug industry raised prices by the widest margin in a half-dozen years.

“They try to maximize their profits,” Mr. Newhouse said.

But drug companies say they are having to raise prices to maintain the profits necessary to invest in research and development of new drugs as the patents on many of their most popular drugs are set to expire over the next few years.

“Price adjustments for our products have no connection to health care reform,” said Ron Rogers, a spokesman for Merck, which raised its prices about 8.9 percent in the last year, according to a stock analyst’s report.

The drug industry has actively opposed some of the cost-cutting provisions in the House legislation, which passed Nov. 7 and aims to cut drug spending by about $14 billion a year over a decade.

But the drug makers have been proudly citing the agreement they reached with the White House and the Senate Finance Committee chairman to trim $8 billion a year — $80 billion over 10 years — from the nation’s drug bill by giving rebates to older Americans and the government. That provision is likely to be part of the legislation that will reach the Senate floor in coming weeks.

But this year’s price increases would effectively cancel out the savings from at least the first year of the Senate Finance agreement. And some critics say the surge in drug prices could change the dynamics of the entire 10-year deal.

Name-brand prices have risen even as prices of widely used generic drugs have fallen by about 9 percent in the last year, Professor Schondelmeyer said. But name brands account for 78 percent of total prescription drug spending in this country. And as long as a name-brand drug still has patent protection it faces no price competition from generics. source

Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken

Published: November 12, 2009

Many Americans do not think twice about taking medicines to prevent heart disease and stroke. But cancer is different. Much of what Americans do in the name of warding off cancer has not been shown to matter, and some things are actually harmful. Yet the few medicines proved to deter cancer are widely ignored.

Take prostate cancer, the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, surpassed only by easily treated skin cancers. More than 192,000 cases of it will be diagnosed this year, and more than 27,000 men will die from it.

And, it turns out, there is a way to prevent many cases of prostate cancer. A large and rigorous study found that a generic drug, finasteride, costing about $2 a day, could prevent as many as 50,000 cases each year. Another study found that finasteride’s close cousin, dutasteride, about $3.50 a day, has the same effect.

Nevertheless, researchers say, the drugs that work are largely ignored. And supplements that have been shown to be not just ineffective but possibly harmful are taken by men hoping to protect themselves from prostate cancer.

And prostate cancer is not unique. Scientists have what they consider definitive evidence that two drugs can cut the risk of breast cancer in half. Women and doctors have pretty much ignored the findings.

Companies have taken note, saying that it makes little economic sense to spend decades developing drugs to prevent cancer. The better business plan seems to be looking for drugs to treat cancer.

A few ways are known for sure to prevent cancer; the biggest is to avoid cigarette smoking. That alone would drop the cancer death rate by a third. No other measure comes close.

Another huge success, for breast cancer, is to avoid taking estrogen and progestin at menopause. Sales of those drugs plummeted in 2002 after a federal study, the Women’s Health Initiative, concluded that they did not prevent heart disease and might increase breast cancer. The next year, the breast cancer rate dropped by 15 percent after having steadily increased since 1945.

The vaccine for human papilloma virus, protects against most strains of the virus, which causes cervical cancer.

But other measures that are often assumed — and marketed — as ways to prevent cancer may not make much difference, researchers say.

For example, public health experts for years recommended eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to prevent cancer, but the evidence is conflicting, at best suggestive, and far from definitive.

Low-fat diets were long thought to prevent breast cancer. But a large federal study randomizing women to a low-fat or normal diet and looking for an effect in breast cancer found nothing, said its director.

Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables and grains, is often thought to prevent colon cancer, even though two large studies found no effect.

Many hold out hope for exercise or weight loss. Studies have associated strenuous exercise with less cancer. But that is the same sort of evidence that misled scientists about aspects of diet.

As for obesity, researchers differ. Studies that observed large numbers of people often found that fatter people have more cancer. But many of the correlations are weak, and different studies have pointed to different cancers, raising questions about whether some of the effects are real.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said he was convinced. The strongest link, he and others say, is with obesity and breast cancer. But there, Dr. Brawley says, the crucial period may occur early in life — girls who gain weight when they are young, he said, tend to start menstruating earlier, which increases their breast cancer risk because it adds years of exposure to the body’s estrogen. It may be that weight loss in adulthood does not help.

The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, which can prevent cancer in rats. People eating the most fruits and vegetables had less cancer. And the more beta carotene in a person’s blood, the lower the cancer risk. Lung cancer seemed particularly vulnerable to beta carotene’s effects, particularly in smokers and former smokers.

What was needed was cause-and-effect evidence, studies showing that if people bolstered their beta carotene and vitamin A levels, they would be protected from cancer. The cancer institute decided to take it on with two large studies.

But not only did the supplements not work, but there was evidence that beta carotene might actually increase cancer risk in smokers.

Dr. Greenwald and his colleagues still held out hope for vitamins and minerals as cancer preventatives. So his group proposed the largest cancer prevention clinical trial ever tried, involving 35,000 men 50 and older. This time, the idea was that vitamin E and selenium might prevent prostate cancer.

The selenium and vitamin E study ended early. Once again, there was no protection from cancer, and there were hints the supplements might be causing cancer.

By 1998, the results were in. Tamoxifen cut the breast cancer rate in half. Similar studies in Britain and Italy, also involving high-risk women who had not had breast cancer, came to similar conclusions. And women did not have to take the drug for a lifetime — they needed just five years of therapy.

Maybe, Dr. Vogel thought, the problem was that internists and gynecologists were not comfortable prescribing a drug used to treat cancer patients. Then, in 1999, he had a chance to do another breast cancer prevention trial, this time of an osteoporosis drug, raloxifene, or Evista, which did not have the cancer drug taint. It was to be compared with tamoxifen.

The $110 million study, involving 19,000 women, ended in 2006. The two drugs were found to be equally effective in preventing breast cancer, but with raloxifene there was no excess uterine cancer and the clotting risk was 30 percent less.

source


Harvard Teaching Hospitals Cap Outside Pay

Published: January 2, 2010

The owner of two research hospitals affiliated with the Harvard Medical School has imposed restrictions on outside pay for two dozen senior officials who also sit on the boards of pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies. The limits come in the wake of growing criticism of the ties between industry and academia.

Medical experts say they believe the conflict-of-interest rules at the institution, Partners HealthCare, go further than those of any other academic medical center in restricting outside pay from drug companies. The rules, which became effective on Friday, impose limits specifically on outside directors who guide some of the nation’s biggest companies.

Senior officials at the two hospitals, Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals in Boston, must limit their pay for serving as outside directors to what the policy calls “a level befitting an academic role” — no more than $5,000 a day for actual work for the board. Some had been receiving more than $200,000 a year. Also, they may no longer accept stock.

Criticism has been mounting in recent years as the conflicting roles of some medical leaders have been disclosed through Congressional investigations, lawsuits and reports in the news media. Those disclosures have raised questions about bias and the cost and quality of patient care at the nation’s medical institutions.

Harvard, in particular, has come under scrutiny from Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, a leader of Congressional inquiries into the influence of money in medicine.

Partners HealthCare is also forbidding speaker’s fees from drug companies for any employee, including nearly 8,000 with Harvard faculty appointments. Some other medical schools have taken similar actions in prohibiting faculty members from being paid by drug companies to speak about their products.

But no other academic medical centers have so restricted participation in boards of directors.

The ban on speaking fees was one reason Partners wanted to take a strong stand on the issue of directors, he added. It would seem unfair, Dr. Braunwald said, to restrict outside pay of junior faculty but not senior leaders.

Among the senior officials affected by the policy is Dr. Dennis A. Ausiello, chief of medicine since 1996 at Massachusetts General and the Partners chief scientific officer, who serves on Pfizer’s board. He was paid more than $220,000 by the company last year. Dr. Ausiello said he would continue in both roles.

Dr. Ausiello said Pfizer and other companies were crucial to translate academic research into drugs that benefit patients. At Partners, he has oversight of a research, ventures and licensing office that seeks to commercialize the hospitals’ intellectual property.

“I’m very proud of my board work,” he said. “I’m not there to make money. I certainly think I should be compensated fairly and symmetrically with my fellow board members, but if my institutions rule otherwise, as they have, I will continue to serve on the board.”

Some say the restrictions are too tough on well-meaning hospital leaders. Others say they are too weak to control conflicts of interest, arguing that corporate directors should not be overseeing research, managing educational programs or determining elements of patient care.

“I think that’s a gross conflict for an official of an academic medical center to be on the board of a pharmaceutical company,” said Dr. Arnold S. Relman, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine and Harvard professor emeritus who has written about conflicts of interest.

“It’s happening more and more around the country,” he added. “If it isn’t stopped, I think the academic institutions are going to lose the confidence of the country and the government and they will no longer deserve the tax exemption or anything else. They will be part of industry itself.” source

The shadow threat, 02. 2010

Ok, this post will be long. Be warned.

It was supposed to be a post dedicated to the Islamic world, but I changed my mind. It's not so much about Islamic world, as to the world of people who want to hurt science. Because if you read the second article, you'd know what is all about - how could possibly Islamic students in Toronto believe more in creationism than Islamic students in Islamic countries?! How could people in Turkey never have heard of creationism until 20 years ago and now it's all over Turkey? Where it comes from? It's clear enough, it comes from the West. And to be more precise, it comes from USA. And I can't but ask - why? What's wrong with evolution? What's wrong in the idea that we can become much more than we are with time? What's wrong to admit that species evolve even now, that our own genome is outrageously changing even now? Because it is what it does. See my other blog for more details, I often post articles about evolution there. It becomes clearer and clearer that life is universal and quite "easy" to get, it's clear that all kind of biological systems do evolve. It's clear that even robots with evolution-like codes evolve and develop new qualities unknown before. Isn't this enough?

Or we have to believe that the Earth is 5000 years old and all the fossils, all the cosmology is nonsense. No, thanks. And again, why? How wins from all this? Maybe they want to secure an easier to manipulate population? Maybe something not so obvious. In any case, that's the true evil. That is the shadow threat. The wiping out of reason, of science and utterly of the belief in ourselves. Because that is the essence of science - our belief that we can know the outside world, its laws and its secrets. I perfectly don't see a confrontation between science and religion as they are. But people forcefully confront them and make us believe science is almost in conspiracy against us, God or whoever. This is an absolute lie - most of the physicists I know are sincere believers and are truly awed by the wonders of our Universe, the creation of God. But that doesn't mean we have to stop studying the Universe, we have to stop trying to understand it.

And anyway, the other reason why I started writing this article - Turkey. They tell us it's modern. They tell us they are ready to join the EU. They flood us with idiotic sexist soap operas. But the reality is other and everyone watching carefully will know it. They are getting more and more Islamic with every year and that is dangerous. It's dangerous seeing veiled women, it's dangerous admitting the possibility that women may be excluded from the society and stuck in their homes, as useless household objects. It's dangerous letting the creationists enter Europe. I hope people will realise it. I hope Europe will realise it. Because I'm utterly scared from the idea that Turkey may join the EU. That our borders may be open. They already are trying to take over half of Bulgaria. They have the money, they have the desire. Who will stop them?

We hear about Iran and how bad and dangerous they are. What about Turkey. Their islamisation is clear. Aren't they dangerous? I won't comment more, I know most of the people won't understand or care. But I can't but ask, why creationism is taking over all the religion and why the countries who embrace it are encouraged in the EU and so on. What happens with the secularism and when it stopped being the ideal?

  • In Iran, Protests Gaining a Radical Tinge
  • Creationism, Minus a Young Earth, Emerges in the Islamic World
  • Broaching Birth Control With Afghan Mullahs

In Iran, Protests Gaining a Radical Tinge

Published: December 10, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the video, one of hundreds filmed during Iran’s nationwide demonstrations on Monday, an enraged woman’s voice can be heard as a paramilitary truck runs a motorbike off the road amid a crowd of fleeing protesters.

“This is the Islamic Republic!” she shouts, gesturing at the vehicle.

That message has grown increasingly common in recent protests, as demonstrators have made it clear that their target is not just President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the disputed election that returned him to power in June, but the entire foundation of Iran’s theocracy.

During Monday’s demonstrations, the civil tone of many earlier rallies was noticeably absent. There was no sign of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, a moderate figure who supports change within the system, and few were wearing the signature bright green of his campaign.

Instead, the protesters, most of them young people, took direct aim at Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chanting, “Khamenei knows his time is up!” They held up flags from which the “Allah” symbol — added after Iran’s 1979 revolution — had been removed. Most shocking of all, some burned an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the revolution.

That creeping radicalization has underscored the rift within Iran’s opposition movement, analysts say, and poses a problem for its leaders, including Mr. Moussavi and the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi.

Some in Iran have even speculated that Mr. Moussavi and Mr. Karroubi were uncomfortable with the most recent round of protests, which were timed to coincide with a holiday commemorating the killing of three students by the shah’s forces in 1953. While they were involved with earlier protests, the opposition leaders did not organize the most recent ones. They do not appear to have attended any of them and have been silent since. It is not clear how much influence they have over the movement, which often seems to be built more around semi-spontaneous mobilizations over Facebook and Web networks than with the aid of any clear leadership source


Creationism, Minus a Young Earth, Emerges in the Islamic World


November 2, 2009

AMHERST, Mass. — Creationism is growing in the Muslim world, from Turkey to Pakistan to Indonesia, international academics said last month as they gathered here to discuss the topic.

But, they said, young-Earth creationists, who believe God created the universe, Earth and life just a few thousand years ago, are rare, if not nonexistent.

One reason is that although the Koran, the holy text of Islam, says the universe was created in six days, the next line adds that a day, in this instance, is metaphorical: “a thousand years of your reckoning.”

By contrast, some Christian creationists find in the Bible a strict chronology that requires a 6,000-year-old Earth and thus object not only to evolution but also to much of modern geology and cosmology, which say the Earth and the universe are billions of years old.

But that does not mean that all of evolution fits Islam or that all Muslims happily accept the findings of modern biology. More and more seem to be joining the ranks of the so-called old-Earth creationists. They do not quarrel with astronomers and geologists, just biologists, insisting that life is the creation of God, not the happenstance consequence of random occurrences.

The debate over evolution is only now gaining prominence in many Islamic countries as education improves and more students are exposed to the ideas of modern biology.

The degree of acceptance of evolution varies among Islamic countries.

Research led by the Evolution Education Research Center at McGill University, in Montreal, found that high school biology textbooks in Pakistan covered the theory of evolution. Quotations from the Koran at the beginning of the chapters are chosen to suggest that the religion and the theory coexist harmoniously.

In a survey of 2,527 Pakistani high school students conducted by the McGill researchers and their international collaborators, 28 percent of the students agreed with the creationist sentiment, “Evolution is not a well-accepted scientific fact.” More than 60 percent disagreed, and the rest were not sure.

Eighty-six percent agreed with this statement: “Millions of fossils show that life has existed for billions of years and changed over time.”

The situation in Turkey is different and changed only in the past couple of decades. One of the conference participants, Taner Edis, said he never encountered creationist undertones when he was growing up in Turkey in the 1970s. “I first noticed creationism when I came to America for graduate school,” said Dr. Edis, now a professor of physics at Truman State University in Missouri. He thought it an American oddity.

Some years later, while browsing a bookstore on a visit to Turkey, Dr. Edis found books about creationism filed in the science section. “It actually caught me by surprise,” he said.

In Turkey, officially a secular government but now ruled by an Islamic party, the teaching of evolution has largely disappeared, at least below the university level, and the science curriculum in public schools is written in deference to religious beliefs, Dr. Edis said.

In the McGill research, fewer students in Indonesia than in Pakistan thought evolution a well-accepted scientific fact, yet 85 percent agreed that fossils showed that life had existed for billions of years and changed over time.

Pervez A. Hoodbhoy, a prominent atomic physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in Pakistan, said that when he gave lectures covering the sweep of cosmological history from the Big Bang to the evolution of life on Earth, the audience listened without objection to most of it. “Everything is O.K. until the apes stand up,” Dr. Hoodbhoy said.

Mentioning human evolution led to near riots, and he had to be escorted out. “That’s the one thing that will never be possible to bridge,” he said.

Biology education, even in places like Pakistan that otherwise teach evolution, largely omits the question of where humans came from.

There is some indication that in the West, where non-Islamic influences are strongest, Islamic creationism may be stronger in reaction to the outside pressure. For example, high school students at Islamic schools in and near Toronto were far more doubting of evolution than students in Indonesia or Pakistan, the McGill researchers found.

source


Broaching Birth Control With Afghan Mullahs

Published: November 14, 2009

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — The mullahs stared silently at the screen. They shifted in their chairs and fiddled with pencils. Koranic verses flashed above them, but the topic was something that made everybody a little uncomfortable.

“A baby should be breast-fed for at least 21 months,” said the instructor. “Milk is safe inside the breast. Dust and germs can’t get inside.”

It was a seminar on birth control, a likely subject for a nation whose fertility rate of 6 children per woman is the highest in Asia. But the audience was unusual: 10 Islamic religious leaders from this city and its suburbs, wearing turbans and sipping tea.

The message was simple. Babies are good, but not too many; wait two years before having another to give your wife’s body a chance to recover. Nothing in Islam expressly forbids birth control. But it does emphasize procreation, and mullahs, like leaders of other faiths, consider children to be blessings from God, and are usually the most determined opponents of having fewer of them.

It is an attitude that Afghanistan can no longer afford, in the view of the employees of the nonprofit group that runs the seminars, Marie Stopes International. The high birthrate places a heavy weight on a society where average per capita earnings are about $700 a year. It is also a risk to mothers. Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leone in maternal mortality rates, which run as high as 8 percent in some areas.

“This was a useful and friendly discussion,” said Mullah Amruddin, a tall man in a dramatic turban. “If you have too many children and you can’t control them, that’s bad for Islam.”

Maybe they were so receptive because a mullah led the class, using their own language — scripture from the Koran. Or maybe it was because some attitudes are starting to change.

Syed Wasem Massoom, 29, a mullah and one of the trainers, said urban Afghans were looking for ways to have fewer children. Afghanistan was changing, he said, especially its cities, and mullahs had better be thinking about these issues.

“People kept asking us how to have less children,” he said.

Afghan women who work for Marie Stopes, distributing birth control door to door in the country’s capital, have also noticed an interest.

“Sometimes they are kind of surprised that this kind of thing exists,” said one of the workers, a woman named Aziza.

One woman was so happy to have birth control pills that she hugged and kissed Aziza, ripped open a package and swallowed a pill with a gulp of water.

“She said she didn’t want to wait until evening,” Aziza said, laughing at the memory. The total number of the woman’s children: 17. Three dead, 14 living.

The most difficult families are ones headed by mullahs. Aziza and her colleagues tread carefully in those households. Mahmouda, another worker, recalled walking into one such house and finding the mullah’s wife washing clothes and trying to calm a baby. She signaled silently that Mahmouda should talk in a low voice.

“ ‘If my husband finds out, he’ll punish me,’ ” Mahmouda recalled the woman saying. “ ‘I’m pregnant now. I really need those pills.’ ”

Taking birth control in secret is not unusual, the women said. Even Aziza’s own husband opposes her using it. source

Hey all! I'm finally able to post here, so it's nice to be back.
Now, I checked my list of drafts and I found something that caught my eye. An article for the mass-rapings of Guinea women in October. I remember I wanted to post it here, because of the obvious obscenity of what happened, and the reminder it is, for the type of lives women in some parts of Africa have. And note, some of these disgusting acts, were filmed on phone and they are all over internet. So, when today I checked my mails and I found out the other two articles - that Guinea got a new government, and that some people want child pornography owners to pay money to the victims it was easy to make the connection. But bear with me, because my thought is flowing in complicated ways these days :) .
First of all, there is the moral question. It's hard not to get mad on the way women get treated every time when men are without control. Why? I mean seriously, why the most natural thing when you unleash an army is that they will rape whoever get in their sight. One could argue that it's natural because sex is one of the basic human needs, but I don't exactly believe this. Because sex should be a secondary need - if your other needs are not satisfied, it should be repressed. But this doesn't happen. Men in all kind of desperate situations (like after Katherina) violate women and it's hard for me to imagine how you could feel bad and tired and hungry and so on and still have the sexdrive to rape someone. That's why I think that the most reasonable explanation is that men actually punish women by raping them. Like the unleash their anger on them. So I don't get it, why men should be so angry and why should the unleash their anger on women? Isn't this disgusting? And isn't it disgusting to make the most pleasant thing on world as a form of punishment.
Back to Guinea, I think those soldiers knew what they were doing. And they did something horrible. But note the numbers - 50 000 protesters, 127 dead. And many raped. Not exactly a clear number, but obviously, if we claim 20 000 of the protesters were women, then one would imagine much much bigger number of victims (like ~1 000) if the whole army decided to rape everyone in sight. I can only hope they weren't that many, because something like this damages the person for life. But the question is, if they weren't that many, why weren't they? The soldiers were either out of control or not?
Note the second stage of the game - someone shoot the general in command of the junta. And just 3 or 4 months later, we have a change in the regime. Isn't this strange? I was very impressed by the fact that the same red barrets who guarded the old general are now guarding the new president. It's like we didn't see a revolution, the regime just smoothly changed its owner. Why? And what was the role of all those women who were abused in the mud, is there a chance that they were victimized on purpose. I hope I'm not right and that they were martyrs for that revolution, but I can't but be suspicious of such smooth changes in the regime. And I can't but wonder, wasn't this all plotted so that the regime changes in this way. It's not like we haven't seen this already. Think Iraq if you want. And my feeling tells me something is absolutely not right in the case.
I can only hope that Guinea finds its new, democratic future and everything starts settling and people live better from now on. But I doubt. Because if we see the same "external forces" plotting the changes in the regime, that must be for a reason. And it's very unlikely that this change is for something good. Usually, it is to steal something.
So I offer this two articles for your consideration. What exactly do we put into the meaning "democracy"? Is a regime coming with the blood of raped women better or worst than the old, who existed with the blood of other people. And in any case, why should the women be the usual victims of any regime. Maybe the Muslims are right to oppress women, obviously, we are quite a strength to be worried about. Think Kennedy.

And yeah, as for the child pornography, which I do not comment extensively, isn't it kind of odd to charge people for a picture that may or may not be obtained intentionally? How far can this go. I am against child pornography in any form, and sure, there's not punishment that is enough for such people, but I also don't feel it is right to charge such photos like they are products, to make it a business. That's ugly.

Today

  1. In a Guinea Seized by Violence, Women Are Prey
  2. After Massacre, Guinea Sees Hope of Lifted Chains
  3. Child Pornography, and an Issue of Restitution

In a Guinea Seized by Violence, Women Are Prey

Published: October 5, 2009
CONAKRY, Guinea — Cellphone snapshots, ugly and hard to refute, are circulating here and feeding rage: they show that women were the particular targets of the Guinean soldiers who suppressed a political demonstration at a stadium here last week, with victims and witnesses describing rapes, beatings and acts of intentional humiliation.

One photograph shows a naked woman lying on muddy ground, her legs up in the air, a man in military fatigues in front of her. In a second picture a soldier in a red beret is pulling the clothes off a distraught-looking woman half-lying, half-sitting on muddy ground. In a third a mostly nude woman lying on the ground is pulling on her trousers.

The cellphone pictures are circulating anonymously, but multiple witnesses corroborated the events depicted.

The attacks were part of a violent outburst on Sept. 28 in which soldiers shot and killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators at the main stadium here, where perhaps 50,000 had assembled. Local human rights organizations say at least 157 were killed; the government puts the figure at 56.

But even more than the shootings, the attacks on women — horrific anywhere, but viewed with particular revulsion in Muslim countries like this one — appear to have traumatized the citizenry and hardened the opposition’s determination to force out the leader of the military junta, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.

Diplomats said the violence had irreversibly undermined Mr. Camara’s standing with other countries.

If internal opposition continues to grow, Captain Camara may be forced either to leave power or to tighten his grip with an even more authoritarian government.

Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France, the former colonial power here, said his country could no longer work with Captain Camara, and urged “international intervention.”

The exact number of women who were abused is not known. Because of the shame associated with sexual violence in this West African country, victims are reluctant to speak, and local doctors refuse to do so. Victims who told of the attacks would not provide their names because they were afraid of retribution.

But the witnesses were adamant. “I affirm, in categorical fashion, that women were raped, not just one woman,” said Mamadou Mouctar Diallo, 34, an opposition leader who said he had been severely beaten himself. “I saw many rapes.”

Describing one such assault, he said: “I saw a woman who was stripped naked. They ripped off, they tore off her clothes. They surrounded her. They made her lie down. They lifted up her feet, and one of the soldiers advanced. They took turns.” source

After Massacre, Guinea Sees Hope of Lifted Chains

Published: February 2, 2010

CONAKRY, Guinea — Something rare has happened in a region often given to brutal autocracy: power has been peacefully transferred to a civilian, just four months after an army massacre that recalled the worst of Africa’s past.

On Sept. 28, at least 150 demonstrators died in this city’s main stadium. More than 100 women were raped or sexually abused, a United Nations panel found, while many other protesters were beaten — including the man who is now Guinea’s prime minister.

Now, the swift and unexpected turn of events has surprised Guineans, who wonder warily if the new prime minister, Jean-Marie Doré, a gaunt and wily opposition leader who left the stadium bleeding, can actually deliver democracy in a country that has never truly known it. The omnipresent military, arbiter of power for decades, hovers in the background, a potential foot on the fragile plant of civilian rule.

“Things have happened so fast,” said Sydia Touré, a widely respected opposition leader.

“This is something we couldn’t have imagined two months ago,” he said. “It’s a new vision.”

People here are still trying to understand exactly how the transition occurred, as the larger question arises of whether Guinea holds any lessons for the region’s future.

It was, bitterly for Guineans, the massacre that might have finally unchained this long-repressed country. An unusual set of events followed: the grave wounding in December of the country’s military dictator, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, in an assassination attempt; then what appeared to be acquiescence by his second-in-command, Gen. Sékouba Konaté, to a switch to civilian leadership; and finally the scene of hope last week when Mr. Doré took power and promised the nation its first truly free elections within the year.

“Democracy!” people shouted after Mr. Doré left a downtown restaurant, slapping the hands of well-wishers from his S.U.V. He was guarded, paradoxically, by the same cadre of red-bereted presidential guards responsible for the stadium massacre.

Guinea could be the rare case in which swift international sanctions actually worked, politicians and diplomats here say. Sharp words from the United States and France in October were quickly followed by travel and aid bans, which struck hard in an impoverished land where over half the budget is financed from abroad.

The United Nations and the International Criminal Court investigated the stadium massacre, with the United Nations focusing on the junta — including its erratic chief, Captain Camara — for crimes against humanity. Pressure built, and the government gave in.

All the makeshift promise and risk of this country’s new democratic experiment were evident at the meeting of former opposition members, in a brightly painted open-air former restaurant called Buddies First. Representatives of about 40 political parties and 30 organizations crowded in. Leaders who a few months ago had gone into hiding, nursing wounds from the massacre, sat in the front row and cheered as the gathering chose a spokesman.

“People have died for this,” said the man eventually picked, François Lonsény Fall, a former prime minister.

“We have a historic mission to give our country, for the first time, democratic institutions,” he told the crowd.

That will not be easy in Guinea, where one dictator has replaced another in the 52 years since its separation from France. First there was a Stalinist, Sékou Touré, who saw plots everywhere and killed dozens of people to stamp them out; then a military man, Lansana Conté, who bled the resource-rich country dry as his entourage enriched itself; and finally Captain Camara, who ruled until a disgruntled member of his guard shot him in the head early in December.

Much depends on General Konaté, a burly career military man whose decision to allow opposition forces to pick an interim prime minister — Mr. Doré — was critical in defusing Guinea’s crisis. Diplomats here say General Konaté, the junta’s ailing former defense minister, appears uninterested in political power. Unlike other senior officers, he was not implicated in the massacre, and he has publicly warned about the dangers of isolation and upbraided troops over extortion against civilians.

Mr. Doré’s main role is to form a government — with 10 representatives from the former opposition, 10 from the junta and 10 from provincial governments — and oversee preparations for elections. A fierce competition for these positions is now under way, and Mr. Doré is already being criticized for being too slow, a week after taking office. source

Happy holiday!

Happy Imbolc, everyone!
No, I'm not a Celt, neither a pagan, but I'm quite sure that this holiday has Trakian analogue, so there's nothing wrong in celebrating it. And it's a beautiful one too.

What is Imbolc? It is a holiday celebrating the "lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. link"

"Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the Gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months." (wikipedia)

As you should have figured, this is a day of the new beginning and the first signs of the Spring. So I wish each and everyone of us, that the Spring finally returns in our souls and the Sun of hope and joy shines trough the clouds of everyday grayness. Our souls should shine like diamonds on the Sun and this day is a good reminder that this isn't impossible. Just look at the little kids and lambs, how innocent and full of joy they are. Well, some people will call them gay. They are :) And maybe this is why today is also the "Day of gays" in Bulgaria. But for me, this is more likely another patriarchal version of the day of the goddess of art. Unfortunately we lost this day trough out our history and we transformed it into Baba Marta - the granny of March, which keep us red and white, happy and healthy trough the year. It is a sunny holiday, but the question is why should beautiful ladies turn into benevolent grannies for men to be ok with them.

Anyway, happy Imbolc everyone. I don't know about you, but I badly need this Sun to start shining.

And of course - this is the day/month of breeding and milking, so I hope more of us take it seriously :) I cannot for now, but hey, we have to breed to keep the western civilization alive. Because Great China is waiting at our doors. And without even a trace of racism or a hint of political dislike (not that there isn't a need for critics), but nobody wins if we're all Chinese. Not even China. Not on the long run. The key for biological survival is in variety. So let's vary ourselves :)

Have a great holiday and celebrate the new life in the best way possible - by creating it!

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