Understanding traditional Chinese medicine can help protect species

Demystifying traditional Chinese medicine for conservationists could be the key to better protecting endangered species like pangolins, tigers and rhino, according to University of Queensland-led researchers.

UQ PhD candidate Hubert Cheung said efforts to shift entrenched values and beliefs about Chinese medicine are not achieving conservation gains in the short term.

He said a better understanding of traditional practices was critical for conservationists to form more effective strategies.

“The use of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicine threatens species’ survival and is a challenge for conservationists,” Mr Cheung said.

“Pushing messages of inefficacy, providing various forms of scientific evidence or promoting biomedical alternatives doesn’t seem to be drastically influencing decisions and behaviours.

“And, although many practices and treatments continue to be criticised for lacking scientific support, the World Health Organization approved the inclusion of traditional Chinese medicine in its global compendium of medical practices last year.

“The challenge now is for conservationists to work proactively with practitioners and others in the industry to find sustainable solutions.

“However, most conservation scientists and organisations are unfamiliar with traditional Chinese medicine, which makes it difficult to devise effective and culturally-nuanced interventions.”

The researchers have examined the core theories and practices of traditional Chinese medicine, in a bid to make it more accessible.

They hope their study – and the nuances within – will influence policy and campaigning.

“Today, traditional Chinese medicine is formally integrated into China’s healthcare system, and has been central to China’s response to the ongoing pandemic,” Mr Cheung said.

“In fact, the Chinese government’s COVID-19 clinical guidance has included recommendations for the use of a product containing bear bile, which has raised concerns among conservation groups.”

UQ’s Professor Hugh Possingham said traditional Chinese medicine was now not only entrenched in the social and cultural fabric of Chinese society, but also gaining users elsewhere.

“A better understanding of traditional Chinese medicine will empower conservationists to engage more constructively with stakeholders in this space,” Professor Possingham said.

“We’re hoping that this work can help all parties develop more effective and lasting solutions for species threatened by medicinal use.”

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Supreme Court changes fuel moves to protect abortion access

A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.

It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed.

“Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland.

Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth.

Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic’s opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life.

Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.

Thus far, the City Council has declined to adopt the ordinance, but activists say they have enough signatures to place it on the ballot in a local referendum.

Texas is one of several red states where Planned Parenthood has sought to expand abortion access. Earlier this year, its health center in Louisville, Kentucky, began providing abortions after obtaining

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Protect Good Medicine, Stop the Censorship of Good Counseling

An increasing number of children, both here in America and around the globe, are experiencing deep discomfort, confusion, and alienation from their sexed body, a condition known as gender dysphoria. Unsurprisingly, people disagree about how best to respond to this condition in order to help these kids. How we navigate that disagreement will prove critical.

Some people insist that the proper course of action involves experimental interventions directed at the boy or girl’s body itself—puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgery. Others suggest that therapy be directed to the child’s thoughts and feelings, not the body.

Physical interventions on minors to “affirm” a mistaken “gender identity” violate sound medical ethics and should be prohibited. And yet, in all fifty states, such interventions are entirely legal.

At the same time, a more radical movement is seeking to make it illegal to use a psychological approach to help these children rather than a hormonal and surgical one. An increasing number of jurisdictions—both in the US and in other countries—are banning therapy that aims to help minors with gender dysphoria feel comfortable about their own bodies without transforming their bodies. Federal legislation has been introduced that would create nationwide censorship of such therapy, and the UN has claimed that such therapy violates human rights.

This turns medical ethics—and the law—upside down. Good therapy should never be prohibited. Children deserve access to the therapeutic assistance they need to feel comfortable being what they are as a plain and ineradicable matter of biological fact: male or female. And parents have a natural right to seek this care for their children.

What’s Wrong with Therapy Bans

Some argue that any attempt to help children feel comfortable and thrive as the sex they are, without transforming their bodies, is not good medicine, and they accuse practitioners of using abusive, harmful techniques. But they never provide credible evidence, and the therapy bans they support don’t target harmful practices. Instead, they prohibit working toward goals and outcomes that sexual progressive activists oppose. That is, these therapy bans aren’t focused on techniques that cause harm, but on certain objectives being sought—namely, being comfortable with one’s body.

As a result, one-on-one counseling to help a teen struggling with body image due to anorexia would be permitted, but the very same counseling would be prohibited if the goal is to help a teen struggling with body image due to gender dysphoria.

Activists use emotionally charged language, labelling all such techniques “conversion therapy.” They do not apply this label only to certain discredited techniques (such as electro-shock therapies), but to any therapeutic service—including basic talk therapy—to help a gender dysphoric youth feel comfortable without “transitioning.” Their argument is that if the true “gender identity” of the child is not being “affirmed,” then the child is being harmed. They claim that if a boy who “identifies” as a girl is helped to be comfortable with his actual and unalterable bodily sex, then “conversion therapy” is taking place—regardless of the counseling techniques deployed.

What

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Want to protect people with preexisting conditions? You need the full ACA.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been hammering home the points that the Trump administration backs that suit, that a Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett on it might be sympathetic to the challenge and that the ACA is what stands between voters and the old days when preexisting conditions could disqualify you from coverage.

President Trump, however, continues to insist that although the ACA is bad and should go, “we’re always protecting people with preexisting conditions.”

“I can’t say that more strongly,” he said during his town hall last week.

Republican Senators up for reelection have been making the same claim. “You know, preexisting conditions is something we all agree should be covered,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said in a campaign ad this month.

There’s a danger that the two talking points will cancel each other out. (Both sides agree!) That’s why it’s important to understand the facts about why protections for preexisting conditions — the part of the ACA everyone seems to like — cannot be so easily saved if the rest of the law is overturned.

The ACA’s various taxes, subsidies and regulations make it possible for insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions (whose health care is generally more expensive). You can’t protect those people without the ACA or a substitute system — and the Republican opponents of the ACA have not offered a viable alternative.

Trump says that he has a competing plan, but what he’s done so far is the equivalent of waving a magic wand. Campaign-trail slogans aside, he issued an executive order saying it is the “policy of the United States” to “ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.” But the president’s order carries no force of law.

Even if it did, you need a health insurance system, not a simple command from on high to achieve that goal. The details matter a lot here. First, truly protecting people with preexisting conditions requires a whole array of insurance regulations, not just one that generally prohibits discrimination against them. The ACA goes into significant detail to make sure there are no loopholes: It prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage, charging people higher premiums based on their health or gender, limiting benefits tied to preexisting conditions and capping insurance payouts for people who are very sick (either in one year or throughout their lifetimes).

Just as importantly, a plan to protect people with preexisting conditions has to contend with the economic forces that make doing so such a challenge. A key danger is what actuaries ominously call a “death spiral.”

If you guarantee comprehensive insurance to everyone, with no strings attached, people will tend to wait until they’re sick and need the insurance before buying it. With mostly sicker people in the insurance pool, premiums would go up, causing an even larger number of healthier people to drop their coverage. This process would continue and premiums would spiral out of control. The insurance market

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Could the Third Amendment Protect Against Infection?

The Third Amendment is a remix of ideas dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. As the lawyers William S. Fields and David T. Hardy wrote in the American Journal of Legal History, centuries of criticism against quartering had accrued in Britain before gaining traction in the empire’s colonies. After conflicts in North America, including King Philip’s War in the 1670s, New York in 1683 became the first of the colonies to provide legal protections against quartering. In the next century, colonists opposed to quartering would come to feel a desire to separate civilian life from military intrusion, a growing sense that the home was a protected private place, a hatred of standing armies, and a commitment to individual rights.

But another complaint also surfaced during the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 to 1763: Colonists worried that quartered soldiers might infect them with smallpox, a disease British soldiers deliberately transmitted to Native Americans.

The eventual Framers of the Constitution understood this fear. George Washington had battled smallpox himself in Barbados in 1751. The mother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, another signer of the Constitution, wrote of her community in 1760 that a “violent kind of smallpox rages in Charles Town that almost puts a stop to all business.” James Madison never contracted the disease, but as suggested by the Madison biographer Ralph Ketcham, a number of his extended family members likely died from smallpox in the early 1760s, when he was just a boy.

No wonder colonists fretted about the arrival of British troops. When residents of Albany, New York, learned in 1756 that some of the soldiers were carrying smallpox, they grew hostile to quartering. Soldiers arrived in Philadelphia to similar fears. In the words of one Pennsylvanian, “The small Pox was encreasing among the Soldiers to such a Degree that the whole Town would soon become a Hospital.” The governor ordered private homes to be used as quarters, and after resistance from shocked residents and the Pennsylvania Assembly, the British threatened to send soldiers to seize shelter. In response, an assembly committee that included Benjamin Franklin offered hospital space to house sick soldiers, sparing Philadelphians from the disease. Others weren’t so lucky. In 1758, Jane Webb Syer from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was making a living by renting her house to a family, but British soldiers with smallpox transformed the house into a hospital. They ripped up her floors and doors for firewood; her tenants ran away.

Britain soon enacted two quartering laws. The Quartering Act of 1765 required colonists to pay the costs of housing soldiers, a measure that peeved Franklin. England, he argued, should “first try the effects of quartering soldiers on butchers, bakers, or other private houses [in England], and then transport the measure to America.” Britain then passed the Quartering Act of 1774, allowing officers to take “uninhabited houses, out-houses, barns, or other buildings.” The Declaration of Independence

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Extra toothbrushing could help protect against coronavirus, dentist claims

From wearing a mask to regularly washing your hands, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of coronavirus.



a woman brushing her teeth with a toothbrush in her mouth


© Getty
Brushing her teeth

Now, one expert has claimed that extra toothbrushing could also help to protect you from Covid-19.

Professor Martin Addy, a dentistry professor at the University of Bristol, has called for toothbrushing to be promoted alongside hand washing.

Speaking to The Telegraph, he explained: “Toothpaste contains the same detergents as those found in handwash gels recommended.

“The antimicrobial action of toothpaste in the mouth persists for three to five hours and, thereby, would reduce the viral load in saliva or infection by viruses entering the mouth.”



The antimicrobial effect of toothpaste wears off after a few hours


© Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF
The antimicrobial effect of toothpaste wears off after a few hours

Professor Addy advises that people should brush their teeth every time they leave the house.

He added: “For the vast majority, the timing of tooth brushing should be focused when they are about to go out of their homes for exercise or shopping.

“Ideally, tooth brushing frequency should be increased.”

This isn’t the first time that Professor Addy has promoted the idea of extra toothbrushing to reduce your risk of Covid-19.

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In a previous letter to the British Dental Journal, Professor Addy said he was surprised the dental profession had not been promoting teeth brushing as a preventative approach to coronavirus.

He added that the recommended oral hygiene practice of brushing twice a day for two minutes should be reinforced.

Mr Addy said many of those who are not doing this are some of the most vulnerable to Covid-19, such as elderly people in nursing homes who rely on carers to brush their teeth.

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China Beefs Up Laws To Handle Epidemics, Protect Whistleblowers

China has passed a new law to improve its handling of disease outbreaks — including protecting whistleblowers — following a cascade of criticism over its coronavirus response and accusations of an early cover-up.

The new biosecurity law, approved by lawmakers on Saturday, flags the right to report “acts that endanger biosecurity” and calls for risk prevention systems, ranging from active monitoring to emergency plans.

It takes effect from April 15 next year.

“Any work unit or individual has the right to report acts that endanger biosecurity,” the regulation said.

“When a report is required according to the law, no work unit or individual shall conceal (it)… or hinder others from making a report,” it added on infectious diseases and epidemics.

China’s approval of the law comes in the face of Western criticism on the coronavirus, over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak and silenced early whistleblowers.

But China has been trying to reshape this narrative, with authorities seeking instead to model the country as a vanguard in the pandemic fight.

Although doctor Li Wenliang who alerted colleagues to the new coronavirus in late December was at first reprimanded, a national outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero.

Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was at first remprimanded after alerting colleagues to the new coronavirus but an outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was at first remprimanded after alerting colleagues to the new coronavirus but an outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero Photo: AFP / STR

President Xi Jinping in February raised the need to speed up establishing the biosecurity law, urging for reforms of mechanisms to prevent major outbreaks.

Under the new law, those who conceal information, omit making reports or prevent others from reporting infectious diseases could be given warnings or suspended.

The new law also calls for systems including to regularly monitor biosafety risks, and to trace the origins of incidents.

Disease prevention agencies are also to help predict the occurrence and prevalence of emerging diseases.

Based on these predictions, authorities should announce warnings and adopt prevention measures.

Although Beijing established an information system after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that allowed for real-time reports of outbreaks, provincial authorities came under fire during the coronavirus outbreak for perceived incompetence, including delays in announcing the public health emergency.

The new biosecurity law also takes aim at the management of research facilities, flagging the need for emergency plans for biosafety incidents.

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