SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Protests outside western Libya's main oil refinery shut down operations for a second day on Monday, causing long queues at petrol stations in the capital Tripoli, a refinery spokesman said.
Essam al-Muntasir of the Zawiya Oil Refining Company said many wounded veterans of the war which ousted Muammar Gaddafi last year were demonstrating in front of the refinery.
"They are not allowing the employees to enter the company and not allowing our tankers to leave," he told Reuters.
"They say they haven't received adequate compensation and feel the government hasn't given them their full rights."
He would not say if the protesters were armed.
A day after a gun battle that wounded five people in central Tripoli, the refinery protest is another reminder of volatile security conditions in Libya, where a weak central government has yet to control militias or meet its people's needs.
In Tripoli, dozens of cars lined up outside petrol stations patiently waiting to fill their tanks.
The Zawiya refinery, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, has a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and provides 40 per cent of western Libya's oil needs, Muntasir said.
He said refinery officials and elders from Zawiya were trying to resolve the dispute without resorting to police.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Overuse of common painkillers could be the reason nearly a million people in the UK have headaches, according to the health watchdog.
The warning comes from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), an "arms length" body funded by the government, as it releases its first guideline for doctors in England and Wales on diagnosing and managing headaches in young people and adults.
The watchdog was given the task in 2009, since when it has been conducting a review and consultation.
The NICE panel that carried out the review says "medication overuse headaches" can come from taking aspirin, paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen) on more than 15 days a month, or opioids, ergots, triptans (a group of specific anti-migraine medicines), or combination analgesic medications on at least 10 days per month.
Professor Martin Underwood, of Warwick Medical School, led the panel. He says people can end up in a "vicious cycle" where their headaches get worse, so they take more painkillers, which make the headaches even worse, and so it continues.
NICE estimates that one in 50 people who suffer from headaches could be doing so because of painkiller overuse.
Manjit Matharu, a consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, told BBC News, medication overuse was a "huge problem" in the population.
He said estimates suggest as many as 1 in 50 people are affected, which is about one million people in the UK having headaches nearly every day because of painkillers.
It is thought that most people trapped in this vicious cycle started out using painkillers to relieve an everyday, tension-type headache or migraine.
Matharu said there was a "tipping point" at 10 to 15 days of using pain relief each month, when normal use turns into overuse.
The new NICE guidelines advise doctors to tell patients who are over-using painkillers to stop taking all painkillers immediately. This will most likely cause a month of suffering headaches with no pain relief, but after that the symptoms should improve.
The watchdog recommends other options for treating headaches, including acupuncture for patients susceptible to migraine and tension headaches.
Underwood says there is good evidence that acupuncture is effective for the prevention of both these types of headache.
Fayyaz Ahmed, a consultant neurologist at Hull Royal Infirmary, and chair of British Association for the Study of Headache, says in a BBC News report on the new NICE guidelines:
"Headache is the most prevalent condition and one in seven of the UK population has migraine. The condition puts an enormous burden on the healthcare resources and the economy in general."
On an NHS Choices website about "painkiller headaches" Ahmed says about 5% of the patients that come to his headache clinic have medication overuse headaches from taking painkillers regularly over a long period.
"Strangely, painkiller headaches only become a problem in people who take painkillers to treat headaches. They don't occur in people who take painkillers for long periods for other painful conditions such as arthritis and back pain," he explains.
Ahmed says most people with medication overuse headaches aren't taking more than the dose recommended on the packet, the problem arises when they take them for long periods, often months on end.
He says some people even take painkillers every day to prevent headaches, which just makes matters worse.
His advice for stopping medication overuse headaches is the same as NICE's: stop taking painkillers.
"Your headaches will probably get worse immediately after stopping, and you may feel sick or sleep badly, but after seven to 10 days when the painkillers are out of your system you'll feel better," he says.
However, if the painkiller headaches are the result of taking drugs containing codeine, then you should see a doctor about how to stop, because stopping abruptly in these cases could be dangerous, according to NHS Choices.
In Ahmed's experience, around three quarters of people with medication overuse headaches manage to stop taking painkillers in one go and feel better as a result.
The other quarter or so experience relapses, and may have to go through several withdrawal periods, he says.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Medical News Today
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Authorities in Myanmar say at least 85,000 people have fled their homes after the worst flooding in years submerged hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice fields.
Soe Tun, a government emergency official, said on Saturday 70,000 people had fled their homes in the delta and were being housed at 219 emergency relief centres that have been set up at schools and monasteries.
Tun said heavy rains over the last few weeks had caused the inundation in the country's southern delta region.
He says another 15,000 people are displaced elsewhere in the country.
The delta was devastated in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis, which killed about 130,000 people.
No casualties have been confirmed during this month's flooding, which has affected 200,000 people nationwide whose fields have been swamped with water.
Tun said some families that have not fled have moved to the upper floors of their dwellings. Local newspapers have reported that heavy rains and flooding have also damaged bridges, homes and rail lines.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — People who eschew red meat do so for various reasons – health concerns, environmental impacts, disgusted indignation over the bacon sundae – but for some it’s not a matter of choice, they’re literally allergic to the stuff. Yes, there is such a thing as a meat allergy, and scientists are starting to get a better understanding of how it works. An article published online on July 20 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine presents three such cases and describes how researchers are unraveling the mystery of this unusual allergy. The strangest part of the tale is the possible cause of the syndrome. The current suspect in creating this involuntary vegetarianism is an insect – the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).
Red meat is a recent and rare (rare as in uncommon, not undercooked) addition to the cannon of food allergies. The novel hypersensitivity was announced in a 2009 article in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and by the time of a March 2012 review published in Clinical and Molecular Allergy, literature on the syndrome amounted to a total of only 32 cases.
Diagnosing the allergy can be challenging due to its delayed onset. Typical food allergies elicit reactions within 30 minutes of consumption, but individuals allergic to meat experience symptoms up to six hours after the offending meal. If they happen to partake of meat at dinner, the result can be a terrifying middle-of-the-night awakening with unexplained hives or even full-blown anaphylaxis*. It’s definitely an allergy, as opposed to an intolerance. For those allergic to meat, eating a hamburger doesn’t just cause digestive problems or make them feel ambiguously unwell, it creates an antibody-mediated allergic response.
IgE antibodies. They mean well. Image: NIH.
Food allergies are usually sensitivities to a particular protein found in these items. One might expect the same from a much-touted protein source like meat, but in this case it’s actually a sugar that sets off the reaction – galactose-alpha 1,3-galactose (known to its friends by the catchier nickname “alpha-gal”.) Alpha-gal is found in non-primate mammalian meat, so for those with the allergy cows, pigs, sheep, cats and dogs, etc., are all off limits, but poultry and fish are safe.
Like the bulk of allergies, reactions to meat are mediated by Immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies†, which the body produces in response to a particular allergen (in this case alpha-gal.) Why some people become “sensitized” (i.e., produce allergen specific antibodies) to relatively harmless things like pollen, peanuts, or meat is not entirely clear, but as with many physiological quirks, it’s likely a mix of genetic and environment factors.
Some sensitization occurs through excessive exposure to the allergen. For instance, health care workers, who interact more with latex than the general population, are also more likely to develop allergies to it. Other times it seems underexposure may be the culprit. Some studies suggest that children who aren’t exposed to peanuts prior to age 3 are more prone to developing an allergy once finally faced with peanut butter. Childhood is indeed the time when food allergies usually arise. The meat allergy, however, is cropping up in adults, many of who had previously eaten mammals for years without incident. And scientists suspect that an altogether different environmental factor – bites from a tick – is responsible for their condition.
How did we get from acknowledging meat allergies to blaming ticks? It wasn’t the steak-spawned hives that led scientists in that direction, but rather another allergic reaction – to the medication cetuximab. Administered in IV form, cetuximab, is used to treat certain kinds of cancer and has an alpha-gal component in its molecular structure. Soon after its approval for tumor treatment in 2005, reports of allergies began. While severe allergic reactions to medications are not unheard of, they normally occur only after the patient has been sensitized by earlier exposure to the drug. What made the cetuximab allergy unusual was that some patients experienced anaphylaxis upon being given their first dose. Clearly, they had been sensitized by something else.
Oncologists working with cetuximab also observed that these allergic reactions were far more common in patients residing in the southeastern United States, an area coincidently high in populations of the lone star tick. Patient histories revealed that many of those with hypersensitivities to cetuximab reported at least one tick bite. It was after the publication of these findings that doctors dealing with meat allergic patients noticed a similarity in the geographic distributions and began to wonder if the two allergies had a common cause.
So meat allergies occur more in the southeastern U.S., which also happens to be teeming with lone star ticks. So what? The correlation could be caused by any number of other demographic differences. After all, people in that part of the world also eat a lot of red meat. (Disclaimer: anecdotal information based entirely on high volume of BBQ restaurants seen in the south.) How do we know this isn’t just another instance of latex-style overexposure sensitization?
The lone star tick. it’s said to be “aggressive.” Image: CDC.
Well, there is some pretty interesting evidence to support the tick hypothesis. The patient histories, for one thing. When questioned, most of the meat allergic individuals recalled having run-ins with ticks. The ability to test blood serum for IgE antibodies has also turned up some useful data. A 2011 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found a correlation between presence of alpha-gal IgE antibodies and IgE antibodies specific to proteins in the lone star tick. More intriguingly, the authors were able to test serum samples from three subjects both before and after they incurred tick bites. In all three cases levels of alpha-gal IgE rose following encounters with the blood sucking beasties. Three subjects is, of course, a very small number. But good luck getting approval for an experiment that deliberately exposes a large group of people to tick bites.
And Amblyomma americanum isn’t the only tick linked to meat allergies. Smaller numbers of cases have been documented as far as Australia, and in these too, most patients reported a history of tick bites (Ixodes holocyclus is the species currently accused of causing Australian meat allergies.)
Despite the strong correlation evidence, there is still no mechanism to explain how tick bites might sensitize people to alpha-gal. And with so few documented cases, it appears that not everyone bitten by a tick goes on to develop a meat allergy, suggesting that other underlying factors may contribute to sensitization. Though we may start to see more diagnosed cases as the syndrome gains recognition. That recent Journal of General Internal Medicine article, which added three case studies to the literature but no new insight as to the cause, did emphasize the need for doctors to be aware of this emerging allergy.
Naturally this allergy poses potential problems for hunters heading into the woods to shoot deer and whatnot (I know zilch about hunting, but I’ll still recommend pulling your socks up over your pants.) But on the bright side, if the condition does turn out to be more common than previously documented, this could be an excellent money making opportunity for the first person to figure out how to produce alpha-gal-free red meat. —www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Earth Sky
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Despite the fact that women live longer than men, their brains seems to age faster. The reason? Possibly a more stressful life.
When people age, some genes become more active while others become less so. In the human brain, these changes can be observed through the "transcriptome" – a set of RNA molecules that indicate the activity of genes within a population of cells.
When Mehmet Somel, a computational biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues compared the transcriptome of 55 male and female brains of different ages, they were surprised to find that the pattern of gene activation and deactivation that occurs with ageing appeared to progress faster in women than in men. This was particularly apparent in an area of the pre-frontal cortex.
"This was just the opposite of what we'd originally expected," says Somel, who was at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences in China when he did the research. He says that given the fact that females have a longer lifespan, they had expected to see slower or later ageing-related changes in their brain. "But it fits everyday observations on ageing. Not all organs within an individual age at the same rate," he says.
Somel's team compared the expression of more than 13,000 genes in four brain regions. In one region – the superior frontal gyrus – they found 667 genes that were expressed differently in men and women during ageing. Of those, 98 per cent were skewed towards faster ageing in women.
Some of these gene changes have previously been linked to general cognitive decline and degenerative disease.
However, sex differences were not uniform among all women. About half the women showed accelerated age-related changes. The researchers say that this hints towards the cause being environmental rather than simply biological.
Somel says: "A higher stress load could be driving the female brain towards faster ageing-related decline." His team found tentative support for that theory in a study of monkeys, where stress induced similar changes to their brain transcriptome.
Cyndi Shannon Weickert from Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney, says the initial results are interesting but the connection to stress is speculative. She says it would help to know whether the subjects had other medical conditions at the time of death that might have affected their brain transcriptome. She notes that stress is only one possible cause of these effects. Inflammation, for example, might lead to similar genetic changes.
Next, Somel is planning to test the effects of stress on the brain transcriptome of rodents. He would also like to compare stress and age-related neurodegenerative disease patterns across cultures, where female roles vary. "If the mechanism we hypothesise is correct, any policy that ensures equality in opportunity and empowers women could improve future health."—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: New Scientist
SHAFAQNA (Shia international Association) — Ramadan will create transport chaos during the Olympics as the area around the Olympic park has a population of about 250,000 Muslims and around 100 mosques.
Every year during the month of August, vast crowds of worshippers descend on east London, one of the most concentrated Muslim communities in the country for nightly prayer.
According to the British media source the local councillor Abdal Ullah said, “Although the prayers are in the late evening, many people will stay on at the Olympic Park after events and will be travelling through East London late in the day and might not be expecting it to be congested, which is a big concern.”
There are some 3,000 Muslim athletes competing in the Games, and most have been given special dispensation by religious leaders to waive the obligation while taking part.
It is reported road marking for the lanes, which run alongside existing ones and alterations to 1,300 sets of traffic lights has already begun.
The final stage of work on the lanes, involving 2,000 contractors, will now start and continue for five nights.—www.shafaqna.com/english