Tag Archives: research

Playing Dr. Frankenstein – not “cutting-edge”!

We don’t need ‘Frankenscience’ to solve the organ shortage

By Dr. Emily Trunnell

In Greek mythology, the sighting of a chimera — a creature composed of parts from more than one animal — was a bad omen.

I think it still is.

Experimenters at the Salk Institute made headlines recently with the publication of a study describing how they grew fetuses that were part pig and part human.

Although these chimeras contained few human cells, the work was widely hailed as a milestone — an initial step toward a far-off day when people in desperate need of transplants can order organs from warehouses in the form of living animals.

Leaving aside for a moment the unique ethical minefield that this line of research creates, let’s look at how patients in need of organs could be helped today, without subjecting intelligent, sensitive pigs to invasive procedures and then killing them — as was the fate of both the fetuses and the surrogate mothers who carried them in the Salk Institute’s experiments.

Just a simple change in law is all that is required. In Belgium, France, Sweden and other countries that have passed presumed consent laws, which presume that people’s organs are available for donation upon their death unless they opt out, or mandated choice laws, which require adults to choose whether or not to donate their organs, the number of organs available for donation has increased dramatically. For instance, since changing its law in the 1970s, France has seen organ donations shoot up by nearly 5,000 percent.

As for the rationale behind the Salk Institute’s study, its senior author is quoted as saying, “[O]rgans developed in petri dishes are not identical to the ones that grow inside a living thing. … What if we let nature do the work for us?”

“Petri dish” hardly does justice to the recent advances in sophisticated 3-D bioprinting that now allow scientists to grow human tissue in a highly controlled manner, with more precision and consistency than is possible in chimera experiments, in which tissue develops in live animals.

The same can be said of 3-D organs-on-chips, a technology that is not only providing insights into diseases — another justification given for chimera work — but also offering the potential for personalized medicine when, eventually, the efficacy of therapies will be able to be tested on a patient’s own cells. If we’re going to invest in long-term research to grow and study human organs, shouldn’t we pursue these pioneering, high-tech methods?

Because of the unique moral dilemma that chimera research presents, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) took the rare step in 2015 of imposing a moratorium on funding studies in which human stem cells are injected into animal embryos. (The Salk Institute experiments were privately funded.) While NIH has indicated that it intends to lift the funding ban in certain circumstances, I hope it will reconsider. Instead, it should support forward-looking, non-animal methods of developing replacement organs and researching disease.

We need to leave behind the ancient world of mythological creatures and embrace the promising, cutting-edge technologies that will alleviate the suffering of both animals and humans.

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And remember! When buying stuff like household cleaners and make-up, have a 💙💜💛❤💞💗💙😍! – always BUY PRODUCTS NOT TESTED ON BUNNIES!

ELF, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Physicians Formula are just a few of the great cosmetic brands that are CRUELTY-FREE. You can buy their fine and beautifully priced products at CVS, WALGREENS or TARGET!

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Rose always buys her cruelty-free mascara, made by Wet ‘n’ Wild, at Walgreens. $3 bucks. pic/text: R.T.

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From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office …

McGovern Announces $836,000 for UMass Medical to Fight Heart Disease

Funds will Support Heart and Vascular Disease Research, push for Cures

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday that UMass Medical School has been awarded $836,858 by the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on treatments and cures for heart and vascular diseases. The new federal funding is awarded through the Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease program, a national HHS effort to invest in medical research at world-class universities like UMass Medical School.

“Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research. This new federal funding for UMass Medical School will help them continue their cutting-edge medical research that will help save lives while supporting economic growth right here in Massachusetts,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful to HHS Secretary Burwell for making this investment in our community and recognizing UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Together we can continue to support this important work to help families in Massachusetts and across the country.”

The grant continues the decades-long work of the Worcester Heart Attack Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s. The community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the Greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Robert Goldberg, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences and founder and principal investigator of the renamed Worcester Heart Attack Study. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?”

The new funding will help Dr. Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients; and patient management.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”

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McGovern, House Democrats Call for White House to Strengthen Safeguards on “Killer Robots”

House Lawmakers Raise Concerns About New Military Technology

Congressman Jim McGovern led a group of House Democrats yesterday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter to push for meaningful human control as a safeguard on lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots – an emerging and concerning military technology.

The letter comes ahead of the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016. The CCW is five-year Review Conference and will focus on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In today’s letter to the Obama Administration, Congressman McGovern and House Democrats write that these weapons “would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.”

Joining Congressman McGovern on yesterday’s letter to the White House were Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The lawmakers expressed their support of “the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more. This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol.”

In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats called on the Obama Administration to take the following actions at the CCW Review Conference next week:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

The Full Text of the Letter to the Obama Administration:

December 8, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of State Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretaries Kerry and Carter,

We are writing with respect to the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016.

The main focus of this five-year Review Conference will be lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots.” The high contracting parties, including the United States, will decide whether to continue discussions on this issue in the CCW, and if so, what the format, content, objective and duration of the talks should be.

We believe that fully autonomous weapons are a matter of vital concern. They would not simply be another weapon in the world’s arsenals, but would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.

We support the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more.

This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol. The CCW has already taken similar action on one weapon, namely preemptively banning blinding laser weapons through its Protocol IV.

We urge that at the CCW Review Conference in December the U.S. delegation take the following actions:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

In closing, we would like to stress that we recognize the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics to the future of the U.S. military, and their central role in the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, but we firmly believe that there must always be meaningful human control over critical combat functions.

Sincerely, …

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Bipartisan McGovern Human Rights Bill Passes Congress

McGovern Bill Will Crack Down on Corruption and Human Rights Abuses Around the World

McGovern Urges Trump to Continue U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern this week applauded Congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bill he co-authored to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses around the world. … Congressman McGovern is one of four co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“America must stand up for human rights at home and abroad. With today’s passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, Republicans and Democrats came together to continue America’s leadership on human rights around the world,” Congressman McGovern said. “This bill will empower the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. I urge President Obama to sign this important bill into law. This is an important step, but there is still much more work ahead.”

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights’ and that should concern all of us. President-elect Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and other world leaders guilty of brutal crackdowns on dissidents. Since his election, President-elect Trump has continued to raise red flags about his approach to political opponents. … Americans need a leader who will stand up for the freedoms our country was founded on and I hope President-elect Trump proves his critics wrong and uses the new tools in this bill to bring the leadership we need on human rights.”

The Global Magnitsky Act allows the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. It also directs the president to consider information from NGOs when determining who to sanction. Members of Congress and certain assistant secretaries of state may also recommend names for sanction. The president is required to make public the names of individuals being targeted.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations.

 

ACE and Jim parked in AI

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Congressman Jim McGovern Applauds $317 Million New Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Institute

New Institute Includes UMass Amherst, Quinsigamond Community College

Congressman Jim McGovern applauded last week’s announcement that Massachusetts has been selected by the Department of Defense to host a $317 million public-private research partnership called the Revolutionary Fiber and Textile Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The Institute will be based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with participation from UMass Amherst, Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester
, and a total of 89 manufacturers, universities, and non-profits.

“Massachusetts has long been a leader in innovation, and this public-private partnership will continue that tradition. Powering the 21st century economy starts with strong investments in the technology of tomorrow and this will ensure that Massachusetts continues to be on the front lines, as we write the next chapter in fiber science,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am proud that UMass Amherst and Quinsigamond Community College will be part of this exciting manufacturing partnership. I thank Secretary Carter for recognizing the incredible work of our Massachusetts schools and look forward to all we will achieve through this partnership.”

UMass Amherst will be committing $1 million to the initiative and will focus on research in polymer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering and computer science. UMass Amherst projects in the initiative will include fiber-integrated sensors, energy generation and storage systems, thermal camouflage and other areas. Quinsigamond Community College will support the education and training of a skilled workers in advanced textiles manufacturing.

“We look forward to accelerating the fiber and textile manufacturing workforce in the US, and across Massachusetts,” Dr. Gail Carberry, QCC President stated. QCC will help develop a national community college network and co-develop industry recognized curriculum modules for accelerated, stackable certificates based on local fiber and textile industry demands to crate career pathways through 2-year colleges and beyond. “This Advanced Manufacturing Institute allows us to leverage the significant State and industry investment for QCC’s Innovative Technology Acceleration Center (ITAC) in Southbridge,” Dr. Carberry added.

The institute will bring together nontraditional partners to integrate fibers and yarns with integrated circuits, LEDs, solar cells, and other capabilities to create textiles and fabrics that can see, hear, sense, communicate, store energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, change color, and more.

For example, the institute will pair the likes of leading audio equipment maker Bose, computer chip maker Intel, and nanofiber manufacturer FibeRio with textile manufacturers and textile users like Warwick Mills, Buhler Yarns, and New Balance. In doing so, the institute will accelerate technology transfer to enable revolutionary defense and commercial applications such as shelters with power generation and storage capacity built into the fabric, ultra-efficient, energy-saving filters for vehicles, and uniforms that can regulate temperature and detect threats like chemical and radioactive elements in order to warn warfighters and first responders. The combination of novel properties such as exceptional strength, flame resistance, reduced weight and electrical conductivity through this institute will lead to significant advancements in this industry.

I love my alma mater!

Go, UMass Amherst, go!!!   – R.T.

From Jim McGovern’s office:

McGovern Applauds UMass Amherst Award to Lead Major Federal Initiative in New England to Boost Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has named the University of Massachusetts Amherst as the lead institution in New England for its national Flexible-Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a $75 million federal initiative to create a competitive, effective and sustainable research-to-manufacturing collaboration between U.S. industry and academia to solve problems in advanced manufacturing.

“With this award, UMass Amherst is once again showing why it is a national leader in the cutting-edge research that will power the 21st century economy,” Congressman McGovern said. “Advanced manufacturing has seen tremendous growth in recent years and Massachusetts is well-positioned to seize this moment. Supporting strong public-private partnerships like this are key to creating the good-paying jobs Massachusetts families need. I am grateful to work side by side with such strong partners at the local, state and federal level to recognize the incredible work of UMass Amherst and other Massachusetts schools and look forward to seeing all that they will accomplish with this exciting opportunity.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts played a major role in the successful proposal, pledging matching capital funds to support specific projects as they earn federal monies. UMass officials estimate first-year federal funding to be about $5 million, with a total of $40 million to $50 million invested in the project’s New England node from combined federal, state and private sources over five years. UMass Amherst will anchor the regional initiative, joined by academic partners MIT, UMass Lowell, Harvard and Northeastern University and partners in private industry.

Joining Congressman McGovern in celebrating the funding for UMass Amherst and other Massachusetts schools were Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, and UMass President Marty Meehan.

“Leveraging Massachusetts’ incredible research universities to produce revolutionary flexible manufacturing breakthroughs will help provide cutting-edge technology for our troops, and a foundation for advanced manufacturing growth in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “This partnership showcases the strength of our manufacturing sector, the unique assets at UMass Amherst, and the depth of expertise in our world-class educational institutions. I look forward to working with UMass, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, and the Department of Defense as we continue to push the limits of technology, and build a platform for economic growth across the Commonwealth.”

“The flexible hybrid electronics grant award to UMass Amherst illustrates that the university is a national leader in research, innovation and technology,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. “With this additional funding UMass Amherst will continue developing technologies and products, through public-private partnerships, that will grow advanced manufacturing in Massachusetts, build upon the success of our life sciences industry, and move our economy forward. Congratulations to the university on winning this very competitive grant.”

“The federal government’s choice of UMass Amherst to lead this cutting-edge research initiative is due in large part to the vision of Governor Charlie Baker and his administration, the leadership of Senate President Stan Rosenberg and our friends in the state Legislature, and the support of Congressman Jim McGovern and the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation,” said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “The flagship campus, through the power of our research, is committed to partnering with the state and with private industry to address the Commonwealth’s critical needs. Today’s announcement will lead to breakthroughs in advanced manufacturing that will expand the boundaries of the our state’s innovation economy and benefit all of the citizens of Massachusetts.”

UMass President Marty Meehan said, “The selection of UMass Amherst to lead New England’s R&D effort in this emerging field of technology demonstrates the university’s national prominence and its importance as a catalyst for the state’s future economic growth. The Commonwealth, under Governor Baker’s leadership, played a critical role by making a major investment in this partnership, in a period when securing federal research dollars is increasingly competitive. This historic success demonstrates what’s possible when our public and private universities, state government and private industry combine their talents and resources in a partnership to help create new economic opportunities for our citizens..”

The new electronics being created in this partnership take tasks now performed by more expensive, rigid devices based on silicon-based semi-conductor chips found in computers and other devices and over time replaces them with less expensive components including sensors printed on a thin ribbon of plastic in a roll-to-roll manufacturing facility like the one at UMass Amherst.

Thus a skin patch could continuously sense the health of a wearer including monitoring glucose levels or biomarkers for stress, fatigue or disease. Or, another type of sensor could monitor a mechanical component such as a rotor blade or bridge support and communicate its status in real time. Researchers say the range of applications is very broad for high-performance devices on flexible patches, fabrics and films.
UMass Amherst’s contribution will include new processes and materials and a unique roll-to-roll manufacturing research and demonstration facility featuring state-of-the-art technology and new, emerging processes that will enable future generations of printed and hybrid devices. The hybrid devices, which will include both printed and silicon chip-based components, provide a bridge between today’s technology and fully printed devices.

This will be part of the New England Node of DOD’s Flex-Hybrid National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Institute. The NNMI program was launched after President Barack Obama signed the Revitalize American Manufacturing Act in December 2014. The institute’s hub, or headquarters, will be in Silicon Valley, California, home of the Flex Tech Alliance, the nation’s leading flexible electronics industry trade group and UMass Amherst’s partner in bidding for the DOD award.

It’s time for laboratories to get out of the monkey business

By Dr. Alka Chandna

In 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made the historic decision to retire the majority of federally owned chimpanzees from use in experiments. While this was a monumental victory for chimpanzees, there are still 110,000 monkeys and other primates imprisoned in U.S. laboratories.

A new PETA eyewitness investigation at a company in Florida that sells monkeys to laboratories is shining a spotlight on the need for urgent action for these animals as well.

For eight months, a witness worked at Florida-based Primate Products, Inc. (PPI), a notorious primate dealer that imports hundreds of monkeys each year and warehouses and then sells them to laboratories. PPI has been awarded federal contracts worth more than $13 million—including by NIH, the Army and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PPI also sends monkeys to universities and contract testing conglomerates across the country

The witness documented that some monkeys with painful injuries, including exposed bones, were left to suffer without adequate veterinary care for days. One monkey was denied adequate medical treatment for an exposed vertebra in her tail for at least a week, despite the fact that the witness had notified a supervisor, a PPI manager and another worker repeatedly about the injury.

Many monkeys were confined to virtually barren concrete pens littered with feces and old food with other stressed and apparently incompatible monkeys, sometimes for months at a time. While monkeys, like humans, are highly social animals, the severe psychological stress of being imprisoned in a small space with strangers and given virtually nothing to do probably contributed to fights among the animals. With no escape, subordinate monkeys lived in constant fear of attack by aggressive monkeys as well as by their human captors.

One monkey, named Loretta by the witness, was left penned with the very monkeys who had injured and apparently terrified her for more than 22 weeks, despite at least 23 written and verbal reports to PPI staff that she was being attacked and appeared to be afraid of the other monkeys. Loretta’s face was frequently lacerated, and she had extensive hair loss. Another monkey, whom the witness named Sweet P, was forced to live for more than two weeks with monkeys who had attacked her. She was finally moved but was then kept isolated in a barren metal cage for 20 days—during which time PPI’s behaviorist admitted to having forgotten about her.

Monkeys were also terrorized by PPI workers who chased them and grabbed them by their sensitive tails. Workers aggressively swung nets at them, yanked them off the fences that they desperately clung to and even hurled them into nets.

Other monkeys were confined all alone to tiny, bleak metal cages. Locked in isolation and denied suitable companionship, which is crucial to their mental and physical health—just as it is to ours—some of these psychologically distressed monkeys rocked back and forth and paced in circles, likely signs of intense boredom and distress.

Though temperatures dipped to as low as 35°F, most monkeys kept outside were denied heat throughout the winter, leading to frostbite and apparently even the death of at least one monkey in an outdoor enclosure.

In 2014 alone, PPI imported 1,000 monkeys from Asia and Africa—63 percent of whom, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents, were taken from their families and homes in the wild.

These animals are eventually trucked to government agencies, universities and contract testing laboratories, including facilities that blast monkeys with radiation, drill into their skulls, test sexual lubricants on their rectums and intentionally infect them with an HIV-like virus that causes crippling AIDS-like symptoms, even though every single HIV vaccine developed using monkeys has failed in humans.

Recognizing this chain of abuse, nearly every major airline in the world now refuses to transport monkeys to PPI or any other laboratory or dealer.

PETA is working toward a day when every cage in every laboratory is empty. Readers can make a difference by urging their members of Congress to push the National Institutes of Health to fund more modern and superior non-animal research instead of cruel and ineffective experiments on monkeys and other animals.

The City of Worcester and Ebola awareness

The City of Worcester, in collaboration with the Liberian Association of Worcester County and UMass Memorial Global Health Department, is hosting a fundraiser and Evening of Awareness to support medical and humanitarian aid focusing on the global Ebola response efforts.

The date for this event is November 14 from 6 pm-10 pm at Union Station

Our purpose is to provide more awareness and education to Worcester County on the prevailing epidemic of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia and other west African countries.

We are also aiming to provide background health knowledge from public health professionals on EVD.

The program will also be geared toward providing education on the historical ties between Liberia and the USA.

Partners organizing the event are looking for Worcester-based nonprofit organizations and universities that are active with any social justice or service learning programs in the Ebola affected countries to table at the event in order to raise awareness around the current impact and connections organizations in Worcester have to the outbreak in West Africa.

These tabling organizations will have the opportunity to raise funds for their relevant programming at this event.

The program schedule will be structured as follows:

1.   Pre-event march or gathering before city hall (weather permitting)

2.   Presentation of historical ties between Liberia and the USA

3.   Presentation and testimonials by families affected by EVD

4.   Presentations by medical professionals and organizations working in Liberia to help combat EVD

5.   Cultural display of Liberia

6.   Video Presentation from Liberia/Liberian professionals working in Worcester County

7.   (Tabling throughout the night)

Thank you!!

PETA sues Massachusetts

STATE SUED FOR IDENTITIES OF LABORATORIES IMPORTING MONKEYS FOR EXPERIMENTS

PETA Argues That Massachusetts Is Unlawfully Concealing Which Companies Imported Monkeys Possibly to Be Poisoned, Infected, and Killed

 Boston — PETA filed a lawsuit today in the Suffolk County Superior Court to compel the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) to release information on the companies, universities, and individuals involved in the importation of 141 monkeys into the state in 2013, many of whom were likely headed to laboratories for invasive and painful experiments.

PETA sought this information in February through a Freedom of Information Act request. The DAR withheld the information on documents it released to PETA, and PETA’s lawsuit argues that it failed to provide an adequate justification for doing so. PETA contends that access to information about the origin and destination of these animals is critical because primates in laboratories are sometimes imported to the U.S. unlawfully, can carry infectious diseases such as herpes or Ebola, or are sometimes supplied by dealers who have violated animal welfare laws. 

“Thousands of monkeys are cut into, sickened, and killed in Massachusetts laboratories each year, and the public has a right to know where these animals came from, where they went, and how they got there,” says PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman. “PETA wants the state of Massachusetts to stop insulating universities, drug companies, animal dealers, and others from much-deserved public scrutiny about the use of monkeys in deadly experiments.”

Each year, thousands of monkeys are taken from the wild or bred on squalid breeding farms in Asia and Africa, crammed into tiny wooden crates, transported on long-haul flights to the U.S., and trucked across the country to laboratories in Massachusetts and elsewhere. In recent studies, monkeys confined to Massachusetts facilities had holes drilled into their skulls, were addicted to cocaine, and were restrained and forced to pull burning-hot metal levers heated to 140 degrees.

According to the most recent federal data available, thousands of primates were confined to Massachusetts laboratories in 2011, including at Boston University, Charles River Laboratories, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During recent inspections, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Massachusetts laboratories for dozens of violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

A copy of PETA’s complaint is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

Cruelty shouldn’t fly

By Michelle Kretzer

 Would you board a flight if you knew that under your feet in the cargo hold, there would be terrified monkeys on their way to a laboratory, where they would be tortured and killed? Few people would. Perhaps that’s why almost every major passenger airline in the world now refuses to accept blood money for shipping primates to their deaths.

 Every major airline, that is, except for one.

 Earlier this year, world-renowned primate expert Dr. Jane Goodall sent a stern e-mail to Air France urging the company to end its part in this cruel trade.

 Dr. Goodall explains that in their natural homes, long-tailed monkeys—the species that Air France ships most often to laboratories—form strong bonds, live in groups of up to 30 individuals and “travel up to a mile a day playing, foraging for food and socializing with one another.” She adds, “Babies are nursed by their mothers until they are more than a year old and females remain in the same social groups for life with their mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins. These social, intelligent primates can live to be more than 30 years old.” But monkeys in laboratories don’t get to experience any of this.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild in Asia and Africa, companies supplying monkeys to laboratories pay trappers to shoot the mothers from trees with dart guns and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are then tossed into bags or cages with little to no food or water and taken to filthy monkey breeding facilities. After the babies are born, they are torn away from their mothers in order to be sold to experimenters in Europe and the U.S.

 Every year, thousands of these monkeys are locked inside tiny crates and loaded into the dark cargo holds of planes for terrifying multistop journeys that can last more than 30 hours.

 Once the monkeys arrive at their final destinations, they are locked inside barren cages all alone and forced to undergo painful, invasive and traumatic experiments. They may be force-fed experimental chemicals, addicted to cocaine, or given infectious diseases such as botulism or bubonic plague, or they may have holes drilled into their skulls. Babies are also torn from their mothers simply for the purpose of studying the harm caused by the resulting psychological distress. Afterward, the monkeys are often killed.

Primates are sensitive, intelligent individuals who belong in the wild with their families. They are not laboratory equipment or cargo.

 After learning from PETA and our affiliates around the globe how primates suffer in experiments and after hearing from outraged customers who demanded that they stop the practice, other major airlines—including Air Canada, American Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa and United Airlines—made the compassionate decision to end their involvement in this dirty business. As a result, imports of primates to U.S. laboratories have dropped by one-third in recent years, and there’s been a 15 percent decrease in the total number of primates imprisoned in these laboratories. This trend must continue.

 You can’t escape your reputation, even at 30,000 feet. It’s time for every airline to refuse to deliver primates to a life of pain and misery inside a laboratory.

Animals in Labs, Part 2

Tax dollars thrown away on pointless animal experiments

By Alisa Mullins

A report issued a couple years ago by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blasted 100 “questionable,” “mismanaged” and “poorly planned” stimulus-funded projects, including an especially pointless and cruel experiment that the report aptly called “Monkeys Getting High for Science.” The study in question was being conducted at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, a Winston Salem, N.C.–based facility that was awarded $71,623 in stimulus funds to feed cocaine to monkeys.

“I think all of [the projects] are waste,” McCain told ABC News. “[S]ome are more egregious than others but all of them are terrible.”

Hooking monkeys on coke definitely falls into the “more egregious” category. Unfortunately, this study is just a drop in the proverbial crack pipe. Wasteful and cruel addiction studies on animals are currently being conducted all over the country—and most are simply slight variations on experiments that have been conducted for years. Often the “results” have been known for years as well. For example, it has already been well established that smoking harms developing human fetuses. But that hasn’t stopped the federal government from funneling more than $10 million to Eliot Spindel of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Spindel impregnates monkeys and then continuously injects them with nicotine to cause damage to their unborn babies’ lungs. The preterm babies are then cut from their mothers’ bodies and killed so that their organs can be cut out and dissected.

Other experiments on animals could easily be conducted on willing human volunteers.

At Yale University, experimenter Marina Picciotto has squandered nearly $10 million in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health for nicotine, amphetamine and cocaine addiction experiments on monkeys, mice and rats. The stated goal of one such experiment was to determine how long one should wait after ingesting nicotine before brain imaging is done.

But rather than using actual human smokers who were enrolled in a clinical study, Picciotto isolated monkeys in cages and fed them nicotine-laced Kool-Aid for eight weeks. One monkey received a dose of nicotine each day that was equal to the amount of nicotine found in 17 packs of cigarettes (far more than even chain-smoking humans consume), and the monkeys had to suffer through the distress and discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.

Some addiction experiments appear to be almost sadistically pointless. At Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, Jack Bergman has conducted federally funded experiments on squirrel monkeys in which they were isolated in steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, strapped in restraint chairs and given electric shocks.

Bergman also wanted to spend another $1.75 million of public money from NASA to blast squirrel monkeys with radiation and then cage them for the rest of their lives to see how it damages their brains and bodies—even though four decades of government-funded radiation experiments on primates have not produced any results that are relevant to humans. A NASA space station engineer who resigned in protest over the experiment says she believes that the agency’s resources would be better spent devising ways to prevent radiation from entering spaceships rather than trying to figure out what to do after it does.

While it is always unethical to confine, poison, mutilate and kill animals for experimentation, it is especially egregious that experimenters are trying to use animals to model addiction, which is in large part caused by social, psychological and even economic factors. Studies on animals can’t resolve these issues.

Furthermore, vast fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals make the results of such experiments difficult if not impossible to extrapolate to humans. Data from mice, rats and monkeys who are trapped in a laboratory and forced into an unnatural and involuntary addiction are of no relevance to humans suffering from drug addictions. Federal tax dollars would be much better spent funding cash-strapped addiction treatment centers and studying drug addictions in humans in a clinical setting rather than torturing animals.

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When ethics and science must not be divided

By Kathy Guillermo

The federal government’s decision late last year to suspend funding for new experiments on chimpanzees, and to re-evaluate all current studies, knocked out a big chunk of the wall that is the species barrier.

Chimpanzees used to be considered “others”—creatures who, despite their human-like qualities, were different enough for experimenters to use in violent and deadly crash tests, to infect with debilitating diseases, and, in a twisted attempt to make them more like us, teach them human sign language. Now the others are us.

The National Institutes of Health based its decision to halt funding for chimpanzee experiments on the conclusions of an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine whose express purpose was to examine the scientific validity of using chimpanzees. The committee was comprised primarily of scientists, including some animal experimenters, and determined that “most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”

But make no mistake: The report and subsequent take-down of the chimpanzee grant gravy train has its roots in compassion.

The question of scientific validity was raised only after the massive outcry over NIH’s decision to return more than 200 retired chimpanzees, many of them elderly, from quasi-retirement in a facility in Alamogordo, N.M., back into prison-like conditions in laboratories for use in infectious disease studies. NIH said they weren’t really retired; they just hadn’t been used for more than 10 years. The contract for their care was nearing its end. Why not just stick them back in isolation cages, infect them with painful, debilitating conditions, stab them with needles, watch their demise and, essentially, use them up until they die?

Because it’s wrong, was the response from the public, animal groups, many scientists and some legislators. Why must these wonderful, sensitive individuals, who have already been subjected to more physical pain and emotional deprivation than any being of any species should have to endure, be returned to the hell they had already miraculously survived? Why must the United States be the only nation on the entire globe, with the exception of tiny Gabon, still to use chimpanzees as though nothing about them mattered but their perceived usefulness as tools?

Last New Year’s Eve, in the face of this outcry, NIH announced that it was suspending the transfer of the chimpanzees (though tragically, at least 14 had already been sent to a laboratory) and had asked the Institute of Medicine to investigate the importance or lack thereof of chimpanzees to research. The committee stated that it would not deal with the ethics of the issue.

But here’s the elephant in the living room: The question was only asked because so many people, indeed so many nations, believe it is unethical to experiment on chimpanzees.

While the committee found that nearly every use of chimpanzees in laboratories today is scientifically unjustifiable, the immorality of the practice was the subtext. At the briefing during which the Institute of Medicine announced its findings, the committee chair bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University, even stated, “We understand and feel compelled by the moral cost of using chimpanzees in research.”

Chimpanzees are so like us that most people cannot ignore their desire to be free from subjugation.

Like the Berlin Wall, the barriers that separate humans from all the other species, including those who don’t look like us at all, will crumble. Perhaps one day, and I hope not too far from now, the cages and other implements of animal experimentation will, like the Wall that once separated one group of nations from another, be found only in the Smithsonian and other museums.

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University laboratories failing the ‘3 R’s’

By Dr. Alka Chandna

Most of us find it uncomfortable to think about a defenseless animal imprisoned inside a laboratory cage and used in invasive and ultimately lethal experiments. We hope that laws will protect the animal and that the experimenters will take all measures to minimize the animal’s pain and distress.

But here’s the truth: There is only one law in the U.S.—the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—that provides protection for animals in laboratories. According to multiple federal audits, even this law, which deals mainly with caging and husbandry issues, is not being adequately enforced. Worse, the animals’ last line of defense—oversight committees at laboratories, called “Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees” (IACUCs)—are failing at their jobs as well.

The creation of IACUCs was Congress’ response to massive public outcry over abuse and neglect in laboratories exposed by PETA in the early ’80s. In 1985, Congress amended the AWA to require that every animal facility set up a committee to be responsible for ensuring that experimenters search for alternatives to the use of animals and consider alternatives to painful procedures; that discomfort, distress and pain to animals are avoided or minimized; and that experiments are not being unnecessarily duplicated. In essence, IACUCs must ensure that the “3 R’s” of animal experimentation—reduction of numbers of animals used, refinement of procedures to minimize or avoid pain, and replacement of animals with non-animal models—have been considered.

Animals in laboratories endure lives of deprivation, isolation, stress, trauma and depression even before they are used in any experiment. Implementing the 3 R’s is a minimal provision extended to animals, and IACUCs are legally mandated to ensure that this modicum of humane treatment is applied. But 49 years after the 3 R’s were first articulated in 1959 and 23 years after the implementation of IACUCs, animal experimenters and IACUCs are still failing to take the 3 R’s seriously. Consequently, countless animals have been subjected to unnecessary suffering.

In September 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published a scathing audit report describing a climate in which laboratories view fines for AWA violations as a “cost of conducting business.” The report notes that at almost one-third of facilities, IACUCs failed to ensure that experimenters considered alternatives to painful procedures. The report cites this failure on the part of IACUCs as being the most frequent AWA violation. The report further documents the failure of IACUCs to ensure that animals receive adequate veterinary care and to ensure that unnecessary or repetitive experiments are not performed on animals.

Inspection reports filed by USDA veterinarians and evidence gathered by PETA through whistleblowers and undercover investigations corroborate these concerns. At Columbia University, the IACUC’s failure to adequately review animal experimentation protocols meant that monkeys and dogs in scientifically questionable studies died slowly in their cages without veterinary care.

At Ohio State University, the failure of the IACUC to question the necessity of using dogs to test the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids means that dogs are forced to run on treadmills until they collapse. They are killed and dissected—even though the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for humans are already well documented.

At the University of Connecticut, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Washington and dozens of other universities, experimenters implant coils in monkeys’ eyes and put metal cylinders into holes drilled into the monkeys’ skulls to determine which parts of the brain control eye movement—even though non-invasive techniques can be used on people to obtain human-relevant data.

Each time an IACUC allows a painful procedure when a less painful alternative is available or allows a redundant or useless experiment to proceed, it is not merely an administrative failure but a violation of federal law. Most importantly, these failings mean that animals suffer. There is no excuse for this.

Members of IACUCs should be carefully selected and properly trained to understand their responsibilities under the law and to understand all facets of the 3 R’s. If they don’t perform their responsibilities as they are mandated, they should be held accountable by government agencies and compliance officers at their universities and removed from their positions. Laziness and ignorance have been tolerated for far too long.

Worcester City Clerk David Rushford (hog at the municipal trough) and my Christmas gifts …

By Rosalie Tirella
I could write about how I believe Worcester City Councilors Konnie Lukes and Phil Palmeiri are absolutely RIGHT when they say  City Clerk David Rushford needs to get off the city trough and give up all the dough he is making marrying people, as justice of peace in our City Hall – but I won’t. It’s Christmas. 
But I will say this for now since it will come up for a city council vote soon: If Rushford, who makes over $150,000 between his City Clerk job, his Elections Commission job and his private Justice of the Peace business which he is allowed to run out of City Hall  using City Hall space, time etc ,  wants to do the marrying  job on city time using city resources then he should not be allowed to collect the $60 – $100 fee he charges every time he marries a (1) couple. THAT MONEY SHOULD GO TO THE CITY. IT IS A JOB HE IS PERFORMING IN CITY HALL ON CITY TIME.
Doesn’t the guy make enough money? Hasn’t he hogged three jobs all to himself? Does he need to be the justice of peace from hell? I pity his poor clerks this holiday season. They are working for a prima donna – and can’t utter a peeep.
SO: Let’s take Rushford’s windfall – which Rushford won’t disclose to the public (thousands of dollars) – and use his justice of the peace fees to open up a city branch library or run a program for city kids. We hope Worcester follows Boston, whose city coucilors are also pushing for the same reform, when it comes to keeping the “marrying” fees. Let’s hold our city leaders feet to the fire so they do the right thing.
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Here’s my Christmas gift … I read this in the NYTimes recently.  
 InCity Times has been railing against using chimps for medical experiments (most researchers don’t need them to do their research). We wrote story after story about the issue. And now finally – progress.
 Also,  Congress is moving to ban exotic animals in cirucuses.  California is always ahead of the curve – great op/ed in LA Times:
This is exactly what ICTimes has been pushing for …  for YEARS!
Hooray!
So things like this never happen again: Ringling Bros was fined big time for animal abuse/neglect. One violation: Carting away tiger shit in a wheel barrow and then using the same  wheelbarrow to bring the big cats their food.
Pathetic.