Category Archives: Off Topic

Articles that don’t fall into any particular category

Ebola virus vaccine to be tested in UK #Ebola #EbolaVaccineTrials #GlaxoSmithKline

CHRIS HIGGINS.Scientist takes blood out test tube in laboratory test of Ebola Zaire virus. luchschen / ShutterstockScientist takes blood out test tube in laboratory test of Ebola Zaire virus. luchschen / Shutterstock

Human trials of an Ebola vaccine are set to begin in Britain within a few weeks, with the number of potential cases projected to reach 20,000 during this outbreak.

The drug, currently awaiting ethical approval, is to be developed by GlaxoSmithKline and tested here and in the US on volunteers before being offered to high risk communities in West Africa. Alongside the newly projected impact of the contagious disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the current death toll stands at 1,552 with more than 3,000 confirmed cases across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

The vaccine tests are to be carried out here on 60 volunteers in an unaffected population — to rule out interactions with the virus — before being administered to 80 more volunteers in The Gambia and Mali. During the testing phase, GSK will also begin manufacturing 10,000 vials of the vaccine ready to distribute in affected areas from mid-September should the tests prove successful.

This experimental vaccine — developed by immunologists at the University of Oxford — is based on a strain of Chimpanzee cold virus, containing no active Ebola virus material, so the risk of an accidentally apocalyptic outbreak is relatively low. The drug is manufactured by splicing two Ebola Zaire genes responsible for producing surface proteins into the cold virus to prompt an immune response against the currently circulating Ebola outbreak. The surface proteins on their own are inert, simply a fingerprint to recognise the virus, meaning the body will retain defensive knowledge against the real deal if it ever tries to invade.

As such, vaccines are a form of pre-emptive innoculation for the uninfected, however with careful implementation, they can help slow down, curb or even halt the spread of an ongoing epidemic. That said, this is not a cure, and there is no known one for Ebola Zaire. This advancement won’t impact patients such as 29-year-old Will Pooley, the British volunteer nurse recovering in the Royal Free Hospital in North London after contracting Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.

Wired UK.

Over a Quarter of a million #students descend on #Germany each year

By Inês 300,000 students making their way to Germany

Most of the incoming 300,000 students prefer not to leave the country once they have finished their studies. For Education Minister Johanna Wanka the reality in Germany is certainly “better than the reputation”.

Germany is becoming more attractive to foreign students, with nowadays more than 300,000 of the 2.6 million students in Germany hailing from other countries. No tuition fees, more job opportunities and technological development are the main reasons for the increasing number of foreign students in the country, according to Education Minister Johanna Wanka.

There are already in place some measures to ensure Germany continues to be a favourite destination for students from all over the world. Wanka explains the German Ministry of Education is implementing an “Africa-strategy” to attract more african students (which represent only 10% of the incomers). A greater number of classes taught in english is also being offered in most german Universities to ensure foreign students choose Germany as the place for their studies.

More than 1,000 master degree courses in English are already being offered at German universities. However studies show that many of these young foreigners are not only keen on studying in Germany, but also on learning the German language. Quite often, it seems, English gives them an entry to Germany, but after a while they show an interest in German. Both the universities and the Goethe-Institut offer a wide range of German courses.

Wanka describes academia as an international pursuit. “There isn’t a single academic field that can afford to seal itself off and exist autonomously in one country. That’s why we cannot do without international networking and cooperation. Besides, spending some time abroad strengthens the students’ intercultural and linguistic skills, which will help them during their professional careers. A small country such as Germany is particularly dependent on international networking, which means both getting involved in other countries, and getting more people worldwide to develop an interest in Germany so that they will stay with us at least for some time.”

(Ines is a recent journalism Graduate from the University of Coimbra (Portugal). She also has a Graduate Degree in Journalism from ISCTE-IUL – Lisbon, Portugal

The Munich Eye.

#Öland excavations: Gold coin may be key to solve #Sweden’s ‘#Pompeii’

Photo: Museiarkeologi sydostPhoto: Museiarkeologi sydost
Swedish archaeologists found a rare and valuable golden coin from ancient Rome on Monday. And they think it may explain a key part of the Sweden’s history.

Archaeologists found the coin on Monday at a site on the island of Öland that’s been compared to Italy’s Pompeii.

A small team of archaeologists at Kalmar County museum, in collaboration with Lund University, has been digging at the site for the past three years. The team is studying the Migration Period in Scandinavian history, from about 400 to 550 A.D., 400 years before the Viking Age.

While the team has found several hundred of the coin already, Monday’s discovery was a big one, said archaeologist and project manager Helena Victor.

“This is the first one found in an archaeological context,” she told The Local. “Normally we find them while we’re plowing the field. But we found this one inside a house where we found people who’d been killed.”

The object, a small golden coin also known as a solidus, is from the Roman Empire and may be an important puzzle piece in mapping the island’s history.

“We think it may have been the reason for the massacre at the Sandby Borg fort. And this is the only coin that wasn’t taken,” she explained.

“We found it on the edge of a posthole in the house. So maybe the robbers came to take the treasure there, and maybe they ripped the bag and one coin fell down into the posthole in the floor, and there it remained.”

While Victor refused to put a price value on the coin, she said it was maybe equivalent to a new Volvo car. The soldiers in the Roman Empire, she explained, earned approximately five if the coins per year, and likely worked for a few years and then brought their riches home.

“I think that the money was a good excuse to end a feud. So there was probably a feud, this was a very strong statement, not just a normal robbery- an excruciatingly evil statement to kill these people and just leave them,” Victor explained.

“It was truly shameful. So to make a real statement you forbid them to burn the bodies. There are still memories 1,500 years later of these events, it’s a dangerous place. Parents tell their children that they can’t play there because it’s a dangerous place. They don’t remember the history but they remember it’s dangerous.”

The coin will go on display at the Kalmar museum this autumn together with other finds from the area.

The find is the latest in a long line of archaeological discoveries in Sweden. Within the last year, a secret hoard of gold figures and Viking coins from the Iron Age was uncovered in southern Sweden, a 16th-century kitchen was dug up in central Stockholm, and Swedish divers unearthed Stone Age ‘Atlantis’ relics in the Baltic Sea.

Solveig Rundquist/Oliver Gee

The Local.

#Ukraine’s founding fathers are over 1,000 years old

By Andrea Chalupa.Children carry portraits of Ukrainian heroes, fighters for the freedom of Ukraine since Kievan Rus times (from the 9th to the 13th centuries) to the present day, to commemorate them during annual Heroes Day in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on June 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ YURIY DYACHYSHYN Children carry portraits of Ukrainian heroes, fighters for the freedom of Ukraine since Kievan Rus times (from the 9th to the 13th centuries) to the present day, to commemorate them during annual Heroes Day in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on June 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ YURIY DYACHYSHYN © AFP.

When someone says, well, didn’t Ukraine belong to this empire or that empire, so therefore why should they have their own country? It’s clear this person’s scope of history is limited. Some people tend to think that history began around the time they were born.

They should stop and consider, for instance, that as countries go, America is practically a teenager: it’s only 238 years old. To put that in perspective, the groundbreaking of the Notre Dame was 851 years ago. The world’s oldest city, Jericho, was established around 9,000 BC.

Civilization is believed to be 44,000 years old, and throughout the millennia, every generation, every tribe had their great beauties and their great wits. They’re all dust now, and we will be too someday, and hopefully a thousand years from now pundits won’t forget us. But they may, especially if they have a political or financial agenda.

Kyiv Post.

#Russia Pines for the 19th Century

Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

Speaking at the opening of a World War I memorial in Moscow earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin noted that victory in that war had been stolen from Russia.

Indeed, after the war, Russia stood to get Galicia and parts of eastern Prussia, effectively restoring rule over Poland. Moreover, France and Britain had agreed that Russia should fulfill its age-old imperial ambition by taking over the Bosporus, along with swaths of land on both banks, and gain the biggest prize of all, Tsargrad (Istanbul).

All that evaporated, however, when Lenin declared “peace without annexations” and took Russia out of the war. In his speech, Putin decried the missed territorial gains as a “betrayal of their own national interests” by the Bolsheviks.

But actually, the Bolsheviks did far more damage to Russia’s national interests by taking it out of the modern capitalist system, in which on the eve of World War I Russia had been poised to make significant gains.

In fact, all the preconditions were in place for Russia to overtake the United States and Germany as the world’s largest economy and most prosperous country. By far the largest country in the world, it had just began settling and exploring Siberia with the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Russia was the breadbasket of Europe, and its grain exporters helped develop early hedging instruments on the London financial markets. It had vast natural resources feeding its growing industry in the west of the country and in the Urals. Two of the first 10 recipients of the Nobel Prize for medicine were Russians; no Russian has won it since. Russia’s educational system, put in place under Nicholas I, was excellent, albeit narrowly based. Still, literacy was spreading: It went from 28 percent in 1897 to 40 percent in 1913, with the urban population already mostly literate.

But in the name of progress, the Bolsheviks not only killed off or expelled the best and the brightest from the country, but threw Russia into some kind of a warped version of the past.

They replaced money, the driving force of capitalism, with loyalty to communist ideals, individual initiative with collectivism, competition with rigid planning, information with lies and openness with the Iron Curtain. Elections were faked and general secretaries ruled for life, much like the monarchs of old. As though to underscore the neo-feudal nature of communism, the Soviet Union was stuck with a vast land empire even as other empires crumbled.

By the end of the last century, instead of being the world’s richest nation, as it had looked set to become in 1913, Russia was one of the poorest and least developed in Europe. Finally, communism failed and the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia no doubt would have lost all the territories it could have won in World War I.

In the 1990s, Russia got a chance to rejoin the capitalist system. Instead, sky-high oil prices allowed it to coast without developing modern economic and political institutions. It never really left communism behind and now it is veering back to the past once more. It is pining away for the empire, seizing territory and even, in the words of Duma vice speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, itching to declare Vladimir Putin a kind of emperor.

And so, despite Putin’s praise for pre-Soviet Russia, the country looks set once again to embark on a road to nowhere.

(Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, lives in New York. His detective novel “Murder at the Dacha” was published by Russian Life Books in 2013).

The Moscow Times.