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EU regulators ‘dismissed evidence’ linking glyphosate to rodent tumours | Environment

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EU regulators dismissed key scientific evidence linking glyphosate to rodent tumours in a positive assessment they gave for continued sales of the substance last week, according to a new report by environmental campaigners.

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller and its EU relicensing has become a touchstone in a wider battle between environmentalists and agribusiness over the future of farming.

A separate study last week found that glyphosate was seriously damaging the ability of wild bumblebees to regulate colony temperatures.

Meanwhile the report by the NGOs says that the assessment by the European Chemical Agency (Echa) contains “serious scientific shortcomings that question its scientific objectivity”, because of an alleged rejection of findings from 10 out of 11 studies which link the herbicide ingredient to tumour formations.

Dr Peter Clausing, the report’s co-author, said: “Animals exposed to glyphosate developed tumours with significantly higher incidences compared to their unexposed control group – an effect considered as evidence of carcinogenicity by both international and European guidelines.

“Yet, the EU risk assessors have dismissed all the tumour findings from their analysis, concluding that they all occurred by chance and that none of them was actually related to glyphosate exposure.”

Seven of the animal studies are backed by historical control data, and five of them show that mice and rats developed more than one type of tumour, the report says. In four of the rodent studies, the number of tumours rose as the glyphosate dose increased, it adds.

Malignant lymphomas, kidney and liver tumours and skin keratoacanthomas were all found in the studies, said Prof Christopher Portier, an expert whose analysis informed the new report by the Health and Environment Alliance.

“Glyphosate fuels cancer,” said Portier, who was an invited specialist for the World Health Organization (WHO) panel that found glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015.

“No matter how you look at it, there is more than enough evidence of carcinogenicity, and this evidence meets the criteria to classify glyphosate as a substance presumed to have carcinogenic potential for humans,” he said.

Echa’s decision not to apply even a secondary carcinogenicity classification – used where evidence is limited – was “incomprehensible”, the report said.

The latest Echa review stuck closely to recommendations made by an “Assessment Group on Glyphosate” made up of experts from four countries – France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden.

The full opinion of Echa’s risk assessment committee (RAC), which sets the scene for a more definitive ruling from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) next year, will be published in mid-August.

But an online summary concludes that it is “not justified” to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, although it is toxic to aquatic life and causes serious eye damage.

The chemicals agency says that its RAC produced a “complete and thorough review” of all the relevant studies, including the papers that found tumours in mice and rats.

An Echa spokesperson said: “The findings from the studies conducted with glyphosate were not dismissed but a causal relationship was not established between exposure to the substance and the incidences of tumours observed.”

Several regulators have disputed the WHO’s carcinogenicity finding for glyphosate, including the EU’s European Food Safety Authority and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Glyphosate was originally developed by the US agribusiness firm Monsanto, which was sold to the German chemicals giant Bayer for $63bn (£50bn) in 2018.

That deal led Bayer to pick up the tab for a series of ongoing court disputes over glyphosate’s alleged links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the two and a half years after Monsanto lost its first US court case over the RoundUp pesticide, Bayer’s share fell by 45%. The Wall Street Journal described the acquisition as “one of the worst corporate deals” in recent times.

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Utz Klages, a spokesperson for Bayer, welcomed the Echa assessment, noting that it had also not classified glyphosate as having specific target organ toxicity, or as being a mutagenic or reprotoxic substance.

He said: “We remain convinced that we have a strong science-based rationale for a renewed approval of glyphosate, which would continue to provide farmers and professional users with an important technology in an integrated weed management approach.

“Glyphosate-based herbicides play, and will continue to play, an important role in sustainable agriculture and in Bayer’s product portfolio.”

Attention in Europe’s glyphosate debate will now switch to Efsa’s next assessment of the chemical, which it said last week would be published in July 2023, a year later than planned.

The EU is supposed to decide whether to relicense the product by 15 December 2023, although a temporary extension of the existing licence may also be possible.

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Ghutras are the World Cup’s hot accessory. But should fans wear them? – Chicago Tribune

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DOHA, Qatar — Jean Marc Berger left his home in Geneva to follow Switzerland’s adventures in the World Cup with perhaps the most neutral piece of headgear in existence. His protection against the blazing Gulf sun would extend no further than a red cap emblazoned with a white cross, an homage to the Swiss flag.

By the time he arrived at Stadium 974 for his country’s second game, though, the cap was long gone. In its place, Berger, 52, had adopted a ghutra, the traditional headscarf worn by men across the Arabian Peninsula. His was red and white, a nod to his homeland. Holding it in place was an agal, the tightly bound black band around which the scarf is carefully folded.

It had never occurred to Berger, before arriving in Qatar, that he would wear one. He had worried that doing so might be seen as offensive by his hosts, assumed that it might be seen as making light of Qatari culture, feared that it would transgress local sensitivities. “I did not think it would be possible,” he said.

He did not, as it turns out, have any cause for concern. Ghutras in the distinctive colors of the 32 teams in the tournament have emerged as this World Cup’s must-have accessory among the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have arrived in Qatar to follow their teams. They are for sale in stalls in Souq Waqif, the rebuilt market in downtown Doha, and in immaculate stores in upscale malls. They are even stocked in some supermarkets.

The truly dedicated can even go one step further, pairing the headscarf with a colored thobe, the flowing tunic that Arabian men mostly wear in white but which, it turns out, also comes in a lurid yellow and green (Brazil), fetching sky blue stripes (Argentina) and even the red, white and blue of the United States.

“They are selling well,” said Ali, one of five founders of a pop-up store selling colored ghutras and thobes at locations in the city. “We are a little bit surprised by how well. All of the American countries — the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina — have showed up spectacularly.”

A little bit too spectacularly, in one case. The first group of fans to arrive in the city en masse came from Ecuador, Qatar’s opponent in the opening game. Ali and his partners were not expecting them to appear in such numbers. “We only ordered 500 Ecuadorian ghutras,” he said. “We underestimated how many of them there would be.” They sold out a few days into the tournament. “Don’t worry,” he said, quickly. “We have thousands of the others.”

Ali — who did not want to give his family name so as not to take credit away from his partners — said the idea to sell ghutras in national colors was inspired by a desire to brand the tournament with something distinctively Arabian.

“In South Africa in 2010, we all heard the vuvuzela,” he said, referring to the constantly droning horn that still haunts the dreams of anyone who heard it. “We did not want to have a ‘normal’ World Cup, like the ones in Germany or Russia, that all looked the same. We wanted something that made this one Arabian.”

Though he is Qatari, Ali admitted that he was concerned that the idea of playing with traditional national dress — and selling it to foreigners for 99 rials apiece (about $25) — might be considered “unacceptable” by more conservative citizens. The thobe, the ghutra and the agal, after all, carry connotations in Arab eyes that those from elsewhere may not realize, or respect.

There are subtle differences in how the headgear is attached to the head that indicate where the wearer is from, said Hawas Alayed, one of the many thousands of fans who have crossed the border from Saudi Arabia to support their team.

“Look, he is from Qatar,” he said, pointing to a man whose nationality could be discerned by the two lengths of cord running down his back from his agal. The looks in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are ever so slightly different, he said.

Alayed said he was not concerned that those who have only recently adopted the ghutra are wearing them incorrectly, he said. Instead, he suggested that seeing fans embrace Gulf culture should be a source of pride.

Anecdotally, that has been the reaction from the vast majority of locals. “It’s not a problem,” said Ahmed al-Balooshi, a Qatari walking through Souq Waqif with two friends, all three of them wearing immaculate white thobes. “We have invited everyone here, and this is part of our culture. Also it is a very practical thing to wear when it’s hot.”

Khalid al-Khabi, an employee of Qatar National Bank, insisted he was not offended to see foreigners wandering past in traditional dress. “I have worn a thobe since I was a child,” he said. “You are wearing my culture.” He has not bought a colored version as yet, he said, but if he were to do so, he would choose Morocco.

Berger, the Swiss fan, has been surprised by how indulgent Qataris — and others from across North Africa and the Middle East — have been when it comes to foreigners adopting and appropriating local customs and clothing, something that is generally seen as disrespectful in Europe and North America.

There has been only one hairy moment. One morning, a Qatari man came charging toward Berger and a friend who has accompanied him on the journey to the World Cup. Berger’s immediate reaction was one of anxiety. Perhaps he had been wearing his ghutra wrong. Perhaps the fact he was wearing one at all had been read as an insult.

“He saw my friend and told him to stop,” Berger said, thrusting his right arm out in front of him. The man beckoned them over. “Then he restyled and reorganized my friend’s scarf,” he said.

c.2022 The New York Times Company

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Michael Rosen writes poem in tribute to NHS nurses after Covid recovery | NHS

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Michael Rosen doesn’t remember much of his 48 days in an intensive care ward when he was struck down with Covid-19 two years ago. But thanks to a patient diary diligently kept by his nurses, the poet and former children’s laureate knows how faithfully and compassionately he was cared for.

“They were wonderful. In the diary they tell me how they held my hand, talked to me, sang to me, kept me awake when they were worried that my blood pressure was dipping dangerously low, shaving me, turning me over,” he said.

The 76 year-old was told he had a 50/50 chance of survival before he was put into an induced coma for more than a month. Since his near-death experience, he has said he feels dutybound to speak out about his gratitude to those who saved his life.

Now, in tribute to NHS nurses and other healthcare workers, Rosen has written a new poem called This Is You, You’re Looking at You. With reports that 40,000 nurses have left the NHS in the past year due to stress, he has also helped launch a new app, ShinyMind, aimed at supporting the mental health and overall wellbeing of nurses.

“When I was in hospital I could see the kind of strain the nurses were under but it was only really when I came out that I understood this,” he told the Guardian. “In my intensive care ward, where the death rate was 42%, nurses that usually work one nurse per patient were working three or four patients. They had to repeatedly dress up in full PPE gear, nurses were getting ill, some of them died.”

All this, Rosen said, was hugely stressful. “In fact, when I met some of the nurses afterwards, one or two said that they had found it extremely hard to carry on, if not impossible. I think about myself at their age, and whether I would have been able to take that kind of mental and physical strain, day in day, out. No, I wouldn’t.”

The poem suggests nurses “take a moment” to themselves. “Are there questions they can ask of themselves or even make suggestions about how to treat themselves nicely? No one can make sacrifices all the time. You just end up trying to run on empty. So I wanted to help. A way of giving back something to them.”

It was important that nurses “check their state of mind, check their state of health, use their breaks and free time to leave the workplace”, Rosen said.

It comes amid warnings that the NHS is on its knees following years of underfunding due to austerity. Hospitals and clinics are short-staffed, waiting lists are at record numbers and ambulance crews could not respond to almost one in four 999 calls last month.

Nurses across the UK will go on strike for the first time over two days in the fortnight before Christmas after ministers rejected their pleas for formal talks over NHS pay.

Rosen called the NHS a “brilliant and wonderful invention”, adding that a national health service was how a people or a nation looked after and cared for itself.

“The NHS involves the cooperation of thousands of people every second, every minute, every hour of every day,” he said. “Every day there are millions of interventions that help people. This is a collective effort of mind and body that is a testament to what human beings can do for each other.

“We should have treasured this institution, supporting it, improving it, ensuring that it is there solely for the purpose of helping people.”

He said he supported nurses’ intention to strike because he “trusts” their decision. “For nurses to have never taken this level of action before tells us how provoked they must be. I don’t see it as my job to arbitrate on what they’re worth. A group of devoted workers under enormous stress have taken a democratic decision,” he said.

Rosen came out of his coma after 40 days and spent three weeks in rehabilitation. The author of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt published a book last year, Many Kinds of Love, in which he wrote about his stay in hospital and return home.

A children’s book, Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again, also detailed his transformation from a man who could not stand up by himself to a grandfather who proudly walks home, into the open arms of his beloved family.

He has said he found his rehabilitation experience “utterly infantilising” – so it made sense to write a children’s book about it. On one occasion, he was told to throw a balloon; on another he was relearning how to get up from a bench and was told to put his hands behind himself and his nose over his toes.

“The nurses were there to assist the physiotherapists and occupational therapists to teach me how to stand up, to walk with a frame or a stick, and then to walk unaided,” he said. “They were unbelievably good-humoured about it, kind and helpful.”

This Is You, You’re Looking at You by Michael Rosen

This is you.
You’re looking at you.

Look closely.
Closer.

Listen to the breathing.
Is it calm?
Or is there a bit of a gasp
or a snatch in there?

What about the walk?
Watch the walk.
In control, is it?
The feet roll from heel to toe
do they?

What next?
How about the eyes?
Look closely at the eyes.
Eyes tell you a lot.
The skin round the eyes.
Is it tight?
More on one side than the other?
And is that a frown?
Is it always there
or can it smooth out?

This is you.
You’re looking at you.

Now what comes next is harder.
See if you can notice any part of you
that’s tight, taut,
a part you that you’re holding
tighter and tauter
than it should be
and you don’t know why:
a shoulder maybe
one side of your neck?
Is there any way that can be looser?

This is you
You’re looking at you.

Now this is difficult.
We’re going in.
What about sleep?
Honestly.
Do you sleep through the night?
Or do you lie awake in the middle of the night
and you don’t know why?
What do you think about?
Does the day before
come in and sit there keeping you awake?
Does tomorrow
come in and sit there keeping you awake?
Have you ever talked to someone
about what keeps you awake?
You could, you know.
Sometimes, talking about it
scares off the things that keep you awake.

This is you
You’re looking at you.

Are there things you could do
which would look after you?
Places you could go
People you could see
Shows you could watch
Things you could do.
What are they?
Shut your eyes.
Imagine you’re doing them.
Imagine you’re doing them.
Imagine you’re doing them.

Have you ever tried ways
of expressing what you feel?
Drawing?
Writing?
Movement?
What would you draw?
What would you write?
How would you move?
Imagine you’re doing them.
Imagine you’re doing them.
Imagine you’re doing them.

And you know why I’m asking you
to ask yourself all these questions
don’t you?
It’s for that old, old reason:
if you don’t look after you
you can’t look after others.

This is you.
You’re looking at you.

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Antibiotics encoded in Neanderthal DNA could help us fight infections

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A search of the ancient DNA of Neanderthals and Denisovans has revealed coding for extinct bacteria-killing proteins that we could revive to fight infections



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1 December 2022

Ancient humans such as Neanderthals had bodily defences against bacteria that might help us treat infections nowadays

SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Reviving extinct antibiotic molecules encoded in the DNA of Neanderthals and Denisovans could provide a new weapon in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

Last year, César de la Fuente at the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues reported on more than 2000 antibiotic peptides encoded by modern human DNA.

Now, de la Fuente and many of the same researchers have identified six more antibiotic peptides encoded in ancient mitochondrial DNA previously extracted …

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