Ministers block release of ‘no deal Brexit’ social care recruitment plans | AccessAble | Carer Voice

Ministers are refusing to release information that would show what extra plans – if any – the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has put in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis in the event of a “no deal Brexit”.

With just 43 days until Britain faces the possibility of leaving the European Union without a deal in place, DHSC claimed that “premature” release of the information could put at risk “effective policy formulation and development regarding our exit from the EU”.

Instead of releasing its records, it has pointed to “high level” plans published just before Christmas, but they suggest that ministers have no plans in place to deal with an adult social care recruitment crisis.

Disabled people who use personal assistants (PAs) have warned repeatedly of the risk that any form of Brexit could mean their access to PAs from EU countries could dry up, with a no-deal Brexit making this even more likely.

Inclusion London said in December that the impact of Brexit on social care recruitment was “potentially disastrous”.


Source: Ministers block release of ‘no deal Brexit’ social care recruitment plans | AccessAble | Carer Voice

EU membership has many benefits, but economic growth is not one of them – new findings : The Conversation

From Winston Churchill in the 1940s to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in our era, peace and prosperity have always been put forward as the two main goals of European integration. The EU founding fathers saw the European project as a way of taming nationalist passions by serving mutual commercial interests: a common political and economic entity that would guarantee both peace and economic progress.

In his famous United States of Europe speech in Zürich on September 19, 1946, Churchill argued that “the sovereign remedy” to the plight of post-war Europe was “to recreate the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety, and in freedom”.


Source: EU membership has many benefits, but economic growth is not one of them – new findings : The Conversation

This ‘king’ once ruled the green, lush forests of Antarctica | MNN – Mother Nature Network

If you happened to be living on this planet 250 million years ago, you probably wanted to spend your vacations in Antarctica.

Scientists paint a vivid picture of the tropical paradise that the frozen continent once was — and perhaps what the continent will be like again: verdant grasslands, gushing rivers and forests as far as the eye could see.

Warm, wet and only rarely below freezing, the South Pole was fit for a king. Namely, the Antarctic king.

That’s how researchers at the Field Museum are describing a newly discovered reptile that once prowled those lush lands.

Scientifically dubbed Antarctanax shackletoni — a combination of “Antarctic king” and the name of intrepid explorer Ernest Shackleton — this lizard probably didn’t come off as particularly stately. At least in size.

Its dimensions, based on an incomplete fossil skeleton found this week, put it somewhere in the neighborhood of a modern-day iguana.

“This new animal was an archosaur, an early relative of crocodiles and dinosaurs,” Field Museum researcher Brandon Peecook notes in a press release. “On its own, it just looks a little like a lizard, but evolutionarily, it’s one of the first members of that big group. It tells us how dinosaurs and their closest relatives evolved and spread.”

And despite its humdrum appearance, Antarctanax lived in strange times indeed, according to the study published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Hints of a unique ecosystem


Source: This ‘king’ once ruled the green, lush forests of Antarctica | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Chinese scientist criticised for risking ‘gene-edited’ babies’ lives : Reuters

Robin Lovell-Badge, organiser of the November 2018 event where China’s He Jiankui made his controversial presentation, described him as a rich man with a “huge ego” who “wanted to do something he thinks will change the world”.

He Jiankui, associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, sparked an international scientific and ethical row when he said he had used a technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born in November.

He did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Chinese authorities are investigating him and have meanwhile halted this kind of research.

In videos posted online and at the conference, He said he believed his gene editing would help protect the girls from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Lovell-Badge, a professor and gene expert at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute who led the organising committee for the November Human Genome Editing Summit at Hong Kong University, said it was impossible to know what He had actually done.

“If it’s true (that he edited the genomes in the way he says) then it is certainly possible that he has put the children’s lives at risk,” he told journalists in London.

“No-one knows what these mutations will do.”


Source: Chinese scientist criticised for risking ‘gene-edited’ babies’ lives : Reuters

Climate change may be dissolving the ocean floor. Here’s why we should be worried. : NBC News

From heat waves to severe storms and wildfires, the effects of climate change are visible all around us — and new research suggests that the impact of a warming world extends all the way to the bottom of the ocean.

A study published Oct. 29 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that high levels of carbon dioxide — the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is a key contributor to Earth’s warming climate — have made parts of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean so acidic that the chalky white mineral that makes up the seafloor is dissolving.

No one ventured to the seafloor to conduct the study. Instead, researchers led by Olivier Sulpis, a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, simulated seafloor conditions in a laboratory. The simulations showed that the mineral, a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite, is being replaced by murky brown sediments.


Source: Climate change may be dissolving the ocean floor. Here’s why we should be worried. : NBC News

Donald Trump’s racist obsessions are the real story — not Elizabeth Warren’s heritage |

After years of Donald Trump taunting Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with the racist nickname “Pocahontas” and suggesting, falsely, that she used her family’s claim to have Native American ancestry for a leg up in her law career, the truth is now out: Warren, as her family has long believed, is partly of Native ancestry. A DNA test, analyzed by a Stanford scientist prominent in the field, confirms not just this fact but the Warren family’s timeline, which traced their Native ancestor back to the 1700s.

Now this largely irrelevant question — once again, Warren never used her claim to Native ancestry to influence her career trajectory — should be settled. Maybe the mainstream media can turn its attention to the more important and more interesting story, which is why Trump is so obsessed with this question of Warren’s ancestry in the first place. An overwhelming amount of public information suggests that Trump has an unhealthy obsession with questions of bloodlines, ethnic heritage and genetics. Worse yet, his understanding of these issues appears to be filtered through the lens of eugenics, a pseudo-science with an unsavory history that looks even more troubling in light of Trump’s overt and well-documented racism.

This isn’t even the first time Trump has become fixated on the question of the racial heritage of a major Democratic politician. It was he, after all, who catapulted a fringe conspiracy theory that Barack Obama had somehow faked his birth certificate into the mainstream news cycle, hyping this conspiracy theory not just on Fox News but on NBC and ABC. Obama finally released his long-form birth certificate, settling the issue in the mainstream media — which should have never let Trump play this racist game in the first place — but Trump kept on hyping birtherism, using his Twitter account to repeatedly insinuate that Obama had cheated his way into the White House.

Trump praises first responders after Hurricane Michael


Source: Donald Trump’s racist obsessions are the real story — not Elizabeth Warren’s heritage |

When neglected children become adolescents: Study of children in Romanian orphanages tells cautionary tale about family separation — ScienceDaily

Many migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. border, some of them very young, have landed in shelters where they often experience stress, neglect and minimal social and cognitive stimulation. The latest findings of the long-running Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), involving children in Romanian orphanages tells a cautionary tale about the psychiatric and social risks of long-term deprivation and separation from parents.

BEIP has shown that children reared in very stark institutional settings, with severe social deprivation and neglect, are at risk for cognitive problems, depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But BEIP has also shown that placing children with quality foster families can mitigate some of these effects, if it’s done early.

The latest BEIP study, published this week by JAMA Psychiatry, asked what happens to the mental health of institutionalized children as they transition to adolescence. Outcomes at ages 8, 12 and 16 suggest diverging trajectories between children who remained in institutions versus those randomly chosen for placement with carefully vetted foster families.

Researchers led by Mark Wade, PhD, and Charles Nelson, PhD, of the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, studied 220 children of whom 119 had spent at least some time in institutions. Of the 119, half had been placed in foster care.


Source: When neglected children become adolescents: Study of children in Romanian orphanages tells cautionary tale about family separation — ScienceDaily

Gene-editing technique CRISPR identifies dangerous breast cancer mutations The Conversation

More than 1 million women have had genetic testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes in which mutations can dramatically increase the risk for early onset breast and ovarian cancer. But for many women the test results have been ambiguous. That’s because it’s not clear where certain genetic variations are harmless or cause cancer.

BRCA1 was amongst the first cancer predisposition genes discovered, and it has been studied for over 20 years. The gene produces a protein that repairs DNA damage, which might otherwise lead to the formation of tumors. Since its discovery, researchers and clinicians have identified many genetic variations in BRCA1, but for most of these, we are unable to tell whether they impair function of the gene – raising the risk of cancer – or whether they are perfectly harmless.

Our research team works in the emerging field of genomic medicine, which uses an individual’s genetic information to prescribe care. We recognized that such “variants of uncertain significance” limited the utility of genetic testing and the prospects for genomic medicine. We know that problem is likely to get worse, as the number of uncertain variants in BRCA1 and other “medically actionable” genes is expected to grow exponentially as genetic testing is expanded to entire populations.

In a study, we set out to apply CRISPR genome editing to solve the challenge posed by these variants of uncertain significance. CRISPR has tremendous potential because the technology allows researchers like us to tinker with human genes. CRISPR allows us to make very specific changes, “edits” to our DNA – thus the phrase, “genome editing.”

Although there are many studies that are attempting to use CRISPR to treat disease, it can also be used to introduce specific mutations into human cells that grow in a dish, for the purposes of studying what effects these mutations have on the cell – for instance, whether or not they cause a gene to malfunction.

In our study, we used CRISPR genome editing to deliberately engineer some 4,000 different variants of the BRCA1 gene in human cells, nearly all possible variants in the most important regions of this gene. Importantly, the survival of the human cells that we used is dependent on intact function of the BRCA1 gene. As a consequence, the cells containing mutations that disrupted the function of the BRCA1 gene were unable to survive. On the other hand, the cell containing mutations that had no effect on the function of the BRCA1 gene were just fine. Using DNA sequencing, we tracked which mutations were associated with cell death versus cell survival.

When we compared the mutations that caused cell death to variants that are known to increase cancer risk, we noticed that they were the same. This gave us the confidence to say that the behavior of these variants in the cells in the dish was predictive of cancer risk in humans.


Source: Gene-editing technique CRISPR identifies dangerous breast cancer mutations : The Conversation

Autism prognosis: Parental genes ‘incredibly useful’ : Medical News Today

While one main risk gene may make an individual susceptible to autism or another neurodevelopmental disorder, it is the whole collection of associated changes in their DNA that decides whether they develop it and how severe it becomes.

This was the conclusion that researchers arrived at after analyzing developmental, cognitive, and genome sequencing data of hundreds of people with known risk genes together with that of their parents and siblings.

They suggest that their findings explain why two people carrying the same risk gene, also known as the “primary mutation,” can have very different symptoms of the associated neurodevelopmental disorder.

“For example,” says senior study author Santhosh Girirajan, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, “when a parent and child have the same primary mutation but only the child develops the disorder.”

He explains that when diagnosing a disorder such as autism, the focus on finding the cause tends to be on identifying the “one primary mutation.”

However, this approach does not explain why many people with the same primary mutation can have widely different symptoms.


Source: Autism prognosis: Parental genes ‘incredibly useful’ : Medical News Today

Human evolution: secrets of early ancestors could be unlocked by African rainforests : The Conversation 

Think of rainforests and the picture is inevitably one of a dark and forbidding realm where life is abundant, yet alarmingly cryptic. Rather than the sense of space offered by long, iconic grassland vistas, distance is compressed into tangled webs of foliage, veiling both predators and prey. Diffuse and difficult to access proteins, carbohydrates and fats increase the chances of encountering an array of lurking dangers. For these reasons, it has long been thought that humans were only able to colonise rainforests in the last few thousand years, after the development of agriculture.

In fact, we still have no clear idea when humans first began to inhabit rainforests. But mounting evidence is deconstructing the idea that rainforests – that is, forests requiring between 2,500 and 4,500 mm of rain a year – were hostile “green deserts” to early hunter gatherers.

In South Asia, there is now compelling archaeological evidence that Homo sapiens rapidly adapted to life in rainforests. At Niah Cave in Borneo, toxic plants obtained from nearby rainforest habitats were being processed as far back as 45,000 years ago, soon after people were first documented in this region. In Sri Lanka, there is evidence for direct reliance on rainforest resources at least 36,000 years ago. And a paperpublished in Nature last year reported the presence of humans in a rainforest environment on Sumatra dating back to a staggering 70,000 years ago.


Source: Human evolution: secrets of early ancestors could be unlocked by African rainforests : The Conversation