Daily Archives: January 25, 2013

“Medical tragedy”: Swine flu shot linked to narcolepsy, nightmares, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and cataplexy

Emelie Olsson falls asleep as he watches television in her apartment in Stockholm
Emelie Olsson is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she’s often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.

Stiernstedt says Sweden’s mass vaccination saved between 30 and 60 people from swine flu death. Yet since the pandemic ended, more than 200 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Sweden.

Reuters | Jan 22, 2013

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

STOCKHOLM – Emelie Olsson is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. When she wakes up, she’s often paralyzed, unable to breathe properly or call for help. During the day she can barely stay awake, and often misses school or having fun with friends. She is only 14, but at times she has wondered if her life is worth living.

Emelie is one of around 800 children in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe who developed narcolepsy, an incurable sleep disorder, after being immunized with the Pandemrix H1N1 swine flu vaccine made by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in 2009.

Finland, Norway, Ireland and France have seen spikes in narcolepsy cases, too, and people familiar with the results of a soon-to-be-published study in Britain have told Reuters it will show a similar pattern in children there.

Flu vaccination ban goes national after fever, convulsions in children

Their fate, coping with an illness that all but destroys normal life, is developing into what the health official who coordinated Sweden’s vaccination campaign calls a “medical tragedy” that will demand rising scientific and medical attention.

Europe’s drugs regulator has ruled Pandemrix should no longer be used in people aged under 20. The chief medical officer at GSK’s vaccines division, Norman Begg, says his firm views the issue extremely seriously and is “absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this”, but adds there is not yet enough data or evidence to suggest a causal link.

Others – including Emmanuel Mignot, one of the world’s leading experts on narcolepsy, who is being funded by GSK to investigate further – agree more research is needed but say the evidence is already clearly pointing in one direction.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Pandemrix increased the occurrence of narcolepsy onset in children in some countries – and probably in most countries,” says Mignot, a specialist in the sleep disorder at Stanford University in the United States.

30 MILLION RECEIVED PANDEMRIX

In total, the GSK shot was given to more than 30 million people in 47 countries during the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. Because it contains an adjuvant, or booster, it was not used in the United States because drug regulators there are wary of adjuvanted vaccines.

GSK says 795 people across Europe have reported developing narcolepsy since the vaccine’s use began in 2009.

Questions about how the narcolepsy cases are linked to Pandemrix, what the triggers and biological mechanisms might have been, and whether there might be a genetic susceptibility are currently the subject of deep scientific investigation.

But experts on all sides are wary. Rare adverse reactions can swiftly develop into “vaccine scares” that spiral out of proportion and cast what one of Europe’s top flu experts calls a “long shadow” over public confidence in vaccines that control potential killers like measles and polio.

“No-one wants to be the next Wakefield,” said Mignot, referring to the now discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield who sparked a decades-long backlash against the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot with false claims of links to autism.

With the narcolepsy studies, there is no suggestion that the findings are the work of one rogue doctor.

Independent teams of scientists have published peer-reviewed studies from Sweden, Finland and Ireland showing the risk of developing narcolepsy after the 2009-2010 immunization campaign was between seven and 13 times higher for children who had Pandemrix than for their unvaccinated peers.

“We really do want to get to the bottom of this. It’s not in anyone’s interests if there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed,” said GSK’s Begg.

LIFE CHANGED

Emelie’s parents, Charles and Marie Olsson, say she was a top student who loved playing the piano, taking tennis lessons, creating art and having fun with friends. But her life started to change in early 2010, a few months after she had Pandemrix. In the spring of 2010, they noticed she was often tired, needing to sleep when she came home from school.

But it wasn’t until May, when she began collapsing at school, that it became clear something serious was happening.

As well as the life-limiting bouts of daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy brings nightmares, hallucinations, sleep paralysis and episodes of cataplexy – when strong emotions trigger a sudden and dramatic loss of muscle strength.

In Emelie’s case, having fun is the emotional trigger. “I can’t laugh or joke about with my friends any more, because when I do I get cataplexies and collapse,” she said in an interview at her home in the Swedish capital.

Narcolepsy is estimated to affect between 200 and 500 people per million and is a lifelong condition. It has no known cure and scientists don’t really know what causes it. But they do know patients have a deficit of a brain neurotransmitter called orexin, also known as hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness.

Research has found that some people are born with a variant in a gene known as HLA that means they have low hypocretin, making them more susceptible to narcolepsy. Around 25 percent of Europeans are thought to have this genetic vulnerability.

When results of Emelie’s hypocretin test came back in November last year, it showed she had 15 percent of the normal amount, typical of heavy narcolepsy with cataplexy.

The seriousness of her strange new illness has forced her to contemplate life far more than many other young teens: “In the beginning I didn’t really want to live any more, but now I have learned to handle things better,” she said.

TRIGGERS?

Scientists investigating these cases are looking in detail at Pandemrix’s adjuvant, called AS03, for clues.

Some suggest AS03, or maybe its boosting effect, or even the H1N1 flu itself, may have triggered the onset of narcolepsy in those who have the susceptible HLA gene variant.

Angus Nicoll, a flu expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), says genes may well play a part, but don’t tell the whole story.

“Yes, there’s a genetic predisposition to this condition, but that alone cannot explain these cases,” he said. “There was also something to do with receiving this specific vaccination. Whether it was the vaccine plus the genetic disposition alone or a third factor as well – like another infection – we simply do not know yet.”

GSK is funding a study in Canada, where its adjuvanted vaccine Arepanrix, similar to Pandemrix, was used during the 2009-2010 pandemic. The study won’t be completed until 2014, and some experts fear it may not shed much light since the vaccines were similar but not precisely the same.

It all leaves this investigation with far more questions than answers, and a lot more research ahead.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

In his glass-topped office building overlooking the Maria Magdalena church in Stockholm, Goran Stiernstedt, a doctor turned public health official, has spent many difficult hours going over what happened in his country during the swine flu pandemic, wondering if things should have been different.

“The big question is was it worth it? And retrospectively I have to say it was not,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Being a wealthy country, Sweden was at the front of the queue for pandemic vaccines. It got Pandemrix from GSK almost as soon as it was available, and a nationwide campaign got uptake of the vaccine to 59 percent, meaning around 5 million people got the shot.

Stiernstedt, director for health and social care at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, helped coordinate the vaccination campaign across Sweden’s 21 regions.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the 2009-2010 pandemic killed 18,500 people, although a study last year said that total might be up to 15 times higher.

While estimates vary, Stiernstedt says Sweden’s mass vaccination saved between 30 and 60 people from swine flu death. Yet since the pandemic ended, more than 200 cases of narcolepsy have been reported in Sweden.

With hindsight, this risk-benefit balance is unacceptable. “This is a medical tragedy,” he said. “Hundreds of young people have had their lives almost destroyed.”

Yet the problem with risk-benefit analyses is that they often look radically different when the world is facing a pandemic with the potential to wipe out millions than they do when it has emerged relatively unscathed from one, like H1N1, which turned out to be much milder than first feared.

David Salisbury, the British government’s director of immunization, says “therein lies the risk, and the difficulty, of working in public health” when a viral emergency hits.

“In the event of a severe pandemic, the risk of death is far higher than the risk of narcolepsy,” he told Reuters. “If we spent longer developing and testing the vaccine on very large numbers of people and waited to see whether any of them developed narcolepsy, much of the population might be dead.”

Pandemrix was authorized by European drug regulators using a so-called “mock-up procedure” that allows a vaccine to be authorized ahead of a possible pandemic using another flu strain. In Pandemrix’s case, the substitute was H5N1 bird flu.

When the WHO declared a pandemic, GSK replaced the mock-up’s strain with the pandemic-causing H1N1 strain to form Pandemrix.

GSK says the final H1N1 version was tested in trials involving around 3,600 patients, including children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, before it was rolled out.

The ECDC’s Nicoll says early warning systems that give a more accurate analysis of a flu strain’s threat are the best way to minimize risks of this kind of tragedy happening in future.

Salisbury agrees, and says progress towards a universal flu vaccine – one that wouldn’t need last-minute changes made when a new strain emerged – would cuts risks further.

“Ideally, we would have a better vaccine that would work against all strains of influenza and we wouldn’t need to worry about this ever again,” he said. “But that’s a long way off.”

With scientists facing years of investigation and research, Emelie just wants to make the best of her life.

She reluctantly accepts that to do so, she needs a cocktail of drugs to try to control the narcolepsy symptoms. The stimulant Ritalin and the sleeping pill Sobril are prescribed for Emelie’s daytime sleepiness and night terrors. Then there’s Prozac to try to stabilize her and limit her cataplexies.

“That’s one of the things that makes me feel most uncomfortable,” she explains. “Before I got this condition I didn’t take any pills, and now I have to take lots – maybe for the rest of my life. It’s not good to take so many medicines, especially when you know they have side effects.”

Feinstein calls for banning more than 150 types of firearms during dramatic press conference

dailycaller.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Alex Pappas

Sen-Feinstein-America-Has-To-Bite-The-Bullet-On-Gun-ControlWASHINGTON — California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein staged a dramatic press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill with 10 weapons at her side and unveiled legislation instituting a government ban on more than 150 types of firearms, including rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Flanked by other anti-gun liberal lawmakers, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Feinstein announced the introduction of the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.”

The legislation being pushed by Feinstein — who has long history of calling for gun bans — would prohibit the sale, transfer, importation and manufacture of certain firearms.

Click to expand full list of guns Feinstein wants banned:

During the press event at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Democrats described these firearms as “dangerous military-style assault weapons.” The bill would also ban high-capacity ammunition feeding devices that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Feinstein said the country’s “weak” gun laws allow massacres like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occur.

“Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that — but it’s a battle worth having,” Feinstein said in literature handed to reporters at the Thursday event.

Others who joined the Democrats for the press conference included Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Washington National Cathedral dean Gary R. Hall. (RELATED: Episcopal dean of National Cathedral teams up with Democrats on guns)

This sort of stunt from Feinstein — displaying weapons for dramatic effect while discussing new gun laws — is hardly new. Joe Morrissey, a Democratic delegate in Virginia, caught some colleagues by surprise last week by bringing an AK-47 onto the floor of the House of Delegates while calling for gun control.

And David Gregory, the moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” found himself in hot water for displaying a high-capacity gun magazine during an interview with a leader of the National Rifle Association in December. NBC studios are in Washington D.C., where having possession of such magazines is illegal. While DC police investigated the incident, no charges were filed.

“Cost-effective, hygienic” robots to replace humans at fast-food joints

Honda_s_Asimo_r
Its creators believe their patty-flipping Alpha robot could save the fast-food industry in the United States about US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) a year. Designed to entirely replace two to three full-time kitchen staff, it can grill a beef patty, layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, put it in a bun, and wrap it up to go – no less than 360 times an hour. Momentum believes kitchen robots are not only more cost-effective than human staff, they are also more hygienic.

California’s Silicon Valley is in the throes of giving birth to its next world-changing technology – robotics.

thenational.ae | Sep 30, 2012

by Tony Glover

Start-up companies are scrambling to develop humanoid-stye robots to cater for a growing demand from both businesses and consumers.

Silicon Valley Robotics, which represents 40 organisations, reports a boom in robotics start-ups in San Francisco in addition to more established companies elsewhere in the area concentrating on industrial robotics.

The start-up robot firm Momentum Machines is one. Funded by San Francisco’s Lemnos Labs, it has developed a robot designed to take the place of humans in burger restaurants. Its creators believe their patty-flipping Alpha robot could save the fast-food industry in the United States about US$9 billion (Dh33.05bn) a year. Designed to entirely replace two to three full-time kitchen staff, it can grill a beef patty, layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, put it in a bun, and wrap it up to go – no less than 360 times an hour. Momentum believes kitchen robots are not only more cost-effective than human staff, they are also more hygienic.

Silicon Valley technology industry watchers believe businesses will be early adopters of 21st-Century robotics technology.

“Like PCs, we’ll likely see the first wave in business because it can handle the costs more readily and then move to the high end of the consumer market,” says the Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at the Enderle Group, based in Silicon Valley.

He adds the robotics industry is at about the same early stage in its evolution as the personal computing industry was in the 1980s but believes it will mature more quickly.

“Up until now we’ve had large industrial robots at one end and limited toys at the other. But suddenly we are starting to see designs that start to explore the true potential of increasingly autonomous devices,” says Mr Enderle.

“Technology is cycling far more quickly now than it did in the 1980s, so I expect that we’ll see a much faster ramp once the first truly viable large-volume products hit the market.”

Many of the big technology investors are, however, awaiting the arrival of another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs before fully committing themselves.

“Apple was the firm that sparked personal computing, where there had been a lot of activity but no successful large-scale production prior to them. We are in the same space, just waiting for that break-out firm to light the fire that will make this market hot,” says Mr Enderle.

But he adds there is an increasing number of firms involved in the race to dominate robotics.

“We are close; we are just waiting for a good spark and this market should move very quickly,” he says

Coincidentally, Apple itself is about to become increasingly reliant on robotics. Foxconn, based in Taiwan, which manufactures Apple iPhones and iPads, is reported to be replacing many of its 1.2 million human staff with robots. Foxconn is said to be planning to spend billions on deploying a worldwide workforce of one million robots.

While this may come as a relief to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, who is recoiling after a barrage of bad publicity surrounding allegedly poor working conditions at Foxconn, it poses another potential publicity problem. In times of high unemployment, an attempt to replace human workers is problematic.

Just as industrialisation once resulted in mass unemployment among skilled traditional tradesmen in western economies, the coming widespread use of robots in working environments such as factories and restaurants is likely to spark political controversy. Many blue-collar and low-paid so-called “McJobs” in places such as fast-food restaurants are the only work option for millions of people in the US and in other struggling economies.

Silicon Valley companies are not the only contenders to become the Apple of robotics. Although Silicon Valley is trailblazing the robotics industry in the US, there are also other robotics industries springing up around the world. Competition is rapidly emerging from Asia and Europe.

In Japan, Honda’s Asimo robot, standing 130cm in height, not only serves tea but has also been designed to gather and process enough information to generate autonomous behaviour without being controlled by an operator.

Similarly in France, Aldebaran Robotics’ 60cm high Nao is already being used in some classrooms internationally.

Once synergies start to appear between the world’s nascent robotics industries, the speed of innovation is likely to accelerate.

Just as with personal computing, Silicon Valley is set play a crucial role in the development of this industry. In addition to groundbreaking work being done in robotics design, the area has a history of being able to turn cutting-edge but often abstract technology into shiny and desirable mass-produced products. Within the next decade, consumers buying their next PC may opt for one with arms and legs.

“I think this will be the decade of robotics,” predicts Mr Enderle.

NYPD to begin testing a new high-tech device that scans through people’s clothing on the street

gun scanner
The NYPD’s newest asset in its battle against illegal handguns: a scanner that tests for radiation and can reveal a concealed handgun.

Get ready for scan-and-frisk.

The device, which tests for terahertz radiation, is small enough to be placed in a police vehicle or stationed at a street corner where gunplay is common

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Jan 23, 2013

By Rocco Parascandola

The NYPD will soon deploy new technology allowing police to detect guns carried by criminals without using the typical pat-down procedure, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

The department just received a machine that reads terahertz — the natural energy emitted by people and inanimate objects — and allows police to view concealed weapons from a distance.

“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Kelly said.

A video image aired at a Police Foundation breakfast Wednesday showed an officer, clad in a New York Jets jersey and jeans, with the shape of a hidden gun clearly visible under his clothing when viewed through the device.

The department will begin testing the high-tech device for use on the street. The device is small enough to be placed in a police vehicle or stationed at a street corner where gunplay has occurred in the past.

OUR NEW GUN LAW: RUSHED AND WRONG

Kelly, who first discussed the possibility of using this technology last year, said the NYPD has been working with the London Metropolitan Police and a contractor “to develop a tool that meets our requirements.”

“We took delivery of it last week,” Kelly said at the gathering at the Waldorf Astoria. “One of our requirements was that the technology must be portable …

“We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology. We’re also talking to our legal staff about this. But we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past year.”

GOV. CUOMO SIGNS GUN CONTROL BILL 

The New York Civil Liberties Union last year raised concerns about “virtual pat downs,” and some security experts have said false positives could lead to unjustified stops.

rparascandola@nydailynews.com

NRA CHIEF WAYNE LAPIERRE RESPONDS TO OBAMA’S INAUGURATION ADDRESS

GUNTECH24N_2_WEB

 In this test, the device shows a gun being concealed under the garment of an NYPD officer.

Delaware Lifts Ban On Mercury in Vaccines

inquisitr.com | Jan 24, 2013

vaccine babyThe nation is in the midst of an epic flu season, and now Delaware is temporarily lifting its ban on a mercury-containing ingredient in vaccinations to keep up with vaccine shortages.

Pediatrician and Director of Public Health Karyl Rattay temporarily changed the state’s flu shot rules this week, lifting the ban on vaccines containing thirmerosal. Thirmerosal is a preservative that contains trace amounts of mercury.

State law generally forbids the use of vaccines containing mercury on pregnant women and children under the age of 8. The law has been in place for years. However, Rattay suggests that thirmerosal has a proven safety record.

“Nonetheless, folks have had concern in the past that there might have been harm,” she said.

The mercury-containing preservative was taken out of vaccines not for substantiated medical reasons, she notes, but because of the heightened perceived connection between autism and vaccines. In a statement, Rattay said that pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to the flu, and stated, “Public Health wants to ensure that vaccine is available for those who need it in Delaware,” she said.

Rattay adds that doctors have been concerned at the decreasing availability of the mercury-free vaccine.

“They are not expressing concern about the risk from thimerosal. They are much more concerned about the risk of not being able to protect people from the risk of influenza,” Rattay said.

Nearly 30 children have died from this season’s flu, and two people in Delaware have died from flu-related illness just this month. At this time last year, there were no flu-related deaths reported in the state.

“We branded thimerosal with a scarlet letter,” said Dr. Paul Offit, who heads the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “And now there are people who are scared of thimerosal even though there is now abundant data showing that the level contained in vaccines was never harmful.”

“The notion that there still are states that have a preference against thimerosal-containing vaccines on their books is outdated, archaic and certainly not supported by the science,” Offit said.

Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood Propped Up by US Since 2007 Under Bush

landdestroyer.blogspot.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Tony Cartalucci

MuslimBrotherhood-1In 2007, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled, “To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers.” And even then, it was noted that the Brotherhood held close links with groups the US recognizes and lists as terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Al Qaeda.

The report gives a disturbing foreshadowing of US support that would eventually see the Muslim Brotherhood rise as both a political and terroristic power across the Arab World, after decades of hard-fought attempts to crush the sectarian extremist organization everywhere from Tunisia to Syria, from Egypt to Libya, to Jordan, and beyond. In fact, the 2007 Wall Street Journal article specifically noted that the US partnership could “destabilize governments in Jordan and Egypt, two US allies where the Brotherhood is a growing opposition force.”

Egypt is now run by a sectarian-extremist Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship, after the US incited unrest there in 2011, while Jordan is seeing increasing unrest led by the Jordanian arm of the Brotherhood.

What is also disturbing about the 2007 report, is that it shows how allegedly “Bush-era” policies transcended the 2000-2008 administration and continued in earnest under President Obama.

The report, written by Jay Solomon, echoes similar foreshadowing of the coming violent sectarian bloodbath now engulfing Syria, found in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker piece titled, “The Redireciton: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

Full story

. . .

Related

‘CIA favors Brotherhood as Egypt dictatorship benefits US’

EU carbon price crashes to record low

Heavy industry pollution : Aerial view of the Tata steelworks at Scunthorpe
Tata steelworks at Scunthorpe. The ETS aims to reduce emissions from Europe’s entire energy and industrial sectors. Photograph: A.P.S./Alamy

Price of a permit to emit a tonne of carbon fell to €2.81 after an EU vote against a proposal to support the struggling market

guardian.co.uk | Jan 24, 2013

by Damian Carrington

The European Union‘s flagship climate policy, its emissions trading scheme (ETS), saw the price of carbon crash to a record low on Thursday after a vote in Brussels against a proposal to support the struggling market.

The price of a permit to emit a tonne of carbon dioxide fell 40% at one point to €2.81 today, far below its record high of €32, before recovering to more than €4 later in the day.

The ETS, aimed at reducing emissions from Europe‘s entire energy and industrial sectors, has been plagued by an oversupply of permits due in part to over-generous initial allocations following lobbying by industry.

“This should be the final wake-up call both to governments and to the European parliament,” said Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner. “To those in industry who both say that they want a strong EU ETS while they at the same time lobby against the policies that can secure exactly that I say: it is time to think twice.”

David Hone, climate change adviser for oil company Shell, said policy makers needed to focus on delivering a clear carbon price, rather than setting targets for renewable energy. “Many in the business community have been clear on this issue for over a decade – it’s all about putting a price on carbon.”

“The dinosaurs of European industry are holding progress back at the expense of all those businesses that would benefit,” said Lady Worthington, Labour peer and founder of carbon-trading thinktank Sandbag. “The wrong people – those who have not invested in energy efficiency and emissions reductions – get rewarded if the carbon price is low.” Sandbag calculates that there will be an excess of 2.2bn permits by 2020.

Thursday’s freefall in the ETS was prompted by the energy and industry committee of the European parliament opposing a proposal to delay the release of 900m future permits, so-called “backloading”. This would limit supply in the capped market and therefore support the carbon price. Analysts believe such a move could raise carbon prices to €15, but say prices above €20 are needed to give utilities the incentive to make serious switches to lower carbon energy generation.

“Until there is a clear will to give legislative support to this market we cannot expect participants to keep believing in it,” said one emissions trader.

The European commission warned this week that without action the carbon price could drop dramatically, leaving the ETS irrelevant and EU energy and environment policy unravelling. Coal-intensive Poland is opposed to reform, while the UK wants a more ambitious plan, with 1.2bn permits delayed. Germany, the EU’s most influential member on industrial policy, is undecided.

The ETS was launched in 2005 and prices crashed during the first trading period to near zero in 2007, because of the over-allocation of permits. But traders today dismiss that collapse, blaming it on early errors in the experimental phase of the market. The carbon price hit a peak of €32 in April 2006 and traded above €30 in 2008. Thursday’s price is the lowest since the second trading period began.

Thursday’s vote is non-binding and more decisive votes will take place in the environment committee in February and a European parliament plenary session in March. “There are good signs they will vote the right way,” said Lady Worthington, who supports the postponement of permits but argues that many must be permanently removed. “I think there is a reasonably good chance of getting the backloading measure passed by March.”

Hedegaard said: “Few would disagree that the ETS – a market-based cap and trade system – is the most cost-efficient tool in EU climate politics. If in doubt look at all the big economies now following the EU example by establishing similar ETS systems: Australia, Korea, California and China.”

Whatever the outcome in Brussels, analysts say the ETS will limp along, even if the carbon price is so low as to provide no incentive at all for emissions reductions, because dismantling the scheme would be as complicated as reforming it.

Navy to Test-Fire DARPA’s Hellads Tactical Airborne Laser Weapon

aviationweek.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Graham Warwick

DARPA plans to buy a second Hellads high-energy laser system from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), to provide to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the demonstration of a laser weapon system against targets relevant to surface ships.

Hellads is a liquid-cooled, solid-state laser that has been under development for DARPA for several years. GA-ASI is building a 150kW Hellads laser to be integrated with an existing US Air Force beam control system for a ground demonstration in 2014.

Hellads is designed to meet a weight goal of less that 5kg/kW, enabling a high-energy laser weapon to be integrated onto tactical aircraft. Concepts: DARPA

DARPA’s notice of intent to award a sole-source contract to GA-ASI says that, because the existing Hellads laser is committed to the Air Force demo and cannot be made available to the Navy, it wants to acquire a second, identical system for the ONR demo, also planned for 2014.

After focusing its directed-energy research for years on the free electron laser, ONR has launched a program to mature available solid-state electric laser technology with a goal of getting laser weapons on ships more quickly.

Hellads is designed to meet a weight goal of less that 5kg/kW, enabling a high-energy laser weapon to be integrated onto tactical aircraft. DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory are planning a follow-on flight demonstration under the Electric Lasers on Large Aircraft (ELLA) program.

The design is based on combining a series of unit cell modules together to produce a single 150kW laser. DARPA says GA-ASI demonstrated the required power output and optical performance with a single module, then showed that two unit cells could be integrated to produce more than 34kW.

Fabrication of the 150kW laser was planned to be completed the end of 2012. Plans for 2013 include its integration with the power, thermal management, beam control, and command-and-control subsystems to produce a laser weapon ready for low-power testing. Shoot-down tests against targets such as surface-to-air missiles and rockets will follow in 2014.

DARPA, meanwhile, plans to continue funding Lockheed Martin for Phase 3 of the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) program, intended to allow a self-defense laser on a high-speed fighter to shoot aft and sidewards through the turbulent flowfield behind the laser turret.


“High-energy laser systems are currently limited to a forward field of regard due to turbulent density fluctuations in the aft sector of the turret that severely degrade the laser beam fluence on target,” says DARPA. Lockheed’s solution combines active flow control to reduce airflow separation and adaptive optics to reduce the remaining beam distortions.

Lockheed has conducted full-scale windtunnel tests at NASA Ames with hardware-in-the-loop adaptive optics and flow control. Under the 30-month Phase 3, the company will build a subscale turret with flow control for flight testing on a government-furnished aircraft. This will gather data for use in design of the adaptive optics system, says DARPA.

Wealthy Japanese minister: Let the elderly and the sick ‘Hurry up and die’

Taro Aso
Taro Aso referred to elderly patients who are no longer able to feed themselves as ‘tube people’. Aso, one of Japan’s wealthiest politicians, has questioned the state’s duty towards its large elderly population. Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Let elderly people ‘hurry up and die’, says Japanese minister

Taro Aso says he would refuse end-of-life care and would ‘feel bad’ knowing treatment was paid for by government

guardian.co.uk | Jan 22, 2013 

by Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Japan‘s new government is barely a month old, and already one of its most senior members has insulted tens of millions of voters by suggesting that the elderly are an unnecessary drain on the country’s finances.

Taro Aso, the finance minister, said on Monday that the elderly should be allowed to “hurry up and die” to relieve pressure on the state to pay for their medical care.

“Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” he said during a meeting of the national council on social security reforms. “The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”

Aso’s comments are likely to cause offence in Japan, where almost a quarter of the 128 million population is aged over 60. The proportion is forecast to rise to 40% over the next 50 years.

The remarks are also an unwelcome distraction for the new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose first period as Japan’s leader ended with his resignation after just a year, in 2007, partly due to a string of gaffes by members of his cabinet.

Rising welfare costs, particularly for the elderly, were behind a decision last year to double consumption [sales] tax to 10% over the next three years, a move Aso’s Liberal Democratic party supported.

The 72-year-old, who doubles as deputy prime minister, said he would refuse end-of-life care. “I don’t need that kind of care,” he said in comments quoted by local media, adding that he had written a note instructing his family to deny him life-prolonging medical treatment.

To compound the insult, he referred to elderly patients who are no longer able to feed themselves as “tube people”. The health and welfare ministry, he added, was “well aware that it costs several tens of millions of yen” a month to treat a single patient in the final stages of life.

Cost aside, caring for the elderly is a major challenge for Japan’s stretched social services. According to a report this week, the number of households receiving welfare, which include family members aged 65 or over, stood at more than 678,000, or about 40% of the total. The country is also tackling a rise in the number of people who die alone, most of whom are elderly. In 2010, 4.6 million elderly people lived alone, and the number who died at home soared 61% between 2003 and 2010, from 1,364 to 2,194, according to the bureau of social welfare and public health in Tokyo.

The government is planning to reduce welfare expenditure in its next budget, due to go into force this April, with details of the cuts expected within days.

Aso, who has a propensity for verbal blunders, later attempted to clarify his comments. He acknowledged his language had been “inappropriate” in a public forum and insisted he was talking only about his personal preference.

“I said what I personally believe, not what the end-of-life medical care system should be,” he told reporters. “It is important that you be able spend the final days of your life peacefully.”

It is not the first time Aso, one of Japan’s wealthiest politicians, has questioned the state’s duty towards its large elderly population. In 2008, while serving as prime minister, he described “doddering” pensioners as tax burdens who should take better care of their health.

“I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor,” he said at a meeting of economists. “Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I’m paying more in taxes.”

He had already angered the country’s doctors by telling them they lacked common sense, made a joke about Alzheimer’s patients, and pronounced “penniless young men” unfit for marriage.

In 2001, he said he wanted Japan to become the kind of successful country in which “the richest Jews would want to live”.

He once likened an opposition party to the Nazis, praised Japan’s colonial rule in Taiwan and, as foreign minister, told US diplomats they would never be trusted in Middle East peace negotiations because they have “blue eyes and blond hair”.

While figures released on Monday showed a record 2.14 million Japanese were receiving welfare in October 2012, Aso has led a life of privilege few of his compatriots could hope to match.

He is the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, an influential postwar prime minister, and is married to the daughter of another former premier.

While campaigning for the premiership in 2008, Aso refused to acknowledge the use of hundreds of allied prisoners of war by his family’s coal mining business during the second world war. He served as president of the firm’s successor, Aso Cement, from 1973-79.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery

aleister-crowley_thumb
Aleister Crowley: Hubbard wrote Dianetics just a few years after his Pasadena escapades, and founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-1950s. His son Nibs has said that the OTO’s “black magic” was the “inner core” of Scientology, and Hubbard is also on record calling Crowley a “friend.”

io9.com | Jan 24, 2013

by Annalee Newitz

One of the weirdest historical confluences you can imagine took place in Pasadena, California, in the 1940s. There, a darkly handsome young man and chemistry autodidact named Jack Parsons had just made a bundle of money by inventing solid rocket fuel and selling it to the military. He was part of a group of explosion-obsessed researchers at CalTech who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where recently the Martian Rovers were made. He was also a goddess-obsessed acolyte and generous financial supporter of the infamous Pagan leader, Aleister Crowley.

Parsons used his defense contract money to convert an old mansion into a group house whose residents included other Pagans, artists, scientists, and writers. One of his boarders was a charismatic science fiction author named L. Ron Hubbard, who became Parsons’ greatest frenemy, participating in rituals of sex magic with the rocket scientist, sleeping with his girlfriend, and finally absconding with all his money. Here is the true story of how Scientology and JPL were both conceived by men under the sorcerer Crowley’s mystical influence.

Like many high-tech entrepreneurs today, Parsons never attended college. He spent most of his teenage years doing backyard experiments with rocket fuel, aided by a childhood friend who later worked with him at CalTech. Parsons’ brilliance with chemical compounds — and fearlessness in the face of explosions — helped him make friends at CalTech, where he became a researcher in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, he’d helped found JPL, invented solid rocket fuel, and was well on his way to becoming an international science superstar. He was also deep into a new project: reaching the highest level in Aleister Crowley’s mystical organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery In a fascinating account of Parson’s life called Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, John Carter recounts how Parsons claimed to have summoned Satan when he was 13 years old, in the late 1920s. This experience, which the scientist described as terrifying, was the beginning of a lifelong interest in the occult — an interest that became a fiery passion when he discovered the work of Crowley (pictured). Though both Parsons and Crowley mention Satan in their work, neither was a “Satan worshipper.” They were Pagans with a deeply libertarian streak (Crowley’s mystical slogan was “do what thou wilt”), who took hallucinogenic drugs and believed in free love long before the hippies discovered did. Crowley had followers all over the world, like Parsons, who corresponded with him, sent him money, and asked for spiritual guidance. Parsons was a Crowley favorite, however, and the young man rocketed through the ranks of the OTO.

By day, Parsons helped to create one of the greatest scientific institutions of our time, JPL, which has created and maintained dozens of space vessels over the past half-century. But by night, he and his housemates drove his neighbors nuts (several filed police reports) by lighting great bonfires in his backyard, and dancing in a state of near-nakedness. They were worshiping Crowley’s favorite entities. Parsons, for his part, preferred goddesses.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery Sex Magick

Parsons and his young girlfriend Betty — whom he’d been dating since she was 15 — were both smitten immediately by L. Ron Hubbard when the writer moved in with them. A war veteran who told crazy stories and eagerly lapped up Crowley’s spiritualism, Hubbard became Parson’s great ally in the scientist’s quest to incarnate the goddess Babalon on Earth. Babalon would be a bewitching redhead, who would eventually give birth to the Antichrist. In his book about Parsons, Carson describes Hubbard and Parsons’s joint rituals in great detail. Since Babalon was a sensual entity, raising her required Parsons to masturbate repeatedly, releasing his seed on a parchment while Hubbard chanted rituals and took notes. Often, Parson’s own notes on these rituals make mention of “invoking” with a “wand.”

It was magick, yes, but it was also the future founder of Scientology jerking off with the founder of JPL, in order to indirectly spawn the Antichrist. I think we can take this incredibly deranged situation as further evidence that Los Angeles has always been a weird place.

Hubbard wasn’t content to watch Parsons invoking the wand, so he began sleeping with Betty. Parsons and Betty had always had an open relationship, so this wasn’t particularly shocking to anyone, least of all Parsons. But Betty really fell for Hubbard. The two were inseparable. Luckily, the incarnation of Babalon arrived just in time to soothe any feelings of jealousy Parsons might have had. A red-headed artist named Marjorie Cameron came to visit her friend at Parsons’s house, and both Hubbard and Parsons became convinced she was Babalon. Though Cameron wasn’t interested particularly in Paganism, she was an adventurous woman who liked the idea of free love. Plus, Parsons was hot. So she happily moved in and started participating in Hubbard and Parson’s sex rituals.

Hubbard would chant and invoke the spirits while Parsons and Cameron had sex. The men believed they were summoning spirits and lightning with their incredible potency and sorcery, though Crowley was so disgusted by their antics that he called them “goats” in a letter. Eventually Cameron did become pregnant, but instead of spawning Satan, she decided to have an abortion.

Is There Black Magick in Scientology?

As Cameron’s love affair with Parsons petered out, Hubbard’s relationship with Betty deepened. So did Hubbard’s fascination with the OTO. For those familiar with the basic outlines of Scientology, it will sound quite similar to the OTO. To achieve enlightenment, one ascended through many numerical “steps” on the way, gaining access to more secrets and rituals from Crowley as the apprenticeship went on. Giving money to Crowley was a good way to get more of his secrets, most of which involved achieving mystical power over one’s body and the physical world.

Scientology’s adherents likewise ascend through many steps on the path to cross the Void and become “clear,” which Hubbard promised would make them invulnerable to disease and capable of controlling other people’s actions. To achieve “clear,” however, Scientologists must give money and enact a number of rituals.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery In his new book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright explains that the influence of Crowley and the OTO has long been a controversy within Scientology. Hubbard wrote Dianetics just a few years after his Pasadena escapades, and founded the Church of Scientology in the mid-1950s. His son Nibs has said that the OTO’s “black magic” was the “inner core” of Scientology, and Hubbard is also on record calling Crowley a “friend.” But Scientologists say there is no relationship between the two spiritual systems.

Still, it’s hard to deny that Crowley had a strong influence over Hubbard, and many of the trappings of the OTO’s system appear in altered form in Scientology. You might say that Scientology is the science fiction version of the supernatural horror that was the OTO. So the religions may be different genres, but they have a lot in common.

The strangely true connection between Scientology, the Jet Propulsion Lab, and Occult Sorcery The Final Explosion

Once the war was over, Parsons began struggling with money. He tried to launch some businesses, but they sank. His old friends at CalTech had grown distant, but his new companion Hubbard offered a ray of hope. Hubbard suggested that he and Parsons go into business together selling boats. He’d worked on ships during the war, and was a fine captain; Hubbard and Betty would go to Florida, buy some ships, and sail them back to Los Angeles so the two men could sell them. So Parsons gave Hubbard his last $20 thousand, and saw his best friend and girlfriend off.

It seems that Hubbard never intended to make good on his promise, because as soon as he reached Florida he became unreachable. Weeks dragged by, and Parsons began to get angry. So he flew out to Florida, where Hubbard and Betty had bought a boat and were literally pushing off from port when Parsons arrived. The spurned and broke scientist sued Hubbard, and also wrote that he was working deadly spells on his former friend as well. Eventually, a storm grounded Hubbard and Betty and he was able to reach them. Parsons ended up dropping the charges — likely because Betty threatened to expose her unconventional relationship with him — and the couple never gave Parsons his money back.

In 1952, just two years after Hubbard shot to fame with the publication of Dianetics, Parsons died while handling explosives on his front porch. He was survived by the rockets built at JPL that have sent humans to the Moon, and the probes that took us to Jupiter, Saturn, and out beyond the solar system’s envelope. Parsons is also, like his frenemy Hubbard, survived by a snarl of conspiracy theories about his life and death.