Month: June 2007

One Strike for Open Access Journals

Now, if only the US government, which funds the bulk of all research in this country, insists on open access for all research it funds! A man can dream!

Chemical & Engineering News: Latest News – HHMI Will Require Free Access To Journal Articles

Howard Hughes Medical Institute has announced a new policy regarding articles authored by biomedical researchers supported by the prestigious philanthropic organization. Beginning in January 2008, HHMI investigators will be required to publish only in those journals that make articles freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

HHMI supports more than 300 investigators, some of whom publish in American Chemical Society journals. Investigators who publish in an ACS journal can satisfy HHMI’s requirement by utilizing the society’s AuthorChoice option. For a $1,000—$3,000 fee, ACS provides free reader access to an article via the ACS website immediately upon online publication and deposits a copy of the article in the National Institutes of Health’s free PubMed Central repository.

HHMI may be the first U.S. funding institution to impose a mandatory public-access policy on its investigators. In the U.K., the Wellcome Trust, which funds biomedical research, already has a mandatory public-access policy.

Technorati Tags:

The Blue Marble: Indian Crocodiles Guard Dwindling Forests

This is an interesting and good side effect of releasing captive bred crocodiles back into the wild.

The Blue Marble: Indian Crocodiles Guard Dwindling Forests

Dozens of crocodiles bred in captivity in eastern India are protecting their endangered counterparts. Newly released into the wild, these giants are scaring away poachers bent on illegal fishing and timber harvesting in mangrove forests in the states of Orissa and West Bengal, reports Reuters. The disappearing mangroves have led to a steep decline in wild croc numbers, from several thousand a century ago to less than 100 in the early 1970s. But the same species has bred well in captivity and is now being used to solve its own problem. “The swelling number of released crocodiles in the wild is working as a deterrent and keeping people away from the mangrove as villagers are more cautious before venturing into the forests,” said Rathin Banerjee, a senior wildlife official. “Unlike guard dogs, crocodiles cannot be tamed and are ferocious and can attack anyone in the swamps.” .

Tuesdays with Turtles – Climate change and nesting patterns

Turns out that in Guyana, nesting patterns are changing. Different types of sea turtles are showing up, and earlier than they used to. The earlier part can be explained by climate change, but the species distribution? I am sure there are other factors involved including habitat loss, poaching, etc. Anyway, interesting story.

Stabroek News

The changing nesting patterns of endangered sea turtles in Guyana, is alerting environmentalists to the impact of climate change on these marine animals.

The shell beaches in Region One have hosted thousands of nesting turtles over the years, and conservationists have been endeavouring to protect the turtles from heavy domestic use and from being traded.

Project Coordinator of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) Michelle Kalamandeen told Stabroek News recently that climate change is affecting the sea turtle population.

According to Kalamandeen, in the 1960s the Hawksbill (critically endangered) and the Olive-Ridley (endangered) were our main nesting turtles, now the green turtles (endangered) and the leatherbacks (critically endangered) are mostly coming to nest on Guyana’s shores. The Pacific Leatherback is said to be now extinct and the Atlantic Leatherback is facing extinction.

The change in the time period for nesting in Guyana, she said, may also be a significant sign.

Usually sea turtles nest in Guyana from March to August every year. However, for the last three to four years, says Kalamandeen, the nesting pattern has shifted from mid-January to mid-July. This may have a significant impact on the hatchlings as food availability may be an issue for them.

Black Lung – Miners pay so you can get more coal

The Pump Handle alerts us to a special report on coal miners and their lungs, not for the faint of heart, but something to keep in mind when you hear the phrases “Cheap Energy” and “coal” in one sentence, it’s not so cheap for these people.

Black Lung: Dust Hasn’t Settled on Deadly Disease « The Pump Handle

Louisville-Courier Journal reporters Laura Unger and Ralph Dunlop offer us the voices and faces of miners who are suffering from coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Their special report, Black Lung: Dust Hasn’t Settled on Deadly Disease, includes an on-line version which features five compelling videos featuring 40- and 50-year old coal miners who are now suffering with the disabling lung disease. Mr. Danny Hall, 56, for example, who is still severely impaired despite receiving a lung transplant says “if I had to do over, I wouldn’t ever go into coal mining.”

Organic Schmorganic update

I blogged about this recently, and it looks like we’re one step closer to “primarily organic” food. The USDA moves forward in its plan to sneak in 5% non-organic content into organic food. Note that with fat-heavy ingredients such as fish oil, even 5% can carry a significant punch of bioaccumulative nasties including pesticides, PCBs, mercury, etc. But that should be an isolated case. Fish oil made for EU consumption is already tested extensively for these compounds. So, most manufacturers should already be producing the clean stuff. In the end, the health effects of this change are likely to be very minor.

Couldn’t they just call it 95% organic? Can’t we be trusted to do basic math? it could be a competition. “My bar is 97% organic, is yours only 95??” – Truth in labeling!

Nonorganic ingredients get tentative OK – Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave interim approval Friday to a controversial proposal to allow 38 nonorganic ingredients to be used in foods carrying the “USDA Organic” seal. But the agency also allowed an extra 60 days for public comment.

Manufacturers of organic foods had pushed for the change, arguing that the 38 items are minor ingredients in their products and are difficult to find in organic form. But consumers opposed to the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones in food production bombarded the USDA with more than 1,000 complaints last month.

“If the label says organic, everything in that food should be organic,” wrote Kimberly Wilson of Austin, Texas, in one typical comment. “If they put something in the food that isn’t organic, they shouldn’t be able to call it organic. No exception.”

The list approved Friday includes 19 food colorings, two starches, hops, sausage casings, fish oil, chipotle chili pepper, gelatin, celery powder, dill weed oil, frozen lemongrass, Wakame seaweed, Turkish bay leaves and whey protein concentrate.

Manufacturers will be allowed to use conventionally grown versions of these ingredients in foods carrying the USDA seal, provided that they can’t find organic equivalents and that nonorganics comprise no more than 5% of the product.

FDA Issues Dietary Supplements Final Rule

The FDA issues rules that will finally make dietary supplement manufacturers conform to some rules in the manufacturing of the products.

Which ones?

  1. Accurate potency and labeling – 30 mg glucosamine will now contain something close to 30mg
  2. Impurities Testing – All the raw materials will now be tested for impurities/contaminants. They will probably follow USP guidelines.
  3. Adverse event reporting – Manufacturers/sellers will need to report adverse events. This is after the fact safety testing, wholly inadequate, but better than what we had previously.

See something missing? Efficacy!! You do not have to prove that your product actually works! Basic safety? What is the overdose level? Interactions with other medicines/supplements? Is your dosing form actually bioavailable? Meaning, if you swallow a pill, will it actually get into your bloodstream and reach the intended target?

Who knows, but standardizing, cataloging and auditing manufacturing processes is a start, I guess. 1.5 cheers for the FDA!

I would be curious to find out how these companies are going to get audited by the FDA to prove that they’re following the quality control measures they’re supposed to implement. Guess I have to read the 815 pg bundle of joy that is the actual rule to find out more. A cursory word search on audits suggests that the manufacturers do audits on their suppliers, that the quality control unit of manufacturer perform audits on their manufacturing process, but nothing about the FDA conducting audits. Of course, calling yourself a GMP (good manufacturing processes) manufacturer is usually enough to trigger an FDA audit if you’re in pharma. I wonder how the FDA will deal with this one.

FDA Issues Dietary Supplements Final Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced a final rule establishing regulations to require current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) for dietary supplements. The rule ensures that dietary supplements are produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.

“This rule helps to ensure the quality of dietary supplements so that consumers can be confident that the products they purchase contain what is on the label,” said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. “In addition, as a result of recent amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, by the end of the year, industry will be required to report all serious dietary supplement related adverse events to FDA.”

The regulations establish the cGMP needed to ensure quality throughout the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and storing of dietary supplements. The final rule includes requirements for establishing quality control procedures, designing and constructing manufacturing plants, and testing ingredients and the finished product. It also includes requirements for recordkeeping and handling consumer product complaints.

“The final rule will help ensure that dietary supplements are manufactured with controls that result in a consistent product free of contamination, with accurate labeling,” said Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Under the final rule, manufacturers are required to evaluate the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their dietary supplements. If dietary supplements contain contaminants or do not contain the dietary ingredient they are represented to contain, FDA would consider those products to be adulterated or misbranded.

The aim of the final rule is to prevent inclusion of the wrong ingredients, too much or too little of a dietary ingredient, contamination by substances such as natural toxins, bacteria, pesticides, glass, lead and other heavy metals, as well as improper packaging and labeling.

In Praise of Red Tape

In Praise of Red Tape

Is there any figure in American political discourse more reviled than the bureaucrat? Say the word and a potent caricature leaps to mind: the petty and shiftless paper pusher who wields his small amount of power with malice and caprice. Whatever the issue–from school reform to overhauling the nation’s intelligence apparatus–the bureaucrat is on the wrong side of it.

Hayes makes an argument that I try to make at mixed gatherings everywhere. Unfortunately, I do not make it as coherently as he does. The secret to any functioning government is a good mid-level bureaucracy that has enough technical experience to implement reasonably good policy, but isn’t overly politicized or corrupt. When I was growing up in India, one of the constant refrains was “Why can’t we be like the Americans? You can actually get a driver’s license without bribing someone!”

The DMV (which is low level bureaucracy) still works well in the US (yes, my American friends, try getting a license in India!), but the mid level bureaucracy has gotten overly politicized in its top leadership over the years. This leads to that vicious cycle I have blogged about previously:

  1. Appoint lackey to head agency
  2. Appoint viceroy to oversee regulation
  3. Rewrite rules to increase power of executive over legislative
  4. Shift burden of proof away from the regulated to the regulators
  5. Slash budgets so regulating agencies cannot do the work adequately
  6. Hound competent employees out of the agency
  7. Routinely bash said agency as an example of “big government”

Repeat steps 4-7 as often as necessary to ensure “success”

Well, it appears that the mid-level bureaucrats pushed back, and Hayes catalogs the results.

I leave you with a good truism:

Red tape is what binds those in power to the mast of the law, what stands in the way of government by whim

North Carolina to establish birding trail

This is good news, maybe just the ticket to reawaken my long dormant birdwatching predelictions. The money this brings in will doubtless fund the continued existence of wetlands and other endangered habitats. | Beauty, bucks sought in bird trail

SWANSBORO – With hundreds of colorful birds already visiting and calling Eastern North Carolina home, the state is encouraging bird lovers to bring their binoculars and billfolds to watch them. The N.C. Birding Trail unveiled this week links dozens of sites long known to birders as packed with rare, popular or threatened species, such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

But state officials are promoting the trail as nature-themed tourism and hope it will give the financially stressed region an economic boost.Forget the notion of birdwatching as a sedate, nerdy activity. Now hunting and fishing guides are running bird charters and bird-related tourism is worth millions.

“We have people coming here from all over the country,” said John Ennis of Brunswick County, eastern vice president of the Carolina Bird Club. “It’s a great resource.”

When completed, the North Carolina trail will include dozens of places across the state that visitors can reach by car and look for more than 440 species of birds.

The first section, which highlights the coastal region, includes 102 birding sites in 16 groupings east of Interstate 95. A Piedmont trail that will bundle sites between Interstate 95 and Interstate 77 is scheduled to be completed next year with a mountain trail slated after that.

At least 100 sites have already been approved for the Piedmont section with three dozen in the Triangle. Birders will be directed to state and local lands such as Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, Raleigh’s Lake Johnson Park, Eno River State Park in Orange County and Duke Forest in Durham County.

Salinda Daley, N.C. Birding Trail Coordinator, said that describing the program as a trail causes some misunderstanding because it is not just lines on a map. She said promotional material links spectacular bird watching sites and birders with communities and businesses.

hey, who’re you calling a nerd!!

Senate 1, Plutocrats 2

It was a close game. But in the end, the plutocrats prevailed on energy legislation. Yes, fuel economy will go up some, but the push towards renewable energy will have to wait. Even on fuel economy standards, the requirement to incrementally increase standards every year after  getting to 35 mpg by 2020 was dropped.

Well, given the notoriously undemocratic nature of the US senate, progress will be slow.
Senate Adopts an Energy Bill Raising Mileage for Cars – New York Times

The Senate passed a broad energy bill late Thursday that would, among other things, require the first big increase in fuel mileage requirements for passenger cars in more than two decades. The vote, 65 to 27, was a major defeat for car manufacturers, which had fought for a much smaller increase in fuel economy standards and is expected to keep fighting as the House takes up the issue. But Senate Democrats also fell short of their own goals. In a victory for the oil industry, Republican lawmakers successfully blocked a crucial component of the Democratic plan that would have raised taxes on oil companies by about $32 billion and used the money on tax breaks for wind power, solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels. Republicans also blocked a provision of the legislation that would have required electric utilities to greatly increase the share of power they get from renewable sources of energy. As a result, Senate Democrats had to settle for a bill that calls for a vast expansion of renewable fuels over the next decade — to 36 billion gallons a year of alternatives to gasoline — but does little to actually promote those fuels through tax breaks or other subsidies. The combination of breakthroughs and setbacks highlighted the blocking power of the entrenched industry groups, from oil companies and electric utilities to car manufacturers, that had blanketed Congress in recent days to defend their interests.

Technorati Tags: