duminică, 20 noiembrie 2016

Trump Victory May Spark East Jerusalem Building Boom

The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States has opened the floodgates for a wave of illegal settlement construction in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality is poised to authorize the creation of thousands of new housing units in territories considered under international law to have been illegally occupied for decades. These include 1,400 new apartments in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, 3,000 in Gilo and 2,600 in the new neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, the Times of Israel reports. 

The 7,000 units had been unofficially frozen for much of the administration of current US President Barack Obama, Chairman of the Jerusalem Municipality Planning and Construction Committee Meir Turgeman said last week, according to the Times of Israel.

"Now that Trump [won], I hope we will put Jerusalem as a priority, I hope we are heading for a fresh start," Turgeman said after the election.

Obama has said that continued settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermines efforts to resolve the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

An official speaking with the country’s Channel 2 station said the country is behaving as though Trump is already in office – despite not knowing what his actual policies will be. Though members of Trump's staff have been accused of anti-Semitism, the Republican is perceived as very friendly to Israel. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his campaign, made a controversial vow to move America’s embassy to Jerusalem, and has generally otherwise indicated rhetorically that his sympathies lie with Israel. 

"There's an unstated understanding between us that whatever we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming months may not always be an option later,” the official said, the Jerusalem post reported. ““Even if [Obama’s] State Department or White House condemns it, it won’t be worth much at this point," the official said. 
"We must send a message to Trump that in Jerusalem, we build," he added.

The US does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and considers building projects there illegal, as does the UN and most international organizations. When Israel’s Interior Ministry first approved funds for building in Ramat Shlomo during the 2010 visit of Vice President Joe Biden to Israel, it opened a rift between the two countries. 

Biden publicly scolded Israel for the decision, saying negotiations required an atmosphere of trust and the decision to continue building undermined it.  An official told the Jerusalem Post that Ramat Shlomo will remain part of Israel under any peace settlement. "Anyone who has been to Ramat Shlomo knows that in any possible peace agreement – even peace plans put forward by the Palestinians – this neighborhood will stay a part of Israel, and in no way does this [construction] hinder the possibility of moving forward in peace," the anonymous official said. Not every political party in the country is excited about the new settlements, of course. Israeli Knesset member Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union called the move "crazy," saying whoever approves it must be "out of his mind," according to the Jerusalem Post.

The Planning and Construction Committee is scheduled to meet to approve the measure next week.

Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week that Israel should look to make a deal with Trump to allow expanded construction in major West Bank settlements while freezing building in some isolated areas of the occupied territory. This would be a break with Obama administration policy and would look more like understandings reached under former President George W. Bush. 

luni, 31 octombrie 2016

Chemical Attack in Syria's Aleppo Leaves 2 Dead, Dozens of Civilians Injured

The attack has killed two Syrian servicemen and left at least 37 civilians injured, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

"On October 30, illegal armed groups fired shells fitted with a poisonous substance against Dahiyat Assad and Hamdaniyah areas of Aleppo city from the territory of 1070 quarters," the ministry said on its website. "Two Syrian military servicemen were killed. Not less than 37 civilians were injured.
A statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry earlier on Monday condemned the attacks, saying "this instance of combat use of chemicals by the terrorists against the civilians is not, unfortunately, an isolated case…

"We strongly condemn the terrorist attack using toxic substances against the civilians in Aleppo."

The leadership of the Syrian Arab Army issued a statement earlier Monday saying that al-Nusra Front killed at least 84 people and injured 280 in Aleppo during the past three days, taking advantage of the ceasefire.

Al-Nusra Front terrorists and some Syrian rebel groups, allied to the group, launched an offensive in Aleppo's south-west on Friday. For more than three days, terrorists have been attacking Syrian Arab Army's units, as well as residential areas in western and central parts of Aleppo.

vineri, 16 septembrie 2016

Charity calls for new breast cancer drug to be given to UK women

Palbociclib may slow progress of disease by 10 months but Breast Cancer Now fears Nice will deem it not cost-effective
A doctor examines mammograms. Breast Cancer Now accused Nice of failing to approve new drugs for the disease. Photograph: Alamy

A breast cancer charity is calling for women in the UK to be given access to a drug that could slow the progress of advanced breast cancer by an extra 10 months compared with current treatment but is not yet licensed in Europe despite being used widely in the US.
Pfizer, the company that makes palbociclib, which is sold under the brand name Ibrance, only applied for a European licence last August, even though it was licensed for sale in the US in February 2015 and has been prescribed for 27,000 women.
But the charity Breast Cancer Now has criticised the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), expressing concern that women in the UK will not get access to palbociclib any time soon – because even if it is granted a licence it may not be judged cost-effective by Nice.
Palbociclib is used in combination with a cheap off-patent aromatase inhibitor drug called letrozole. Results of a trial in 666 women with advanced breast cancer, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, showed the combination increased progression-free survival for a median 24.8 months compared with 14.5 months for letrozole alone.
That may mean women live longer, but there is not yet data to prove it.
However, Breast Cancer Now said it was important for women in the UK to be able to take a drug that could allow them a respite of extra months without their disease progressing. “We’re really concerned about this getting through the Nice appraisal system because what we’ve seen over the last seven years is that new breast cancer drugs are just not getting through the process,” said the charity’s chief executive, Lady Delyth Morgan.
“We’re really concerned that we have this promising new first-in-class drug [one that works in a new way] and yet the anxiety is that it won’t get through to the women who could benefit. That is the majority of women with advanced breast cancer.
“This is a really significant step forward in the management of advanced breast cancer. It could mean seeing the birth of your grandchild, being around long enough to see your children graduate. We’re talking about an average of 10 months but it could be more.”
 Pfizer, the manufacturer of palbociclib, only applied for a European licence for it last August. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters
There are side-effects with palbociclib, including a possible drop in white blood cells, which Morgan said “will need to be carefully managed”.
She claimed Nice was not approving new breast cancer drugs. “Despite it being approved and even fast-tracked by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] for use in the United States, this drug will face a number of hurdles in the UK,” she said. “We haven’t seen a single example of the current Nice appraisal system working for new breast cancer drugs in the last seven years and, without reform, we’re not any more optimistic for palbociclib.”
She said Nice would compare the new drug to letrozole used on its own, which is the current standard treatment for advanced oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer – the commonest kind. Letrozole can now be made by any generic drug manufacturer. “It would be near impossible for this new patented drug to show it can be cost-effective,” said Morgan.
A Nice spokesperson said: “Nice understands and supports the ambition that patients and charities have for access to effective cancer medicines.

“Our approach to assessing the value of new cancer drugs has been reviewed on a regular basis since we were set up in 1999 and is already more generous than for other conditions. An appraisal for palbociclib for metastatic breast cancer is proposed, and if this goes ahead it won’t be possible to pre-judge the outcome.
“From April 2016, Nice committees have been able to recommend drugs for use in the Cancer Drugs Fund. We want to ensure the NHS introduces the best of the new innovative cancer treatments while managing its resources carefully. If palbociclib is put forward for the Cancer Drugs Fund then the drug can be considered in this context.”
The first hurdle for the drug, however, is obtaining a licence in Europe, for which Pfizer applied to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) last summer.
A spokeswoman for Pfizer said: “I can confirm the application was validated by the EMA in August 2015. We have previously communicated that we anticipate approval towards the end of 2016.”
Some criticise the EMA for being slower to process licensing applications than the FDA. Dr Harold Burstein, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said EU bureaucracy was holding up access to promising drugs. “The FDA has been able to move drugs into the marketplace more quickly. They seem more willing to to act on dramatic results shown in small numbers of patients,” he said.
“I don’t think the EMA is any more rigorous, it’s the levels of committees and discussions that go on with their processes.” 
The EMA said in a statement that the task of processing the drug application was taking the normal time, a maximum of 210 days, but that “in the course of the assessment, concerns may be identified with the application that require further information or clarification from the company. In such a case, the clock is stopped to give the company time to reply to the agency.”
In December, the EMA sent Pfizer a list of questions and in February Pfizer asked for more time to answer them. “Since then, the company has submitted additional information and consequently, EMA has restarted the clock for evaluation,” it said.

Majority of those with common cancer types 'can expect to live for 10 years'

Those who develop skin, breast and prostate cancers most likely to survive 10 years after diagnosis, official estimates reveal
More than four in five women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to survive for 10 years, while only 5.7% of those with pancreatic cancer will live that long. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Large majorities of people diagnosed with some of the most common cancers can now expect to live for at least 10 years, according to the latest estimates drawn up by government statisticians.
Those who develop skin cancer are the most likely to still be alive a decade after their diagnosis, with 89.4% of sufferers able to expect this lifespan, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
More than four in five (80.6%) women diagnosed with breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in females, should also survive for 10 years, given the gradual upward trend in survival, the ONS said.
Anticipated 10-year survival is almost as high for those with prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men. As many as 79.9% of those diagnosed with it can expect to still be alive after such a period.
Only 5.7% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will live that long, as will jonly 9.8% of people who develop lung cancer and 11.9% of those with brain cancer.
The figures are part of calculations the ONS made for the first time that project how many people diagnosed with certain forms of cancer in 2015 are expected to survive for a decade. They estimate future survival rather than capturing the number of years cancer patients have already lived since diagnosis. They are based on all those diagnosed with the disease regardless of at what stage their cancer was identified.
The figures come as evidence continues to suggest that new drugs, better treatments and earlier diagnosis of the disease are helping to sustain the gradual increase in survival of some, but not other, cancer types. For example, 96.4% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009-13 lived for at least a year, while 86.7% survived for five years – the largest numbers on record.
For men, survival rates at one year and five years are highest for those with testicular cancer. Women diagnosed with melanoma of the skin have the best chance of the same highest one-year and five-year outcomes.
“Cancer survival is improving and has doubled over the last 40 years. For a number of cancers, including breast and skin cancer, more than eight out of 10 people will survive their disease,” said Rebecca Smittenaar, Cancer Research UK’s statistics manager. “Research has led to better treatments, new drugs, more accurate tests, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes, giving patients a better chance of survival,” she added.
For example, one-year survival for breast cancer has crept up from 95% for those diagnosed in 2007-11 to 96.4% of those who developed it in 2009-13, while five-year survival rose over the same period from 85% to 86.7%.
But Cancer Research UK is concerned that survival remains stubbornly low for some cancers, including lung, pancreatic and oesophageal forms of the disease and brain tumours. That is mainly because they are often diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective, experts say.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Surviving is not necessarily the same as living well, and too many people with cancer miss out on the support they badly need once treatment has finished.
“While today’s figures are to be celebrated, they should also act as a warning that as the number of long-term survivors increases, we will need a health service that is able to cope with this increasingly complex situation.”
David Crosby, director of services and engagement at Breast Cancer Care, said: “These extra years of life mean more precious time with loved ones, as well as the ability to continue to work and contribute to society.
“However, readjusting to life after the rollercoaster of breast cancer treatment can be the most traumatic time, for some even harder than the diagnosis itself. They may be struggling with body image or learning to cope with long-term effects of treatment, such as fatigue or painful joints, and living every day with the fear of the cancer returning or spreading.”

miercuri, 7 septembrie 2016

New grammar schools are needed to stop rich families dominating best state schools through 'selection by house price', says Theresa May

Britain's education system already has “selection by house price”, Theresa May said on Wednesday night as she defended her plans to lift the ban on new grammar schools. 
The Prime Minister said she wanted to create a “21st century education system” with an “element of selection” as she spoke on the plans for the first time since The Telegraph disclosed she backed new selective schools. 
In the first major policy announcement of her premiership, she told the backbench 1922 committee of Conservative MPs that her plan would stop the best state schools becoming the preserve of wealthy families who are buying homes in the catchment area. 
According to sources at the meeting, she answered critics by saying: “We have already got selection haven’t we – it’s called 'selection by house price’.”
.Mrs May’s commitment to creating new grammar schools and expanding existing selective schools was confirmed on Tuesday in a leaked document. She is now expected to announce plans to end the ban on new grammar schools, which was introduced by Tony Blair in 1998. 
She will publish a green paper and give a major speech after telling MPs last night that she wants a new generation of grammar schools to be “inclusive and not exclusive”. 
Mrs May said she wanted an education system that “catered for the different needs of all children” and indicated that grammar schools have a role to play. She suggested that some of the Government’s 500 new free schools, announced by David Cameron shortly before he stepped down, could be grammars. “She said she didn’t want a situation where parents wanted a selective school only to be told they couldn’t have one,” a source at the meeting said. 
Mrs May pointed out that, under David Cameron, 1.4 million children were now in good or outstanding schools. But she said “there are still far too many who are missing out on quality education – it is all about access to opportunity”. 
Her comments were met with cheers by Conservative MPs who were buoyed by a strong performance earlier against Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, at Prime Minister’s Questions.

On Wednesday, ministers suggested that in future entry exams for grammar schools will be “tutor-proofed” to ensure that children from all backgrounds can get in. 
Lord Nash, an education minister, said that the Government is working with the Grammar Schools Association to ensure that tests are “less susceptible to coaching”. He said that 66 grammar schools already now prioritise free school meal applications. 
The Telegraph understands that ministers are making the 11-plus similar to IQ-tests, with a strong-emphasis on reasoning. 
Lord Nash said there is “no proof” to support claims by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the outgoing head of Ofsted, that poor children will not benefit from a return of grammar schools. “I’m a great fan of Sir Michael,” he said. “He is absolutely right to pinpoint the great transformation of London schools. There is no clear evidence to support his views but we are keeping an open view. 
“We are aware of the strength of grammar schools. We would like to see more free school meals pupils going to grammar schools.”
       Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed that poor children will not benefit from a return of grammar schools.
He said he is committed to allowing existing grammar schools to expand. “We are particularly interested in encouraging grammar schools to sponsor their feeder primary schools. We feel in this way we can ensure more pupils from less advantaged backgrounds will be able to achieve going to grammar schools.” 
A report this week found that living near a good state school helped to increase house prices by up to 74 per cent compared to other properties nearby. 
Research from Lloyds Bank showed many parents are willing to pay an average of £53,000 extra to secure homes close to schools with the best academic outcomes. Average house prices have now reached £366,744 in the catchment areas surrounding England’s top 30 state schools, compared to a general average of £313,318 elsewhere.
Mrs May’s plans were originally due to be unveiled at next month’s Conservative party conference but have been brought forward after they were leaked this week. 
A Whitehall document photographed in the hands of a civil servant in Downing Street said the Government “will open new grammars” and expand existing selective schools. 
The paper acknowledged that new laws will be required to open grammar schools and warned that the House of Lords may attempt to defeat the plans. 
The document, signed by Jonathan Slater, the permanent secretary of the education department, states: “The co doc (consultation document) says we will open new grammars, albeit that they would have to follow various conditions.”

New video shows working iPhone 7 Plus in the wild

Apple won’t have many surprises left to reveal during its September 7 keynote, based on a new video that appears to show not one but three working iPhone 7 Plus devices ahead of their grand unveiling.
Notorious Apple leaker Sonny Dickson posted a short video of the three plus-size iPhones this morning, confirming many of the rumors that have claimed this year’s update won’t contain any huge design changes..
The back of the iPhone 7 Plus in Dickson’s video reveals that the device will indeed come with a highly anticipated dual-lens camera, though it won’t pick up a Smart Connector on the back (as was shown in some allegedly leaked iPhone bodies).
Other design changes include a new pressure-sensitive Home button and a tweaked antenna design, making it so the back metal plate has fewer bands. A speedy A10 processor, more RAM, waterproofing and dual speakers are also expected to be among the new features.
Apple is expected to open preorders for the device on September 9, with the public launch set for September 23.

Apple Online store is down ahead of today's iPhone 7 event

The Apple Online Store has temporarily gone down in advance of today’s Apple keynote.
When it returns, we’re expecting to see a new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch 2, and potentially more — although you won’t be able to order them right away.
A message on the site reads: “We’ve got something special in store for you. And we can’t wait for you to see it.”
Apple’s September 7 event is set to begin at 10AM Pacific Time. As always, you’ll be able to watch it live on your Mac or iOS device, via Apple’s website, as well as your Apple TV. PC users can tune in via Microsoft’s Edge web browser, so long as they’re running Windows 10.
Of course, make sure you also tune in to Cult of Mac, where we’ll be providing a handy live blog — along with breaking news articles containing everything you need to know coming out of today’s event.
Are you excited? Leave your comments below.