Drug development takes animal testing for granted

In spite of an ongoing and increasing public outcry about laboratory use of animals for drug research, and in spite of growing evidence that animal test data is not valid for humans, the practice goes on in at least a third of all drug development in the EU.

Dr. Marlous Kooijman of Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development in The Netherlands has published an article in the  journal  Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science (PiLAS) that explains in part why this is still going on, and offers some suggestions about how it can be stopped or drastically reduced.She says: “The value of animal studies to predict risks for humans has never been extensively established. In fact, many studies indicate that the value of animal studies is often limited.”

European law (Directive 86/609/EEC) requires that alternatives to animals must be used where they are available. In spite of the development of many new techniques since the Directive was implemented, only a minority have replaced animal testing.Dr Koojiman’s review revealed that animal studies are locked-in to research, because they are embedded in a well-aligned set of regulations, norms and values that are taken for granted, normatively endorsed, and backed up by regulatory authorities.

She has made a series of recommendations to try to overcome the reluctance to change:
a) Governments should create incentives for the pharmaceutical industry to develop and use methods that can substitute animal studies; incentives could be created by rewarding the use of innovative methods and discouraging the use of animal studies.

b) The acceptance of patented innovative methods in regulation will accelerate the innovation process; the patenting of new methods will enable the costs of the development and validation to be recovered.

c) The revision of the validation process will contribute to the implementation of innovative methods; humane endpoints should be used as the reference for validation.

d) ‘Smart’ regulation, enabling science-driven drug development will contribute to the reduction of animal studies; smart regulation provides the opportunity to deviate from the drug development requirements, and thereby enables the use of innovative methods that are not validated.

e) Research on the predictive value of animal studies will increase the innovation process; if more research shows that the predictive value of animal studies is limited, then the legitimacy to use animals as models for humans will decrease, and this will provide opportunities for the implementation of innovative methods.

For further information see the full article at http://pilas.org.uk/why-animal-studies-are-still-being-used-in-drug-development/

Perspectives in Laboratory Animal Science (PiLAS) is published by the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments as part of its scientific journal ATLA ( Alternatives to Laboratory Animals )


Ab Fab star Joanna donates hat to homeless charity auction

Joanna Lumley is taking her hat off to support St Mungo’s celebrity hat auction as part of Woolly Hat Day 2014 www.woollyhatday.org

The latest big name to throw her proverbial and literal hat into the St Mungo’s celebrity hat auction ring is Joanna Lumley who has decided to donate a personal piece of headgear to the auction.

No less than 30 famous names from the stage, the big and small screen and the music industry have taken their hats off in order to offer help to homeless people with the proceeds from the auction. The auction its self will take place from  24 January and 2 February 2014, this will link in with the charity’s 31 January Woolly Hat Day .

Joanna Lumley joins celebrities include Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Sheen, Jessie J, The Edge, Kim Kardashian, Elvis Costello, Tinie Tempah Sienna Miller and Kevin Pieterson with St Mungo’s hoping the auction will raise £20,000 for its work supporting people to recover from homelessness.

Bid for hats at www.ebay.com/woollyhatday

Joanna Lumley recently visited St Mungo’s hostel in Covent Garden to see the charity’s work first hand.

She said: “I am proud to support the wonderful work St Mungo’s does and love being part of this fabulous hat auction. It was a privilege to see round the hostel and to meet some of the clients; and next time I shall make my way down to the recording studio in the basement and cut a disc with them.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, recently on our screens as Sherlock, has donated a signed deerstalker and Michael Sheen has sent in a signed baseball cap he wore on the FROST/NIXON Broadway baseball team. Sienna Milller has donated a stylish Philip Treacy trilby and all three members of Coldplay have signed an army cap.

Music legends Sir Elton John and U2’s The Edge have both donated iconic hats. Sir Elton’s a black Stephen Jones trilby and The Edge, a signature black skull cap as worn on countless tours.

Chris Martin said: “We’re so proud to support St Mungo’s and the great work that you all do.”

Michael Sheen said: “This was my hat when I was pitcher for the FROST/NIXON Broadway League softball team, during our run with the play there. We would play at the baseball diamonds in Central Park against the other Broadway shows that had teams. I remember a memorably feisty game against Phantom of the Opera, I believe, which ended up with me saying I’d take them all on by myself. This hat was a good luck charm and I did pretty well for someone totally new to the game. Always felt like I was in an old time American movie in my full baseball kit.”

This is the third year that St Mungo’s has held its celebrity hat auction, which is held to mark the charity’s annual Woolly Hat Day where people are encouraged to wear a woolly hat for the day in return for a £2 donation to St Mungo’s.

St Mungo’s has been running for over 40 years and is one of Britain’s largest charities supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The charity provides a bed, warm room and much more to thousands of people in London and across the South – from hostels to semi-independent flats, from psychotherapy services to peer support, from life-skills to job opportunities.

Each night St Mungo’s provide supportive housing for around 2,000 people and manages more than 200 housing, health and work projects across London and the South.

Tanya English, Executive Director for Fundraising and Communications at St Mungo’s, said: “St Mungo’s believes that people can – and do – recover from the issues that create homelessness.

“Woolly Hat Day is a chance to show support for those without a home. We work all year round to support people to rebuild their lives through good quality housing, health services and opportunities for training and support into work. We want this year to be even more of a success in raising funds and awareness. By heading online and putting in an auction bid or getting your own hat on for Woolly Hat Day, you can help homeless people get ahead.”

This year the charity’s Woolly Hat Day has a new fundraising target of £50,000, which would make a real difference to vulnerable people, and there are lots of ways for people to take part.

You can get involved by:

  • Bidding in the online celebrity hat auction for a famous piece of headgear at www.ebay.com/woollyhatday
  • Getting together with friends and teachers at school, college or university to fundraise for St Mungo’s www.woollyhatday.org
  • Holding a hat party at work
  • Knitting bobble hats with friends or colleagues
  • Making an online or text donation
  • Following us on Facebook or Twitter [StMungosUK or @StMungos and use #WHD2014]

Tensions on Sark being monitored by the UK government

The UK government is monitoring tension found on the Channel Island of Sark according to a new report. The tension reportedly is between Sir Frederick Barclay and Sir David Barclay and the elected parliament of Sark, the Chief Pleas. The report from the UK Ministry of Justice stated that the problems are making it very hard to work together to form a better plan for a sustainable future. The Barclays have a large investment in Sark and they think that the local legislation is guilty of discriminating against them frequently.

Justice Minister Lord McNally stated that the dependencies are mostly governed well, but Sark is the exception to the rule. Since 2010 the MoJ has been working with Sark and stated that people that live on the island are not tolerant of any other point of view but their own. In 2008 the island adopted a new constitution that was suppose to introduce democracy and end the ways of feudal practices, but the Barclay twins believe that there is still much more to be done.

The MPs believe that the island MPs are making threats of legal action that would be executed at an individual level and they continue to launch intimidating and abusive attacks via the newsletter of Sark that is edited by the manager of the Barclays brothers.

On the other hand, the brothers are complaining that legislation continues to be made that discriminates against them on purpose and they are looking at legal options that they can take against this legislation because they believe that change has to be made. Lord McNally stated that resolving the conflict between the two groups is likely going to be a long process but they would like to see both sides try to calm down a bit to help smooth things along.

PM responds to Labour’s claims over RBS bonuses

David Cameron has quickly responded by pressure over the Royal Bank of Scotland that Labour has been pursuing by stating that all cash bonuses given out to employees and CEOs will be at the maximum £2,000. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has been making calls in the House of Commons to make sure that the bank it not able to give its senior staff members bonuses that are worth twice as much as their salaries. He said that he can confirm that limits have been placed on what the cash bonuses can be at RBS this year, and that they plan to limit cash bonuses next year too.

The Prime Minister added that he will also veto any thing that the Royal Bank of Scotland might try to do in order to increase its bonus bill or overall pay. Chris Leslie, the Labour Treasury Spokesman, stated that capping the bill is not the same thing as saying that individual share bonuses cannot be given out. He explained that the PM did not address giving out share award bonuses. He said that this is a red herring because capping remuneration is not going to stop share holders from taking large bonuses.

It is expected that the RBS is going to bring up an EU clause that will let it pay staff bonuses that are double their salary if the shareholders were to approve. The bonus cap laws outlined by the EU declare that shareholders have to approve all bonuses. Therefore, since the Government owns 80% of the shares of RBS the Chancellor can veto a decision when it comes to the bonuses. The Chancellor has taken to the courts to debate the cap stating that it will not prevent bankers from getting money.

PM blames the rotten British weather on climate change

David Cameron has associated the bad weather and widespread floods affecting the UK to climate change saying that he has no doubt that the occurrence is causing additional irregular weather events. The Prime Minister told MPs that they are experiencing weather that is more irregular and that whether or not they argue about the linking of the irregular weather events to climate change, he still thinks that climate change is the main cause.

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson has been under accusations by Labour of being blinded by his climate change skepticism to the risks caused by flooding.

As a response to a question posed by Tim Farron MP, the Lib Dem president who said that the extreme conditions affecting their communities were an inevitable and destructive effect caused by partly the climate change.

The Prime Minister therefore said that they should all invest in flood defenses, mitigation and to inform the people as this is what makes sense and not the different views that people have concerning climate change. He also said that he was supportive of the climate change targets made by Britain and that the 2008 Climate Change Act would not have been accepted without conservative support.

Climate experts are usually cautious of linking the specific weather events to climate change while on the other hand academic studies show that all the frequent heat waves and flooding are associated to climate change. The Prime Minister’s comments on his association of the abnormal weather to climate change are one of the clearest views he has concerning this issue.

During last year, the Prime Minister said that there was substantial evidence that showed that climate change was the cause of things such as Typhoon Haiyan, which caused devastation to the Philippines. He added that he will leave the scientists to speak for themselves concerning the association between severe weather events and climate change though he thinks that the evidence concerning the link was growing. He went on to say that as a politician, he thinks that the best thing is to take mitigating and preventive measures.

The rise and rise of Bitcoin

Bitcoin first came about in January 2009 and is the creation of a computer programmer using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. The invention is a peer to peer that is the transactions made do not need a third person intermediary like PayPal or Visa, and that it is an open source as the computer controlling code is open to be used by the public. It also has a digital currency as it is electronic and does not need physical manifestation.

In addition this system does not involve financial institutions in the transaction and it is private. On the other hand, the Bitcoin network is different from other earlier digital currencies as this system is absolutely decentralized as all the transactions are done by the users of the system while the earlier digital currencies had some central controlling entity or person.

With a Bitcoin transaction the seller and buyer interact directly though their identities are not disclosed to the other person. The information about them is usually encrypted. In addition this form of transaction does not need a third party mediator. Though different from a completely anonymous transaction, there is usually a record of all the transactions that have taken place and they are stored on the public ledger. The record includes the entire Bitcoin user’s encrypted identity and the Bitcoin. Therefore this means that Bitcoin transactions are considered to be pseudonymous and not anonymous.

Even though the use of Bitcoin has increased people still prefer to use the traditional electronic payment systems for instance the use of dollars and credit cards as a circulating currency. Congress has interest in the Bitcoin network as they have concerns that it will be utilized in illegal money transfers and that it will affect the ability of the Federal Reserve to meet its objectives of maximum employment, financial stability and stable prices.

They are also interested in it due to their concerns about protecting consumers and investors who may use it. There are various advantages of using Bitcoin and these are lower transaction costs, long term protection of loss of purchasing power caused by inflation and increased privacy. On the other hand there are also disadvantages involved and they include unsure security from fraud and theft, a long term deflationary bias that encourages the advertising of Bitcoins and sizeable instability of the price of Bitcoins.

Cleanliness in the NHS

Cleanliness is a matter of utmost importance when it comes to our health. From in our homes to shared public facilities, hygiene standards are expected to be met for our own wellbeing. In medical clinics, the very institutions that deal with our health, the significance of cleanliness increases manifold. This is especially so considering that clinics also contain much bacteria and viruses that are particularly harmful to our health.

The Superbug

Ever since the turn of the millennium, with the infamous outbreaks of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant diseases, the British public have taken more and more of an interest in clinic cleanliness. Such interest mainly came in the form of criticisms, fuelled further by external frustrations like waiting lists.

Antibiotic-resistant diseases – referred to as “superbugs” – were discovered as contributing factors to hundreds of deaths and the question of whether our health clinics were clean enough to maintain health standards hit the forefront of the news and public debate.

In 2005 a report concluded that a staggering two-thirds of NHS hospitals failed to meet the highest standards of cleanliness. The report also found that the hygiene in mental health clinics were of particularly poor levels as it became clear just how unclean our medical institutions were.

Is This a New Problem?

The question was then whether or not our clinics were always this insanitary; had such large numbers always fell prey to unhygienic medical conditions, simply beyond our notice and consequently concern? It could have been that such superbugs were always prevalent but due to our ignorance of their existence, few would even think to file clinical negligence claims for these diseases’ effects.

Two main theories emerged and both concluded the outbreak of these antibiotic-resistant diseases was a new phenomenon. The first claimed the superbugs to have been the result of an increased use of powerful disinfectants and antibiotics. The logic was that this strengthened the resistance of bacteria. The second theory supposed that the NHS’s use of private cleaning contractors was to blame.

Deep Clean Response

The Department of Health’s response was £50million deep clean of Britain’s hospitals. However, this very response subsequently also came under fire by both the cleaning companies involved and NHS managers. The NHS was accused of incorrectly attempting to combat the dilemma of superbugs by opting to carry out deep cleans, instead of funding day-to-day cleaning properly. It was further alleged that the deep cleans were having little to no impact at all.

Clinical Negligence or Insufficient Funding?

The health institutions of other countries such as Dubai and Spain are of better conditions than what we have here in the NHS. However, this is of course due to the hospitals being financed more. The NHS model, based on the taxpayers’ money was always going to have its limitations. The question is, whether poorer hygiene conditions needs to be one of these limitations. Surely, the inability to adhere to hygiene standards is a matter of negligence, rather than limited funding?

It is most likely to be a combination of both negligence and insufficient funding. Both are inexcusable.

There are still around 30m slaves in the world

Out of the estimated thirty million slaves across the globe it is estimated that about half of them live in India followed by Pakistan, Mauritania, and Haiti. The report was issued by anti-slavery charity Walk Free Foundation earlier in the week and takes a close look at what countries have the largest presence of modern slavery.

The report took a look at 162 countries and ranked them on the slavery chart by looking at how many people in every country were affected by various modern day slavery practices such as human trafficking, forced labor, children in the military, and forced marriages.

The Walk Free Foundation was founded in 2012 by Andrew Forrest the Australian mining magnate. Its index is already in use and endorsed by a handful of political figures and anthropologists including Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and Bill Gates.

The report found that India has the largest amount of slaves living in the country setting the number at 13.9 million followed by China and Pakistan with 2.9 million and 2.1 million slaves within the countries respectively.

According to the report, there are many people that are born into hereditary slavery which is unfortunately a very real part of life in some areas of South Asia and West Africa. It went to explain that other people are kidnapped or captured and then they are kept as slaves for life. Common forms of this include marriage, labour costs, or domestic workers.

It also said that other modern slaves are lured or tricked into situations where they are forced to become salves after being promised that they will receive an education or good job for doing so. Clinton stated that the index is not yet perfect, but it does offer a very good look at what is going on in the world.

Margaret Thatcher biography highly praised

Margaret Thatcher’s authorised biography written by Charles Moore has received nothing but praise from most critics. Some have hailed it as one of the best political biographies to ever be written with Craig Brown from Mail on Sunday stating that the biography was masterly.

He went on to say to say that the biography is packed full of a moving narrative that the author is clearly engaged fully in which is what helps make the reader engaged as well. The central character of the biography is both conventional and bizarre making it a great read for anyone including those that usually are not fans of political biographies.

Brown was not the only fan of the novel, as Ann Wilson from the Evening Standard also said that it is a remarkable biography. According to Wilson, what makes Moore stand out is the fact that Moore clearly loves his subject and has done a large amount of research to make sure that everything in the book comes alive to the readers. Also adding to this magic is the fact that Moore conducted hundreds of interviews before he started writing allowing the pages of the biography to be full of life.

Also positive were reports from Anne Applebaum that explain that Moore was able to mix together intellectual history and biography to create a very thorough description of Thatcher and tell a complete story that has not been told before. While she is widely one of the most loved characters of British history, Moore is being touted as the first one to really show her as a full person and in full dimension.

However some critics believe it is too detailed with too much information and not enough about her politics. According to this smaller group, the biography is not a critical look at someone that still is a controversial figure in British history.

China Defends Regulation of the Internet

A top official in charge of regulating the internet in China indicated on Thursday that the campaign against online rumours in China that critics say is inhibiting free speech has been very successful.

China has the most sophisticated online censorship system in the world that is known as the Great Firewall. This firewall blocks quite a number of social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and many more including those of some sites hosted in Taiwan, rights groups and other foreign media companies.

This crackdown on online rumours is meant to stop any anti-government discussion that activists may have. The crackdown has greatly targeted most of the high profile users of China’s Twitter-like microblog, Sina Webibo for political speech.

The vice minister of State Internet Information Office, Ren Xianliang, made a rare public appearance in which he emphasised on the Government’s commitment to get rid of any web content that was considered offensive or critical. He added that the crackdown on rumors had received many positive responses with it being effective in reducing the frequency of slander. However, the crackdown has not had any impact on the orderly flow of information.

Even though the social media provides a platform for people to voice their criticisms and complaints about the government, the government forces the domestic internet companies to delete any content posted by users that may be considered too politically sensitive.

Ren added that China would ensure that they strengthen the regulation by providing the necessary training to local internet companies and regulators. This will enable the firms to be able to manage the microblogs and the WeChat app. The end result of this is creation of a cyberspace that has Chinese characteristics. Ren reiterated the importance of China blocking websites contain Tibetan independence and support for separation of China from the far West region of Xinjiang.

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