The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory by the Obama administration.
“This ban is the best way to help ensure that U.S. markets do not contribute to the further decline of African elephants in the wild,” the Obama White House said last month, noted AFP.
However, in an amazing twist of logic, the NRA recently claimed this effort to save elephants from extinction was actually an evil plot to "ban firearms."
The NRA stated on its website:
This is another attempt by this anti-gun Administration to ban firearms based on cosmetics and would render many collections/firearms valueless.
Any firearm, firearm accessory, or knife that contains ivory, no matter how big or small, would not be able to be sold in the United States, unless it is more than 100 years old.
This means if your shotgun has an ivory bead or inlay, your revolver or pistol has ivory grips, your knife has an ivory handle, or if your firearm accessories, such as cleaning tools that contain any ivory, the item would be illegal to sell.
The NRA fails to mention that conservationist Jane Goodall recently warned that African elephants could become extinct if the poaching continues, noted The Guardian.
EnoughProject.org has warned that elephant poaching ivory sales fund the the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in the Congo.
According to The Washington Post, there were 17,000 elephants killed last year for the ivory market.
A severely injured yellow lab was saved on a Texas highway Friday morning when a man stopped to rescue her.
Rickey Young heard of the situation over the radio and decided to stop when he spotted the dog, who was lying on the side of Houston’s Eastex Freeway.
“I’m just kind of a softy on that stuff,” Young said. “I have a dog and would hate to see him on a highway like that.”
The dog was initially scared of Young and limped away when he approached her. However, Young found that he could coax her toward him with a sandwich, and finally placed her in his truck.
“I could see that she was thankful and she was happy to be in a safer environment,” he said.
The dog was taken to the hospital where she was found to have internal bleeding and several broken bones.
According to the Houston SPCA, the dog is in full recovery.
A 3-year-old girl was killed by her family’s pit bull terrier Monday when the dog suddenly attacked her.
Braelynn Rayne Coulter was playing with the pit bull when it suddenly turned on her. Coulter died despite her mother’s attempt to save her. When Coulter’s mother, Randi, tried to pull the dog away, it attacked her too.
Coulter was rushed to the hospital but later died from the traumatic injuries she suffer to her lower abdomen. Her mother was treated and later released.
“She will be missed dearly,” the family said in a statement. “Heaven is a little prettier today with Braelynn there!”
A spokesperson for the family said that the dog had never acted aggressive before and had always been gentle. Neighbors, however, reported that the dog sometimes attacked other dogs and never let their children play outside when it was around.
The male dog was transported to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and will likely be euthanized.
The family of a 10-year-old San Diego, Calif., boy who died from rat bite fever is suing Petco for the boy’s death.
Aiden Pankey died last summer after his new pet rat infected him with streptobacillus moniliformis, also known as rat bite fever, a disease reportedly carried by a rodent purchased from Petco, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Aiden’s grandmother, Sharon Pankey, told ABC News that the young boy was “such a good care taker and so loving” and taking care of the rat and wanting her to have a family ultimately lead to his death.
The boy and his grandmother went to the pet store on Memorial Day last year to buy a companion for his pet rat Oreo, planning to breed the pair. The family called it their “the summer science project.”
Two weeks after buying the male rat, Aiden developed what his grandmother called “flu-like symptoms” and died within 48 hours. She described the moments before his death as “numbing” and “soul biting.”
[Aidan] appeared lethargic, pale, and could barely walk,” the lawsuit filed by the family against Petco describes. Aidan, who started experiencing “flu-like symptoms,” woke up on the night of June 11, 2013, with a fever and stomach problems and died a few hours later at a children’s hospital.
“I put him to bed after a day at the doctor’s office and the next thing I knew it just was too late,” she said. ”I went into his room and he couldn’t speak. He was unstable on his feet. I got him down to my room and he collapsed on the floor. I called 911 because it was scaring me that his breathing was shallow and he seemed to be losing his ability to function,” Sharon Pankey said.
It wasn’t until Christmas – more than six months after the boy’s death – that the medical examiner reportedly confirmed to the family that Pankey had died from the infectious disease contracted from the rat.
Hamilton Arendsen, the family’s lawyer, told ABC News that his client is suing Petco for failing to have sufficient procedures in place to prevent incidents like this to occur. The boy’s family is suing Petco for strict liability and negligence and will be seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney Arendsen said.
Petco officials expressed their sympathy in a statement:
“We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss. The health and safety of people and pets is always our top priority and we take the family’s concerns very seriously. We are investigating the claims and will respond when we have more information.”
The San Diego Medical Examiner’s office stated that the illness carries a mortality rate of 13 percent if left untreated; however, its symptoms are nonspecific, which may prevent an early diagnosis.
SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENTS (RAT BITE FEVER)
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are two forms of rat-bite fever: streptobacillus moniliformis and spirillum minus. In the United States, the most common form of the illness is caused by streptobacillus moniliformis. The latter is commonly found in Asia.
Symptoms and signs of streptobacillary RBF include fever, vomiting, headache, muscle and joint pain, and a rash. These usually occur 3 to 10 days after exposure to an infected rodent but can be delayed up to three weeks.
After the onset of fever, a red, bumpy rash may appear on the hands and feet. Joints can become swollen, red and painful.
Rat-bite fever exposure is typically caused by a bite or a scratch from an infected rodent. Even handling an infected rodent or consuming food contaminated with the bacteria could result in transmission of the disease. The illness isn't contagious between humans.
Once diagnosed, rat-bite fever can be treated with antibiotics, most likely penicillin. Without treatment, the illness could be fatal or cause infections involving the heart, brain or lungs.
The best way to avoid contracting the illness is to avoid contact with rats or rat-contaminated dwellings altogether. If contact can't be avoided, then wearing protective gloves and regular hand washing to avoid hand-to-mouth contamination can decrease one’s risk of exposure.
Rat-bite fever was first described in India more than 2,300 years ago. It was first reported in the U.S. in 1839. In North America, streptobacillus moniliformis has been known to infect laboratory technicians and the poor. Since rats have become popular pets, children now account for more than 50 percent of cases in the U.S.
John Ericson wrote an article titled The Price of Killing Off Animal Testing, which was published by Newsweek.com on February 20, 2014.
Ericson begins by stating that: “Each year, more than 25 million animals are used for scientific research in the U.S. More than 90 percent of those are mice . . .” The actual numbers are unknown but a more realistic estimate would be over 100 million. Even a former editor of Scientific American stated that around 100 million genetically modified mice were used annually in the US. (Mukerjee 2004) So anyone or any organization that claims less than that is clearly biased or uninformed.
Ericson goes on to paint a very black and white picture of animal-based research and testing. He cites the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as supporting it and quotes Frankie Trull of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), as saying the usual: “An immediate end to animal research in the U.S. would be a death sentence for millions of people around the world . . . If you've ever taken antibiotics, had a vaccine, had chemotherapy, an MRI, a blood transfusion, dialysis, an organ transplant, bypass surgery or joint replacement, you have been the beneficiary of research that started with lab animals.” Although these claims are widespread they is also unsupported by a critical examination of the scientific literature along with currently known facts regarding species differences. Moreover it is an example of the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. (See The Strengths and Limits of Animal Models as Illustrated by the Discovery and Development of Antibacterials and Are animal models predictive for humans? for a refutation of some of the above claims. See Trans-Species Modeling Theory for why animals are very poor models for humans.)
Ericson goes on to describe why the elimination of animal-based research would be a blow to “research on neurodegenerative disease” like Alzheimer's disease (AD). This is an odd choice for an example since research with animal models has misled researchers studying AD more often than not. (For example, see Evidence Supports TSMT. See Trans-Species Modeling Theory for a detailed examination of this claim as related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).)
I wrote the following in the comments section of the article:
Animal-based research and testing originated during a time when creationism was accepted as the norm. Under that paradigm, animals and humans were thought to be more alike than different. Today we know better. Animal testing is a failure from a scientific perspective and animal-based research results in something medically useful only a tiny fraction of the time. For more on why animal experimentation is scientifically nonviable see http://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/pdfplus/10.2217/pme.11.89
The reason animal models fail to be of predictive value for human response to drugs and disease lies in evolution and genetic variability. This variability exists even within the same species, for example monozygotic twins. An article in Developmental Cell by Spector and Mélanie Eckersley-Maslin et al., (Eckersley-Maslin et al. 2014) reveals new reasons for this. A team from Cold Springs Harbor conducted research, which revealed that “some cells activate only one of their two gene copies during development, altering protein yields and raising new questions.” We have one copy of each gene from each parent. Usually both of these copies are activated. But in some cases it appears that only one copy is activated either in development or later. “Random monoallelic gene expression cuts the amount of a protein by half, suggesting that this type of variability may have significant implications for disease.” The researchers found that “monoallelic gene expression is truly a random process.” Spector stated: “It is not deterministic in any way . . . This significant amount of flexibility and randomness in gene expression is important for adaptation as a species evolves, but it is unclear how it functions in organisms today.”
The above differences in genetic make-up are in addition to differences in mutations like single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and copy number variants (CNVs) and differences in gene regulation and expression, among many others. Just one such difference between species could account for why a disease affects one species differently from another or why one drug affects one human differently from another. Species are defined by thousands of such differences and this is why we can eat chocolate but dogs should not.
The failures of animal modeling are best demonstrated by intra-human variation. A February 26, 2014, Mayo Clinic press release announces: Mayo Clinic Discovers African-Americans Respond Better to Rubella Vaccine. Scientists compared vaccine responses from Somali Americans and Caucasians and discovered that Somali Americans developed “twice the antibody response to rubella.” A non-Somali, African-American cohort also saw a high response and Hispanic Americans exhibited a low response as did Caucasians.(Haralambieva et al. 2014) Dr. Poland, the chair of a Safety Evaluation Committee for non-rubella vaccine trials being conducted by Merck Research Laboratories stated: “The significance of the findings is that in the future we may be able to create vaccines for specific groups or even individuals based on their genomic and other characteristics . . . That may mean adjusting doses for some or being able to treat larger populations with the same vaccine if the dosage is less.”
Vivisection activists should be concerned that the practice they are defending is based on a creation model of life. But they’re not.
(Photo from CDC and Wikiperia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rubella_virus_TEM_B82-0203_lores.jpg)
Eckersley-Maslin, MÈlanie†A, David Thybert, Jan†H Bergmann, John†C Marioni, Paul Flicek, and David†L Spector. 2014. "Random Monoallelic Gene Expression Increases upon Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation." Developmental cell 28 (4):351-365. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1534580714000586
Haralambieva, I. H., H. M. Salk, N. D. Lambert, I. G. Ovsyannikova, R. B. Kennedy, N. D. Warner, V. S. Pankratz, and G. A. Poland. 2014. "Associations between race, sex and immune response variations to rubella vaccination in two independent cohorts." Vaccine. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.01.090.
Mukerjee, Madhusree. 2004. "Book Review of Speaking for the Animals " Scientific American August:96-7.
Two dogs took their owner's car for a joyride recently when one of the dogs accidentally knocked the gear into drive.
Scott, the dogs’ owner, said he had left the dogs inside his truck for about 15 minutes while he went inside his Tulsa home. When he returned, the truck had disappeared.
"I got around to the front of the house where the truck was, and it's like not there," Scott said. "And I was like 'did I get towed?”’
The dogs had been parked at the top of a hill on 25th Street, but barreled down the hill in a matter of minutes. The truck narrowly missed drivers at an intersection, runners and the Arkansas River.
Tulsa Firefighter Clay Ayers reported that the dogs traveled three blocks until landing in a river bed. Luckily, no one was hurt and the dogs are in good condition.
Scott did not receive a ticket for the mishap, as police noted that the repair costs are punishment enough.
Rob Weber recently got a shock when a bird, possibly a hawk, flew into the windshield of his small airplane during a flight last Saturday.
Weber had a camera inside his plane, which caught the collision on video (below).
After the bird smashed into the windshield, Weber was forced to land his 1986 Piper Saratoga plane at Page Field in Fort Myers, Fla.
“I always wondered what it’d be like to have a bird strike take out your windshield, and now I know," Weber told WINK News.
Weber was flying at 170 m.p.h when the bird imploded on his windshield. All that was left was a leg.
“I didn’t even see the bird coming,” Weber told the News-Press. “He managed to miss the prop and ended up with me inside the plane and then he was out.”
“It was a total shock,” added Weber. “I have a had a lot of close-call bird strikes, but this was the first hit.”
“Everything went cattywampus. At first, it kinda knocked it out of me, startled me,” said Weber. “The wind got my eyes real bad, and I tried to cup the mic so the controller could hear me.”
Weber suffered a minor injury to his head, but showed a sense of humor by wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt while speaking to the News-Press.
Elias Zerhouni was director of the NIH from 2002 to 2008 and is known for his “Roadmap for Medical Research” initiative, “New Pathways to Discovery,” and “Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise.” These laid the pathway for The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). After he retired from NIH in 2008, Zerhouni became President of Global R&D at Sanofi.
Neil Munro published an article in the National Journal in 2003, in which he quoted Zerhouni:
In the six years since 1997, Congress has doubled the National Institutes of Health's medical-science budget, which this year stands at almost $28 billion. Now Congress wants results. The money flows to scientists at NIH and also to research centers scattered throughout legislators' districts. The rising tide of funds has helped to boost many local economies, but, so far, the money has produced limited benefits for patients, in part because scientists direct so much of it to their colleagues for basic research. NIH's research promises a big payoff someday, but, given the complexity of human biology, converting hopes into therapies can take 10, 15, or even 20 years. . . . Zerhouni [NIH Director Elias Zerhouni] is also keenly aware of the complaints from Gregg, Ambler, and many others about the slow conversion of science into health care. The answer, he said, “is not so much a question of incentives, [but rather] removing the obstacles.” Still, NIH will remain focused on science, not therapies, he said. “We're not changing the balance, we're supercharging the NIH.”  (Emphasis added)
Philips wrote in New Scientist in 2004:
There is increasing recognition that basic research doesn't just flow automatically into clinical treatments and that both basic researchers and clinicians have to change the way they work to make this happen more readily. . . . The challenge of translating basic science into treatments is particularly acute in the neurosciences. But the same kinds of problems crop up in all fields of biomedicine. In March this year [this is during Zerhouni’s tenure at NIH], the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a white paper outlining its "critical path initiative" exploring how translational research might be improved. The report highlighted a "growing crisis" caused by the slowdown in the production of new therapies. The crux of the problem lies with the applied sciences, which have not kept pace with the basic sciences, the report concludes. The tools of the last century - animal toxicology and human tests - may need to be replaced or supplemented with newer technologies. We are not getting better at identifying potentially suitable drug candidates. Using genomics, imaging, proteomics and bioinformatics studies to help screen drug candidates for safety and efficacy early on could help improve the process. (www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/criticalpath/ (Longer URL))
. . . These plans have been widely welcomed, but there are still some problems specific to neuroscience. "The biomedical model is failing," says Susan Fitzpatrick, vice-president of the James S. McDonnell Foundation in Saint Louis, Missouri. Basic biomedical research relies heavily on animal models, especially rats and mice, but she thinks it may be necessary to rethink this approach if treatments for brain diseases are going to reach the patients who need them.
Even if we know all there is to know about the animal model we don't necessarily know about the disease, Fitzpatrick says. "The model becomes what we study, not the human disease." And while this is a problem in all areas of disease, nowhere is it more acute than in brain disease. Kidney, liver or heart function is basically the same in different animal models, but the human brain is different. "It is not a chimp brain or a monkey brain or a mouse brain. It is very, very different."
Take brain cancer. The traditional model for studying brain cancer is to take human cancer cells, sometimes tissue-cultured into cell lines, and transplant them under the skin of an immunosuppressed mouse. This approach ignores the fact that cancer is a disease of context: as soon as you change the environment you will change those cells. "Any agent you test is probably unlikely to be effective when you have a tumour in context," Fitzpatrick says. "It's a fundamental flaw. We need a fundamentally new approach."  (Emphasis added.)
Zerhouni appears to be what he calls “science-oriented” in 2003, not therapies-oriented. But he appears to be rethinking the issue in 2005:
At no other time has the need for a robust, bidirectional information flow between basic and translational scientists been so necessary. Advances in our understanding of biologic systems and the development of powerful new tools that can be applied at both the bench and the bedside — genomics, proteomics, transgenic animal models, structural biology, biochemistry, and imaging technologies — offer unprecedented prospects for advancing knowledge of human disorders in a translational context. Moreover, it has also become clear that available animal models of human disease are often inadequate, necessitating even more research on human populations and biologic samples.  (Emphasis added.)
Mullane and Williams reinforce Philips and others in stating the following in 2012:
Although there has been an unprecedented growth in scientific knowledge that has been accompanied with enormous research investments in academia, federal research laboratories and the pharmaceutical and/or biotechnology industries, which reached US$150 billion in 2010 , new drug introductions over the past decade have stagnated [4,5]. Indeed, the 5% success rate of compounds entering clinical trials  continues to impact the successful development of new and improved therapeutics, especially for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), that require lifelong treatment and for which the incidence is growing exponentially such that they have the potential to bankrupt healthcare systems worldwide in the absence of effective treatment options.
A recent increase in drug approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with 35 new, innovative and ‘many groundbreaking’ medicines approved to date during fiscal 2011, more than a 50% increase over the number accepted in 2010, . . . has been heralded  as a ‘refill. . .[ing of]. . .parched pipelines’, a ‘payoff from a research reorientation. . .[undertaken]. . .several years ago’. This view is not shared by seasoned industry observers [and here] . . . who question whether these increases are indicative of getting the R&D model ‘right’, instead ascribing the numbers to increased business development activity and licensing of late-stage development compounds, and ‘clearer FDA guidance’. Although news of the increase in drug approvals is welcome, it should be viewed in the context of the proverb, ‘a swallow doth not a summer make’ as drug approvals over the past 6 years have averaged 22 per year as compared to 36 per year in the previous 9 years (Fig. 1) . . . [see here and here]. . . . The architect of the NIH Roadmap [Elias Zerhouni], now head of R&D at Sanofi and consequently exposed to the practical challenges of the real world of drug discovery, recently noted that there are ‘no simple solutions’ to the challenges of translational research and ‘that such ‘‘bench to bedside’’ research is more difficult than. . .[I]. . .thought.’ 
Others have noticed this phenomena. Contopoulos-Ioannidis et al.  quantified the translation rate (hence the term translational research) of “highly promising” basic research into clinical applications. They published a study in the American Journal of Medicine in 2003 that revealed of 101 basic research papers published in high-profile journals between 1979 and 1983, 27 led to randomized clinical trials and only 5 eventually gave rise to licensed clinical application. (Also see .)
Crowley commented on the article:
The article by Contopoulos-Ioannidis et al. in this issue of the journal addresses a much-discussed but rarely quantified issue: the frequency with which basic research findings translate into clinical utility. The authors performed an algorithmic computer search of all articles published in six leading basic science journals (Nature, Cell, Science, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Journal Experimental Medicine) from 1979 to 1983. Of the 25,000 articles searched, about 500 (2%) contained some potential claim to future applicability in humans, about 100 (0.4%) resulted in a clinical trial, and, according to the authors, only 1 (0.004%) led to the development of a clinically useful class of drugs (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) in the 30 years following their publication of the basic science finding. They also found that the presence of industrial support increased the likelihood of translating a basic finding into a clinical trial by eightfold.
Still, regardless of the study's limitations, and even if the authors were to underestimate the frequency of successful translation into clinical use by 10-fold, their findings strongly suggest that, as most observers suspected, the transfer rate of basic research into clinical use is very low. 
An editorial in Nature in 2010:
The readers of Nature should be an optimistic bunch. Every week we publish encouraging dispatches from the continuing war against disease and ill health. Genetic pathways are unravelled, promising drug targets are identified and sickly animal models are brought back to rude health. Yet the number of human diseases that can be efficiently treated remains low — a concerning impotency given the looming health burden of the developed world's ageing population. The uncomfortable truth is that scientists and clinicians have been unable to convert basic biology advances into therapies or resolve why these conversion attempts so often don't succeed. Together, these failures are hampering clinical research at a time when it should be expanding. 
Rothwell stated in the Lancet in 2006:
Indeed, most major therapeutic developments over the past few decades have been due to simple clinical innovation coupled with advances in physics and engineering rather than to laboratory-based medical research. The clinical benefits of advances in surgery, for example, such as joint replacement, cataract removal, endoscopic treatment of gastrointestinal or urological disease, endovascular interventions (eg, coronary and peripheral angioplasty/stenting or coiling of cerebral aneurysms), minimally invasive surgery, and stereotactic neurosurgery, to name but a few, have been incalculable. Yet only a fraction of non-industry research funding has been targeted at such clinical innovation. How much more might otherwise have been achieved? 
Sharon Begley, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
“Patients," says immunologist Ralph Steinman of Rockefeller University, New York, "have been too patient with basic research.“…Many of the brightest scientists have, therefore, plunged into the minutiae of roundworm genes and fruit-fly receptors, instead of human diseases. "Most of our best people work in lab animals, not people," says Dr. Steinman, who presents his case in a recent issue of the journal Cerebrum. "But this has not resulted in cures or even significantly helped most patients.”… “Human experiments are much more time-consuming and more difficult than animal studies," says Rockefeller's James Krueger, whose human research includes trying to correlate gene activity and changes in immune-system cells with the progression of psoriasis. "There are also funding issues. It's much easier to write a successful grant proposal for animal experiments. Animals are homogeneous, and let you say 'aha!' in a neat, clean experiment.” Humans, in contrast, are genetically and behaviorally diverse, making it hard to tell whether some aspect of their disease reflects the disease alone, their DNA, how they live -- or some messy permutation of all three. 
Zerhouni was quoted in the June 25, 2012 issue of Forbes as saying: “R&D in pharma has been isolating itself for 20 years, thinking that animal models would be enough and highly predictive, and I think I want to just bring back the discipline of outstanding translational science, which means understand the disease in humans before I even touch a patient.”  (Emphasis added.) Note that Zerhouni now seems more in agreement with the scientists quoted above. This agreement arguably reaches its zenith in the following. Zerhouni was quoted in NIH Record in 2013:
“We have moved away from studying human disease in humans,” he lamented. “We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included.” With the ability to knock in or knock out any gene in a mouse—which “can’t sue us,” Zerhouni quipped—researchers have over-relied on animal data. “The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem…We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.” 
Today, the vivisection activist website Speaking for Research published a retraction or clarification of the above from Zerhouni. The “clarification” took the form of a letter, dated 2013, to Frankie Trull of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), another vivisection activist organization, although older and better funded than Speaking of Research. Zerhouni’s letter to FBR was in response to a letter (and doubtlessly other communication) to Zerhouni asking about his comments quoted above. Zerhouni replied, in part:
I understand that some have interpreted these comments to mean that I think that animals are no longer necessary in medical research. This is certainly not what I meant. In fact, animal models and other surrogates of human disease are necessary — but not sufficient — for the successful development of new treatments. In short, animal models remain essential to the basic research that seeks to understand the complexities of disease mechanism. 
I would now like to compare this situation with a similar one in 1992.
In 1984, Albert Sabin, one of the inventors of the polio vaccine, stated under oath to the US Congress:
Paralytic polio could be dealt with only by preventing the irreversible destruction of the large number of motor nerve cells, and the work on prevention was long delayed by the erroneous conception of the nature of the human disease based on misleading experimental models of the disease in monkeys. 
Ender, Weller, and Robbins grew the virus in tissue culture and this allowed the vaccine to be developed. For this achievement, not experiments on monkeys, Ender, Weller, and Robbins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954. The Prize was not awarded to Sabin or Salk or any other animal modelers who had worked with monkeys. The vaccine could have been produced from non-animal tissue, however manufacturers opted for monkey kidney tissue instead. Thus even monkey tissue cannot be held as necessary for the vaccine.
In any event, animal activists seized upon Sabin’s comments as proof that monkeys did more harm than good in developing the polio vaccine (a position that I agree with). Sabin came under immense pressure from vivisection activists and had a letter published on March 20, 1992 in the Winston-Salem Journal  where he said animal experiments were vital to the development of the polio vaccine. Several things are significant about this.
1. This was not the New York Times or Washington Post, papers that are consider papers of record for the US. If a man of Sabin’s stature was going to retract a statement that he had given under oath before the US Congress, I assume a more prominent newspaper would have given him the space to do so. Or, he could have sent a retraction to Congress.
2. I really don’t think we can consider this retraction valid as it contradicts a previous statement under oath. Many people say one thing under oath and another when not under oath. Which does society usually believe?
3. Finally, when Sabin testified he was alone speaking his mind. When he wrote the letter he was aligned with vivisection activist groups such as Americans for Medical Progress, so again I ask which statement should society believe?
Note the parallels to the Zerhouni situation. A letter to Ms Trull, who represents the vivisection industry as a whole, is not on the same level as a statement made at NIH and in front of NIH researchers. An adage in politics goes something like this: “What do you call an unrehearsed statement made at an unguarded moment that the person’s aids later attempt to clarify? The truth.” Zerhouni on two occasions spoke the truth in statements that did not need clarification. Only after taking flack from vested interest groups for speaking the truth was a “clarification” needed.
Moreover, in Zerhouni’s case, his statements take place in an environment of scientists and the scientific community as a whole that agrees with his notion that animal models are of no predictive value. (For more examples, see There is consensus on prediction and Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable?) Animals are used as predictive models and the use of animals in all areas of science and research is justified to society on the basis of the success of using animals as predictive models in drug development and disease research (which is performed in large part so drugs can be developed to treat the disease).
One cannot say that such models are part of the problem and then say at a later date that the very same way animal models were being referred to previously are in fact necessary. The drug targets that fail a very large percentage of the time in clinical trials were discovered in so-called basic research involving animal models. Hence the lack of efficacy that the pharmaceutical industry is complaining about. Finally, we have a record of Zerhouni’s statements where he appears to be changing from the historical party line regarding animal models to a more current, science-based acceptance of the limits of animal models.
Society is therefore forced to ask whether Zerhouni’s original comments should be taken at face value given that they were obviously not coerced? Or should society accept as truth Zerhouni’s letter to a person representing a rather large vested interest group and that changes the meaning of Zerhouni’s comment to something essentially directly opposite of what he initially stated.
I have no idea what Zerhouni was thinking when he made those statements and neither does anyone else. Furthermore, given the essentially complete reversal of his position as stated in his letter, I do not trust anything he now says on the subject just as I do not trust politicians who say one thing to the crowd at a speech but then state the opposite when they communicate with the vested interest groups.
This is the world in which we live!
(Photo from Wikipedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elias_Zerhouni_close-up_official_photo...)
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Idaho lawmakers have proposed a bill that would punish individuals for videotaping a farm’s operations after illegally entering the facilities. The legislation attempts to cut down on animal abuse activists who harm farms by trespassing or by defaming the business. Critics, however, are wary that the proposed law could negatively impact those attempting to demonstrate the abuse carried out by the state’s farms.
Some of these activists work as undercover farm employees, lying on job applications in order to gain positions at farms simply so they can obtain video footage of the abuses that occur there.
Idaho Sen. Jim Patrick, a cosponsor of the bill, claimed that this practice of infiltrating enemy lines has an ancient history.
“This is clear[ly] back in the sixth century B.C.,” Patrick said, according to Raw Story. "This is the way you combat your enemies."
Patrick and the other supporters of the bill claim that they are simply attempting to stop this unfair practice from continuing. Animal rights activists, however, claim that the law would strip people of their right to expose the cruelty that occurs at farms.
Nathan Runkle, executive director of animal rights organization Mercy For Animals, explained that the law would directly cover up the abuses occurring at farms across Idaho.
“This legislation is a desperate attempt to sweep evidence of animal cruelty and sexual abuse under the rug,” Runkle said.
As the bill has progressed throughout Idaho’s Congress, various videos have surfaced depicting disturbing instances of animal abuse. The latest video to emerge depicts a farm employee mockingly discussing and fondling a cow’s vagina. Other videos have depicted cruel lashings and beatings of the animals.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Iowa and Utah already have laws regarding filming animal abuse on farms. Many videos in other states have led to the arrests or punishment of farm employees and owners.
Below is the video depicting 25-year-old Jesus Garza sexually abusing a cow on an Idaho farm, a crime for which the man ultimately served 102 days in prison.
Warning – the video is extremely graphic.
Cats are good at a lot of things – landing on their feet, looking abnormally adorable, making blooper videos, and eliciting high-pitch voices from women. According to 19th-century Army Lt. H.H.C. Dunwoody, our feline friends also have quite a practical skill up their sleeves … err, paws, as well: predicting the weather.
In an 1883 book entitled "Weather Proverbs," Dunwoody touted cats as a more reliable way to predict the weather than meteorologists. 131 years later, many of us are still left awkwardly dressed and ill-prepared for weather our local meteorologists failed to predict.
According to Dunwoody, we shouldn’t be looking to people for weather advice. We need to look at animals. Though he lists a number of animals who display certain behaviors prior to inclement weather, he placed an emphasis on the prophetic abilities of cats.
“Cats have the reputation of being weather wise," Dunwoody wrote. "It is almost universally believed that good weather may be expected when the cat washes herself, but bad when she licks her coat against the grain, or washes her face over her ears or sits with her tail to the fire."
Here, according to Dunwoody, is how to interpret weather forecasts from your little kitty:
- - When cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.
- - When a cat scratches itself, or scratches on a log or tree, it indicates approaching rain.
- - The cardinal point to which a cat turns and washes her face after a rain shows the direction from which the wind will blow.
- - When cats lie on their heads with mouths turned up, expect a storm.
- - When cats are snoring, foul weather follows.
The next time your cat does this, you'll know she isn't looking for attention. She's telling you to grab your raincoat: