Category Archives: Health

Doctors to withhold treatments in campaign against “too much medicine”

Denis Campbell reports for The Guardian:

various medical pillsDoctors are to stop giving patients scores of tests and treatments, such as x-rays for back pain and antibiotics for flu, in an unprecedented crackdown on the “over-medicalisation” of illness.

In a move that has roused fears that it will lead to the widespread rationing of NHS care, the body representing the UK’s 250,000 doctors is seeking to ensure that patients no longer undergo treatment that is unlikely to work, may harm them and wastes valuable resources.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges wants to bring an end to a culture of “too much medicine” in which “more is better” and doctors feel compelled to always “do something”, often because they feel under pressure from the patient, even though they know that the treatment recommended will probably not work.

Many patients with asthma, prostate and thyroid cancers, and chronic kidney disease already undergo “unnecessary care” because they are “over-diagnosed” and thus “over-treated”, the academy claims.’

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EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

MUST READ: TTIP explained: The secretive US-EU treaty that undermines democracy

Arthur Neslen reports for The Guardian:

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.’

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Protests as debate over GM crops and pesticides heats up

Cancer Charities Crackdown: Millions In Donations Spent On Luxury Lifestyles

A Toxic Affair: How the chemical lobby blocked action on hormone disrupting chemicals

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

An investigation led by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and journalist Stéphane Horel exposes corporate lobby groups mobilising to stop the EU taking action on hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The report sheds light on how corporations and their lobby groups have used numerous tactics from the corporate lobbying playbook: scaremongering, evidence-discrediting, and delaying tactics, as well as using the ongoing TTIP negotiations as a leverage. But industry’s interests were also defended by actors within the Commission.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are present in everyday products – from plastics and cosmetics to pesticides. Because of their ability to interact with the hormonal (endocrine) systems of living organisms, they are suspected of having severe health and environmental impacts.

EU law demands action be taken on endocrine disruptors, with clear deadlines set. According to these rules, if a chemical is identified as an endocrine disruptor, a ban follows. The current approach is that chemicals are assessed following risk assessment procedures and safe levels of exposure are set accordingly. However, for endocrine disruptors it might be impossible to set such ‘safe’ levels.

The Directorate-General (DG) for the Environment of the European Commission was put in charge of establishing a set of scientific criteria for ‘what is an endocrine disruptor’. The chemical industry lobby was up in arms at the potential banning of some EDCs. The main lobby groups involved were the chemical and pesticide lobbies (CEFIC – European Chemical Industry Council & ECPA – European Crop Protection Association), and the corporations at the forefront were BASF and Bayer. But they found allies in various member states, actors within the European Commission, and in the European Parliament.’

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Peabody Energy exploited Ebola crisis for corporate gain, say health experts

Suzanne Goldenberg reports for The Guardian:

A nurse walks with a little girl suffering from Ebola, at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) compound in Monrovia. Peabody suggested more energy access with coal generation could have helped with the distribution of an Ebola vaccine, had there been one.Public health experts involved in the response to the Ebola crisis have condemned what they described as a ludicrous, insulting and opportunistic attempt to exploit the disease for corporate gain by the world’s largest privately-held coal company.

As part of a PR offensive to rebrand coal as a “21st-century fuel” that can help solve global poverty, it has emerged that at the height of Ebola’s impact in Africa, Peabody Energy promoted its product as an answer to Africa’s devastating public health crisis.

Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine – citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.

The World Health Organisation believes nearly 27,000 people contracted Ebola in an outbreak of the virus in West Africa last year, and more than 11,000 died – although the international agency believes that is probably an underestimate.’

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Here’s what Britain voted for and will get with a Tory government

Lee Williams writes for The Independent:

I never thought I’d say a Tory victory feels like Christmas, but it really does. It’s just that we, the electorate, are the turkeys.

No doubt we’ll get what we voted for – five more years of the same, with a little bit more thrown on top. So let’s just remind ourselves what that’s going to look like.

First of all there’s that little matter of £12bn worth of cuts to the welfare system which the Conservatives have kept, wisely, under their hats. This will hit hardest the people who can least afford it – the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged. The death toll due to welfare cuts will continue to mount. But never mind, hey? At least unemployment will continue to fall as more poor people are forced into unfair and inadequate contracts. In turn the number of food banks will continue to rise – already up from 56 to 445 under the Tories – as they desperately try to keep up with spiralling poverty.’

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Grisly effects of Agent Orange haunt Vietnam

The Long Shadow of Chernobyl

John Vidal wrote for the Guardian in July 2014:

Victor Gaydack is now in his 70s and lives in a Kiev suburb. In April 1986 he was a major in the Russian army, on duty when reactor four at Chernobyl exploded. He was one of tens of thousands of fit, young “liquidators” sent in from all over the Soviet Union to try to make safe the stricken reactor. Since the accident, Gaydack has suffered two heart attacks, and developed severe stomach cancer.

Who is to say that Gaydack’s conditions were not caused by the accident or would have happened without the explosion? Or that the many mentally disabled Belarussian children and the thousands of people born in the fallout region who today suffer from thyroid cancers and congenital diseases were not also Chernobyl victims? Estimates of the eventual deaths, cancers, heart diseases, ailments and malformations that will eventually result from the accident vary enormously and are still bitterly contested by scientists.

What is certain is that about 350,000 people like Gaydack were evacuated and resettled from the high-level 2,600 square kilometre contamination zone that stretches from Ukraine into Belarus and Russia. It is certain, too, that the accident cost tens of billions of dollars in today’s money and that the area around the plant will be psychologically cursed for hundreds, if not tens of thousands of years.

What has been less understood however is that Chernobyl changed the course of the world’s history and that its long shadow will hang over nuclear power for centuries. In an essay in National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig’s new book of the aftermath of the accident, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and on whose watch Chernobyl occurred, makes it clear – not for the first time – that the accident greatly accelerated the end of Soviet Union.’

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TTIP: The US-EU Trade Deal Could Make the UK Election Mostly Pointless

René Lavanchy writes for VICE:

Picture the scene. It’s November 2015, and fresh from his unexpected election landslide in May, a smug Prime Minister Ed Miliband (bear with me) is admiring himself in the mirror of his office suite in Parliament, as he prepares for the Queen to deliver her annual speech in the House of Lords unveiling the new government’s policies. Top of the page is Miliband’s plan to bring the NHS back into full public ownership. This radical move has already had weeks of positive press coverage, even from the ‘papers that usually hate Labour, and now it’s time to seal the deal.

The phone rings. It’s an urgent call from the Attorney General, the government’s chief lawyer. “It’s, um, about the NHS thing, Prime Minister. I’m afraid we can’t do it – we haven’t got the legal powers”.

“What… What are you talking about?” stutters Ed. “We’re the government, we can do whatever the fuck we want… Can’t we?”

“Well, not quite, Prime Minister – remember TTIP?”‘

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Have Americans Lost Their Taste For Junk Food?

‘Not long ago, the great processed-food companies like Kraft and Kellogg’s towered over the US food landscape like the high hat that adorned the head of Chef Boyardee, the iconic canned-spaghetti magnate whose empire is now owned by ConAgra.

But now, Big Food has fallen on hard times. Conagra, which owns Hunts, Reddi Whip, Ro-Tell, Swiss Miss, and Orville Redenbacher, along with Chef Boyardee, recently slashed its 2015 profit projections and sacked its CEO. Kraft—purveyor of Oscar Mayer deli meats, Jell-O, Maxwell House coffee, and Velveeta cheese—also recently shook up top management and reported sluggish sales in 2014. Cereal titan Kellogg’s has seen its sales plunge 5.4 percent over the past year, Advertising Age reports.’

The Privatising Cabal at the Heart of our NHS

Tamasin Cave writes for Open Democracy:

The battle is on for the future of the NHS. Apparently.

Ed Miliband came out hard, declaring he will ‘put patients before profits and stop the privatisation’.

David Cameron’s camp countered with a commitment to fully fund the next wave of NHS reforms.

Like pro-wrestling, it’s a good show, but a phony fight.

How can you tell?

Just look at the players sitting round the table.’

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‘Introducing the private sector into the NHS is madness': Interview with NHA Party co-leader Dr. Clive Peedell

Dr. Clive Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action Party, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about their plans to save the NHS in the upcoming general election. He argues that Labour is not doing enough to help the NHS, as they still want private sector provision to be part of the public health service. The NHS is still ‘wide open’ to the private sector, and especially at risk if TTIP goes through.’ (Going Underground)

Work less, play more

Lucy Purdy writes for Positive News:

Time is perhaps the most precious commodity of all. While we can buy more possessions and work new jobs, we can never make more time or recapture what has already been spent. But considering how much work dominates our lives, we question concepts around working and time relatively little.

While paid employment can provide security, for many, jobs are a means of putting “food on the table” within a work culture that feels more enslaving than natural or joyful. But now there is growing recognition that traditional working patterns no longer serve us. More and more people are searching for freedom from bosses, wages, commuting and consuming, seeking instead the lives we truly want to lead.’

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Coca-Cola Pays Nutritionists to Promote Coke as Heart Healthy

SM Gibson reports for Anti Media:

‘Did you realize that last month was American Heart Month? Coca-Cola sure did.

The corporate soft drink giant, who has been trying to combat declining sales in the United States, has begun partnering with fitness experts and nutritionists to promote a mini-can of Coke as a ‘healthy’ snack. In February, the idea of drinking a mini-Coke for heart health was suggested on many nutrition blogs and even in major newspapers and websites.

“We have a network of dietitians we work with,” said Coca-Cola spokesman, Ben Sheidler. “Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.”’

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Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests

Johnny Magdaleno reports for Al Jazeera:

Algeria's agony lives on, decades after French nuclear tests‘[…] Southern Algerians were not properly warned of their danger after France’s misgoverned nuclear bomb-testing campaign of the early 1960s, which vitrified vast tracts of desert with heat and plutonium and left a legacy of uncontained radiation that is still crippling inhabitants. Estimates of the number of Algerians affected by testing range from 27,000 — cited by the French Ministry of Defense — to 60,000, the figure given by Abdul Kadhim al-Aboudi, an Algerian professor of nuclear physics.

Yet there has been little accountability for France’s disregard. A compensation scheme for victims of France’s nuclear tests exists, but it has made payouts to only 17 people. The majority of those were residents of French Polynesia, where France relocated its nuclear testing campaign after leaving Algeria and experimented with more than 190 nuclear bombs from 1966 to 1996.’

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Agricultural insecticides pose a global risk to surface water bodies, researchers find

Science Daily reports:

Streams within approximately 40 percent of the global land surface are at risk from the application of insecticides. These were the results from the first global map to be modelled on insecticide runoff to surface waters, which has just been published in the journal Environmental Pollution by researchers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Koblenz-Landau together with the University of Milan, Aarhus University and Aachen University. According to the publication, particularly streams in the Mediterranean, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia are at risk.’

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Nestlé to Remove Artificial Colours and Flavors from its U.S. Confectionery Products

Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

DARPA Working on Computer Vision

Sputnik reports:

DARPA cortical modem augmented realityThe United States military’s research and development agency is designing a brain interface to inject images directly into the human visual cortex via a “cortical modem” chip implanted in the brain. Think: Terminator vision.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the project at the Biology Is Technology conference in Silicon Valley last week.

DARPA, which h+ Magazine described as a “friendly, but somewhat crazy, rich uncle,” wants to build a device that could display images over a user’s natural vision without the need for glasses or similar technology.’

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Big Pharma Giveaway

Conor J. Lynch writes for Open Democracy:

Pills.The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is causing quite a stir around the world, and for good reason. There are multiple pro-corporate provisions within this massive trade deal that certainly merit being labeled “profit over people.” One of these is the Investor-State dispute settlement, which gives foreign corporations the ability to sue governments if a new law or regulation has effects on their profit rate; a blatantly pro-investor mechanism. Beyond this, intense criticism has also been provoked by some generous giveaways for the pharmaceutical industry.

Provisions within the deal would expand patent rights for big pharmaceutical companies, which would keep important medicines overpriced around the world. One of these provisions, “patent term extensions,” would allow companies to extend their patents beyond the original twenty years, preventing other companies from bringing the medicine onto the generic market, which generally lowers costs by 30-80 percent. Other provisions would allow companies to re-patent drugs after twenty years for developing “new uses” or slightly altering the chemical.’

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John Oliver on Pharmaceutical Companies Marketing to Doctors

Monsanto earnings fall 34% after a year of global protests

The Associated Press reports:

Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter, as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds.

US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia.

The agriculture products company’s revenue fell more than 8% to $2.87bn in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96bn, according to Zacks.’

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Pentagon thinktank claims Putin has Asperger’s – has Putinology gone too far?

Alan Yuhas reports for The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin If Kremlinology made for a viable career track at the Pentagon during the cold war, Putinology is its pale 21st-century successor, complete with geopolitical guessing games, spycraft and the unknowable machinations of the man inside Red Square. The latest contribution to the field comes courtesy of a Pentagon thinktank: a suggestion that Vladimir Putin has an autistic disorder.

Studies from 2008 and 2011, commissioned by the Pentagon and revealed by USA Today through a freedom of information request, suggest Putin has “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions” and may be Asperger syndrome. But the studies, which focused on videos of the Russian president, do not claim to make a diagnosis and are primarily the brainchild of one person, Brenda Connors of the US Naval War College (USNWC) in Newport, Rhode Island.’

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1 in 6 attempting suicide whilst waiting for NHS help: Interview with Geoff Heyes of Mind

‘Geoff Heyes, Mental Health Charity Mind‘s campaigns and policy manager, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the crisis in mental health treatment on the NHS. He says that two thirds of people feel their health gets worse whilst waiting for support after visiting a GP or nurse, with 1 in 6 people attempting suicide in that period and 40% self-harming.’ (Going Underground)

Inside the Vaccine War: Measles Outbreak Rekindles Public Health Debate

‘Suppressed’ EU report could have banned pesticides worth billions

Arthur Neslen reports for The Guardian:

As many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon, the Guardian has learned.

The science paper, seen by the Guardian, recommends ways of identifying and categorising the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that scientists link to a rise in foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility, and adverse health effects ranging from cancer to IQ loss.

Commission sources say that the paper was buried by top EU officials under pressure from big chemical firms which use EDCs in toiletries, plastics and cosmetics, despite an annual health cost that studies peg at hundreds of millions of euros.’

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Sugar content in breakfast cereals has risen 20% with supermarket own brands the worst offenders

Food & Drink Europe reports:

Tesco Special Flakes saw the biggest sugar rise since 2012 - up 35.8% to 16.3 g of sugar per 100 g servingSugar content has risen in a fifth of UK ready-to-eat breakfast cereals since 2012 with the largest spikes coming from retail own brands, finds Action on Sugar research.

The public health lobby group looked at the listen sugar and salt content of 50 RTE UK breakfast cereals – the same products Which? Investigated in 2012 – to make nutritional comparisons. Brands included Kellogg, Nestle, Weetabix and Quaker, as well as private label products by Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s among others.

Findings showed that 10 out of the 50 cereals contained more sugar than in 2012 and 18 contained the same levels of sugar. Of the 10 products containing more sugar, seven were private label.’

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British scientists call for debate on ‘designer babies’

James Gallagher reports for BBC News:

BabiesDr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice.

He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory.

Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue.’

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China’s gender imbalance “most serious and prolonged in the world”

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

‘China has by far the greatest gender imbalance of any nation in the world, with conservative estimates from 2014 putting the ratio at 115.8 males to every 100 females.

The peak body responsible for family planning in the country, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, this week made its strongest statement yet on the crisis.’

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