May 26, 2019

Eight people dead after shooting in North Carolina nursing home

Monday, March 30, 2009

At least eight people have been killed on Monday after a gunman entered a Carthage, North Carolina nursing home and opened fire on its residents.

Local police reported that Robert Stewart, a 45-year-old man, entered the Pinelake health and rehabilitation centre, which gives care to Alzheimer’s disease patients, and shot a nurse and seven patients to death. Six of the victims were killed at the scene. The others died later at a local hospital. The ages of the patients were between 78 and 98.

The alleged gunman also wounded two other people, among them a visitor and a policeman, who confronted the gunman in a hallway and stopped the rampage. The suspect himself was injured before being arrested by police. His condition is currently not known.

“He [the policeman] acted in nothing short of a heroic way today, and but for his actions, we certainly could have had a worse tragedy. We had an officer, a well-trained officer, who performed his job the way he was supposed to and prevented this from getting even worse than it is now,” said Maureen Krueger, the Moore County District Attorney.

“This is a small community built on faith, and faith will get us through,” said Chris McKenzie, the Carthage police chief. “It’s a horrible event in any size town, particularly, though, when you deal with a small town such as Carthage. It’s hard. This is my home, my small town. I was born and raised here so I take it to heart a little bit. All you can do is move forward.”

The victims of the shooting have been identified. They are: Bessie Hendrick, 78; John Goldston, 78; Jessie Musser, 88; Tessie Gardner, 88; Lillian Dunn, 89; Margaret Johnston, 89; Louise Decker, 98; and Jerry Avent, the nurse.

Carthage is located approximately sixty miles southwest of North Carolina’s capital of Raleigh. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 1,871. The Pinelake nursing home, where the attack occurred, contains 110 beds and has both short and long term patients.

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Disposal of fracking wastewater poses potential environmental problems

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the oil and gas industry are creating earthquakes. New information from the Midwest region of the United States points out that these man-made earthquakes are happening more frequently than expected. While more frequent earthquakes are less of a problem for regions like the Midwest, a geology professor from the University of Southern Indiana, Dr. Paul K. Doss, believes the disposal of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) process used in extracting oil and gas has the possibility to pose potential problems for groundwater.

“We are taking this fluid that has a whole host of chemicals in it that are useful for fracking and putting it back into the Earth,” Doss said. “From a purely seismic perspective these are not big earthquakes that are going to cause damage or initiate, as far as we know, any larger kinds of earthquakes activity for Midwest. [The issue] is a water quality issue in terms of the ground water resources that we use.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique used by the oil and gas industries which inject highly pressurized water down into the Earth’s crust to break rock and extract natural gas. Most of the fluids used for fracking are proprietary, so information about what chemicals are used in the various fluids are unknown to the public and to create a competitive edge.

Last Monday four researchers from the University of New Brunswick released an editorial that sheds light on the potential risks that the current wastewater disposal system could have on the province’s water resources. The researchers share the concern that Dr. Doss has and have come out to say that they believe fracking should be stopped in the province until there is an environ­mentally safe way to dispose the waste wastewater.

“If groundwater becomes contamin­ated, it takes years to decades to try to clean up an aquifer system,” University of New Brunswick professor Tom Al said.

While the USGS group which conducted the study says it is unclear how the earthquake rates may be related to oil and gas production, they’ve made the correlation between the disposal of wastewater used in fracking and the recent upsurge in earthquakes. Because of the recent information surfacing that shows this connection between the disposal process and earthquakes, individual states in the United States are now passing laws regarding disposal wells.

The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak.

“The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak,” Doss said. “A perfect case-in-point is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, that oil was being drilled at 18,000 feet but leaked at the surface. And that’s the concern because there’s no assurance that some of these unknown chemical cocktails won’t escape before it gets down to where they are trying to get rid of them.”

It was said in the study released by the New Brunswick University professors that if fracking wastewater would contaminate groundwater, that current conventional water treatment would not be sufficient enough to remove the high concentration of chemicals used in fracking. The researchers did find that the wastewater could be recycled, can also be disposed of at proper sites or even pumped further underground into saline aquifers.

The New Brunswick professors have come to the conclusion that current fracking methods used by companies, which use the water, should be replaced with carbon diox­ide or liquefied propane gas.

“You eliminate all the water-related issues that we’re raising, and that peo­ple have raised in general across North America,” Al said.

In New Brunswick liquefied propane gas has been used successfully in fracking some wells, but according to water specialist with the province’s Natural Resources De­partment Annie Daigle, it may not be the go-to solution for New Brunswick due its geological makeup.

“It has been used successfully by Corridor Resources here in New Bruns­wick for lower volume hydraulic frac­turing operations, but it is still a fairly new technology,” Daigle said.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with U.S. states to come up with guidelines to manage seismic risks due to wastewater. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is the organization that also deals with the policies for wells.

Oil wells, which are under regulation, pump out salt water known as brine, and after brine is pumped out of the ground it’s disposed of by being pumped back into the ground. The difference between pumping brine and the high pressurized fracking fluid back in the ground is the volume that it is disposed of.

“Brine has never caused this kind of earthquake activity,” Doss said. “[The whole oil and gas industry] has developed around the removal of natural gas by fracking techniques and has outpaced regulatory development. The regulation is tied to the ‘the run-of-the-mill’ disposal of waste, in other words the rush to produce this gas has occurred before regulatory agencies have had the opportunity to respond.”

According to the USGS study, the increase in injecting wastewater into the ground may explain the sixfold increase of earthquakes in the central part of the United States from 2000 – 2011. USGS researchers also found that in decades prior to 2000 seismic events that happened in the midsection of the U.S. averaged 21 annually, in 2009 it spiked to 50 and in 2011 seismic events hit 134.

“The incredible volumes and intense disposal of fracking fluids in concentrated areas is what’s new,” Doss said. “There is not a body of regulation in place to manage the how these fluids are disposed of.”

The study by the USGS was presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America on April 18, 2012.

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Eurovision ’04 winner Ruslana discusses her paths as singer, spokesmodel, stateswoman and source of inspiration

Monday, March 30, 2009

First becoming famous in her native Ukraine in the 1990s, long-haired self-described “AmazonRuslana gained international recognition for winning the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Wild Dances,” inspired by the musical traditions of the Hutsul people of the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains.

In the five years since, Ruslana has decided to use her name and public status to represent a number of worthy causes, including human trafficking, renewable energy, and even the basic concept of democratic process, becoming a public face of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and later serving in Parliament.

Currently, she is on an international publicity tour to promote her album Wild Energy, a project borne out of a science fiction novel that has come to symbolize her hopes for a newer, better, freer way of life for everyone in the world. She took time to respond to questions Wikinews’s Mike Halterman posed to her about her career in music and her other endeavors.

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with past Eurovision contestants, which will be published sporadically in the lead-up to mid-May’s next contest in Moscow.

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May 24, 2019

Judge orders residents and city to come to agreement on partially collapsed building in Buffalo, New York

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Buffalo, New York —Judge Justice Christopher Burns of the New York State Supreme Court has ordered a halt to an emergency demolition on a 19th century stable and livery on 428-430 Jersey Street in Buffalo, New York that partially collapsed on Wednesday June 11, initially causing at least 15 homes to be evacuated. At least two homes remain evacuated.

Burns orders that both the city and the group Save The Livery (www.savethelivery.com) have to come to an agreement on what to do with the building, and try to work out ways of saving at least some portions if it including the facade, side walls and a lift tower. Save The Livery is comprised of concerned area residents who have grown to love the building’s historic and unique character. On June 14, they won a temporary restraining order to stop demolition. The court ruled that the city was only allowed to remove material in immediate danger to residents and pedestrians, but stated that the demolition could only be performed with “hand tools.” The court also ordered that any rubble which had fallen into neighboring yards when the building collapsed, to be removed.

“It is in the interest of the city to have a safe environment–but also important to maintain a sense of historical preservation,” stated Burns in his ruling. Burns has given the sides until tomorrow (Friday June 20) to come to an agreement and has ordered both parties to return to court at 9:30 a.m. (eastern time) “sharp.” Activists of Save The Livery urge supporters of the stable to “fill the courtroom” to show “continued and ongoing support.” The hearing is scheduled to take place at 25 Delaware Avenue in the Supreme Court building, 3rd Floor, trial part 19.

Currently the building is owned by Bob Freudenheim who has several building violations against him because of the buildings poor condition. He has received at least five violations in three months and residents who live near the building state that Freudenheim should be “100% responsible” for his actions. Many are afraid that if the building is demolished, Freudenheim’s charges of neglect will be abolished.

On June 17, developer and CEO of Savarino Companies, Sam Savarino was at the site of the stable, discussing the building with residents and preservationists. In 2006, Savarino proposed and planned The Elmwood Village Hotel, a ‘botique’ hotel on the Southeast corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenues. The project was later withdrawn after residents filed a lawsuit against Savarino and the city. Wikinews extensively covered the story, and contacted Savarino for his professional opinion on the building.

“[I would] love to see it preserved. I was there to see if there was anything we could do to help, to see if anything can be salvaged. I just want to see the right thing happen, and so does the city,” stated Savarino to Wikinews who added that he was allowed inside the building for a brief period.

“The side walls are beyond repair. The roof has rotted and it could come down at any time,” added Savarino who also said that the building “below the second floor appears to be stable.” He also states that the back wall of the building, which borders several homes, appears to be intact.

“Eliminating the back wall could be a problem for the neighbors. It is not unreasonable to leave at least 12 feet” of the back wall standing, added Savarino.

Savarino did not say if he was interested in buying the property, but did state, “I am sure there are a couple of people interested” in buying the property. On Thursday, Buffalo News reported that a “businessman” might be interested in purchasing the property, though Wikinews is not able to independently confirm the report. Savarino says that with the property still slated for emergency demolition, a potential buyer could face tax fees of nearly US$300,000.

Freudenheim gave the city permission to demolish the building on Thursday June 12 during an emergency Preservation Board meeting, because he would not be “rehabilitating the building anytime soon.” Freudenheim, along with his wife Nina, were part-owners of the Hotel Lenox at 140 North Street in Buffalo and were advocates to stop the Elmwood Village Hotel. They also financially supported a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the hotel from being built. Though it is not known exactly how long Freudenheim has owned the stable, Wikinews has learned that he was the owner while fighting to stop the hotel from being built. Residents say that he has been the owner for at least 22 years.

The building was first owned by a company called White Bros. and was used as a stable for a farm which once covered the land around the building for several blocks. The Buffalo Fire Department believes the building was built around 1814, while the city property database states it was built in 1870. Servants and workers of the farm were housed inside resident quarters situated at the rear of the building on what is now Summer Street, but are now cottages where area residents currently reside. Some date as far back as 1829.

At about 1950, the stable was converted into an automobile body shop and gasoline station.A property record search showed that in 1950 at least four fuel storage tanks were installed on the property. Two are listed as 550 square feet while the other two are 2,000 square feet. All of the tanks are designated as a TK4, which New York State says is used for “below ground horizontal bulk fuel storage.” The cost of installing a tank of that nature according to the state, at that time, included the tank itself, “excavation and backfill,” but did not include “the piping, ballast, or hold-down slab orring.” It is not known if the tanks are still on the property, but residents are concerned the city was not taking the precautions to find out.

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ITV fined A$3000 for cruelty to rat on “I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A spokesperson stated on Monday that UK television company ITV have been fined A$3000 (about US$2591 or £1663) for cruelty to animals in an incident on programme “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!“, where two celebrities killed and ate a rat.

The incident involved actor Stuart Manning and television chef Gino D’Acampo, who went on to win the ninth series of the programme, which was broadcast in 2009. Inside the jungle, having been reduced to rations of beans and rice, the two celebrities caught a rat before killing it and then cooking it, to give the beans and rice “more protein”, before eating the rat, which contestant and actor George Hamilton described as “actually quite nice”. Inside the programme’s video diary room, at the time of the recording of it, Gino D’Acampo said: “I saw one of these rats running around. I got a knife, I got its throat, I picked it up.”

RSPCA Australia had stated that performing an act like this on television was “not acceptable”. Initially, Manning and D’Acampo were charged for animal cruelty. However, their charges were dropped when ITV made the confession that production staff had allowed the celebrities to carry out the act of killing the rat. After a court trial in Sydney, Australia, ITV got a fine of A$3000. The company also had to pay costs of A$2500 (US$2192 or £1396).

An ITV spokesperson said that “ITV has apologised for the mistake which led to this incident. The production was unaware that killing a rat could be an offence, criminal or otherwise in New South Wales, and accepts that further inquiries should have been made. This was an oversight and we have since thoroughly reviewed our procedures and are putting in place a comprehensive training programme to ensure that this does not happen in future series.”

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May 23, 2019

Viktor Schreckengost dies at 101

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Viktor Schreckengost, the father of industrial design and creator of the Jazz Bowl, an iconic piece of Jazz Age art designed for Eleanor Roosevelt during his association with Cowan Pottery died yesterday. He was 101.

Schreckengost was born on June 26, 1906 in Sebring, Ohio, United States.

Schreckengost’s peers included the far more famous designers Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes.

In 2000, the Cleveland Museum of Art curated the first ever retrospective of Schreckengost’s work. Stunning in scope, the exhibition included sculpture, pottery, dinnerware, drawings, and paintings.

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Burma introduces military draft

Thursday, January 13, 2011

According to an official document, the Burmese junta has passed a law dated November 4, 2010, requiring able-bodied persons over the age of 18 to register with local authorities. Furthermore, the law requires all men between the ages 18 and 45 as well as all women between 18 to 35 to join the army if they are called upon. Those who fail to report for military service could be imprisoned for three years, and face fines. Those who deliberately inflict injury upon themselves to avoid conscription could be imprisoned for up to five years, as well as fines. Civil servants, students, those serving prison terms, and those caring for an elderly parent are currently excluded from the draft, but they could be later called to serve. Totally exempt are members of religious orders, disabled persons, and married or divorced women with children.

The Democratic Voice of Burma claims that the law was passed just before the new parliament convened in order to avoid scrutiny of the practice by the new parliament. However, laws surrounding forcible conscription are murky and it is unclear how tightly the new law would be enforced.

The new law has faced stiff criticism by Burmese around the world. Aung Kyaw Zaw, a military analyst on the China-Burma border, said that there are pros and cons to the new law. “From the bad side, our country is already in deep poverty and the people barely have anything to eat. So [adopting such a law] may cause bigger negative effects on the country, which is already…struggling to feed the current army and carry the burden of military expenses.”

“On the plus side, civilians will learn how to use guns and be given a chance to understand the nature of the military. With the knowledge of how to handle weapons, the people will be able to rise up against the military – in a way they will be trained for the revolution.”

Many people see the draft as a threat to ethnic armed groups, who have been long embroiled in guerrilla conflicts with the government.

Burma is a military dictatorship and already has a standing army close to half a million, one of the biggest per capita in the world. Previously, professionals, including doctors, engineers and mechanics, between the ages of 18 and 44, and females between 18 to 33, were required to serve in the military for up to three years. However, the new law extends this to five years in case of a national emergency.

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May 22, 2019

Wikileaks cable disclosure shows Arab fears of Iranian ambitions

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday night’s release of leaked United States diplomatic cables shows widespread concern in the Arab world over Iran’s ambitions to build a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century”.

Wikileaks, so far, have released under 300 of the quarter million plus diplomatic communications posted to them on a memory stick. The small sample shows, over several months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain asserting that further sanctions against Iran will likely have no effect.

Early November last year, General David Petraeus discussed the situation with King Hamad of Bahrain, who argued for the use of force to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions; stating: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In that meeting concern was expressed that more Arab involvement in Iraq was needed to frustrate Iranian plans. Petraeus was told Bahrain sought Egyptians and Saudis support, but talks with the latter revealed no interest in taking a leading rôle.

The King did welcome the prospect of India becoming involved in the region as a stabilising influence.

A mid-December meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman saw the subject brought up again. In a discussion that touched on the two countries renewable energy plans, and reliable movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the Prince asserted Iran saw itself as spearheading a campaign for a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century.” Alleging Iran has established “emirates” in Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Southern Iraq, Yemen, and South Lebanon, his picture of Iranian nuclear ambitions is “Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time.”File:Iran strait of hormuz 2004.jpg

The Prince was keen to stress that those in power are the same people who, in 1979, seized the US embassy in Tehran.

Subsequent talks between a congressional appropriations sub-committee and UAE’s Foreign Minister were the scene of equally serious predictions. The sub-committee, consisting of Nita Lowey, Tom Cole, Barbara Lee, and Donna Edwards, heard from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that if Iran became a nuclear state the rest of the region would likely follow suit.

Plans to keep the fifteen-millions-plus barrels of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz each day moving were discussed. Whilst keen to weaken Iranian ties with China, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the US$50 billion in trade between the two; this being considered an obstacle to China backing, and enforcing, a stronger sanctions regime.

The sub-committee’s Emirates host, like many in the region, stated progress on the Israeli peace process was a good route to de-escalation.

A meeting in February this year with Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah was the scene of comparable warnings. Alongside discussions on travel restrictions to be enforced against former Guantanamo Bay detainees, he described Iran as the “beating heart” of Islamic Extremism.

Concerns over Iran’s involvement in Yemen were discussed, with the minister saying Iran is intent on exporting its revolution; that its nuclear ambitions can only be thwarted by force.

Updating the US on perceived Iranian actions, he claimed they were attempting to infiltrate Egypt by recruiting the poor. And, they were becoming involved in the drugs trade, shipping narcotics into Yemen to fund militants.

The cable on the Kuwait meeting closes referring recipients to a wiki page: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Kuwait. Wikinews has been informed this is a page on the US intelligence community’s Intellipedia; an internally-maintained project, based on the same technology as Wikipedia, and intended for use in building intelligence dossiers on countries, regions, their politicians, diplomats, plus political and terrorist groups.

A cable originating in London from January this year is corroborated by later U.S. news reports; hinting that the Iranian government may indeed be using tactics more reminiscent of the cold-war.

In the opening weeks of the year, London-based Voice of America commentator Ali Reza Nourizadeh was advised that Mohammed Reza Sadeqinia intended to target him for assassination, along with others. Sadeqinia was previously arrested in California, and prosecuted for attempting to hire a hit man. The target at that time was reported to be Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd, one of the main figures behind Tondar — a loose collection of in-exile Iranians opposed to the current regime.

Tehran insists Tondar is a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being responsible for a 2008 bombing that killed 14.

Sadeqinia, who worked as a painter in Ann Arbour, was arrested on July 28, 2009 near Los Angeles International Airport in possession of thousands of dollars and an Iranian passport. FBI investigations into his possible Iranian government ties were still ongoing a month before his scheduled release in July this year.

Found guilty by Los Angeles Superior Court of attempting to hire someone to murder Sharmahd, he had been expected to spend around a year in jail. Tondar spokesman Iman Afar, in the lead up to Sedeqina’s release, expressed concern for his own safety and that of others in the L.A. area.

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May 21, 2019

At least fifteen dead after landslide in Indonesia

Thursday, February 25, 2010

At least fifteen people have been killed as the result of a landslide which occurred in Indonesia on Tuesday. According to BBC News Online, at least sixteen were killed. It is thought that up to seventy people were killed as a result of the landslide, which occurred in a village near to the city of Bandung.

At one point, villagers attempted to dig out surviving victims from the rocks and mud by using their bare hands, as rescue efforts were suspended temporarily due to heavy rain, before recommencing after lifting equipment arrived. At least sixteen dead bodies have been recovered by Wednesday. Roughly five hundred people are contributing to the search and rescue.

Priyadi Kardono, spokesperson for the Disaster Management Agency, stated: “We’ve found fifteen bodies so far and estimate that there are up to 70 people still missing.” He also commented that fifteen other people had been injured, of which two have been hospitalised.

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‘Fascinating’ and ‘provocative’ research examines genetic elements of bipolar, schizophrenia

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last week, Nature Genetics carried twin studies into the genetics of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This special report examines the month’s research into the illnesses in detail, with Wikinews obtaining comment from experts based in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom ahead of the U.S. Mental Illness Awareness Week, which starts tomorrow.

Eleven genetic regions were identified; seven of these were for schizophrenia and five of those were hitherto undiscovered. The parallel studies, conducted separately, examined more than 50,000 people worldwide and identified two genetic loci associated with both diseases.

Little is known about the two illnesses, each of which affects around 1% of people and is treated with strong medication. Bipolar sufferers experience extremes of mood – depression and mania, hence the previous name “manic depression” for the illness. Schizophrenia is associated with hearing voices, chaotic thoughts, and paranoia. There is no known cure.

The latest research examined both the healthy and the afflicted, using computers to scan genomes. Inheritance was thought to be a factor from prior knowledge of the diseases as a familial trait, but the original desire had been to isolate a single faulty gene. Instead it has become apparent that the genetic factors are many; in the case of schizophrenia, at most around 30% of the genetic components are thought to have been identified.

If any single centre tried to undertake such a study, it would require millions of pounds.

The University of Chicago’s Pablo Gejman, a lead researcher on the schizophrenia study, explained to Wikinews in a telephone interview from Buenos Aires, Argentina that “One of the goals of genetic research is to find druggable targets” – to “find treatments at the root of the problem”.

Whilst noting that there is no guarantee the genetic code identified is druggable, Gejman named calcium-activated neurochemical channels in the brain as candidates for new drugs. The channels were linked to schizophrenia in the study.

Gejman explained that a genetic locus called mir137 “suggests an abnormality of gene regulation.” The diseases are so poorly understood that it is uncertain if they are in fact two components of a single spectrum, or even each comprised of multiple illnesses.

The new and “provocative data” gathered showed the significant loci identified were “not part of the pre-existent hypothesis.” Calling this “interesting”, Gejman added that the team found no evidence that dopamine receptors are involved; current drug treatments target dopamine receptors. The findings are “not related to anything we thought we knew [about schizophrenia],” he told our correspondent.

Quizzed about the possibility variations in the genetic factors involved in expressing the diseases explained the variation seen in symptoms, Gejman was uncertain. “We will have the answer, probably, only when we sequence the whole [human] genome.” He notes that the relationship between genotype and phenotype is unclear, and that “We know very little of the genetic architecture of schizophrenia and” other disorders.At the time the results were published, participating scientist Professor Rodney Scott from the University of Newcastle in Australia said “The strength of this research is in the numbers. The findings are robust and give us a lot of statistical power to identify the genetic determinants of schizophrenia.” Scott told Wikinews that “If any single centre tried to undertake such a study, it would require millions of pounds. Since it was a collection of data from across the world the costs were spread. In this era of financial difficulty it will become increasingly difficult to secure funding for this type of project even though the pay-offs will be significant.”

Gejman expressed similar sentiment. “The research budget is not growing, which makes [funding] difficult,” he said, though he felt the cost “is not prohibitive because of the benefits.” “I think that it was money well invested” and “very well spent for the future,” he said, adding that organisations in Europe and the US were aware of the importance of such research.

Gejman also agreed on reliability – the study is “Very reliable because of the sample size; that should provide robust results… [we] have worked with a much larger sample than before.” Scott told us it was “a highly reliable study” that has the potential to lead to new treatments “in the long run”.

Another point was the two genetic loci identified as common to both – how much support do they lend to the notion the diseases are linked? “Until more information is available it is really only suggestive,” says Scott. “Strong enough to say there may be potentially a common pathway that bifurcates to give rise to two diseases.”

The provision of specialist services for bipolar is very limited in the UK and the demand for our services is unprecedented.

“It is an excellent demonstration,” said Gejman “because you have the same chains that are common to both disorders, in fact not just the same chains but also the same alleles.” He stressed uncertainty in how strong the relationship was, however.

Scott said examining how the variation of genetic factors may translate into varied symptoms being expressed “certainly is a good target for future research”; “It is not known how many genetic factors contribute to either of these diseases but it is likely that not all are necessary to trigger disease.” “New questions will always arise from any major study,” he told our reporter. “Certainly, new questions about bipolar and schizophrenia are now able to be formulated on the basis of the results presented in the two reports.”

These weren’t the only studies to look at the two diseases together in September. The British Medical Journal carried research by a team from the University of Oxford and King’s College London that examined mortality rates in England for schizophrenia and bipolar sufferers. They found both groups continued to suffer higher mortality rates than the general population – whilst these included suicides, three quarters of deaths were down to ailments such a s heart conditions. General death rates dropped from 1999 to 2006, but sufferers below 65 saw their death rate remain stable – and the over-65 saw theirs increase.

“By 2006, the excess risk in these groups had risk to twice the rate of the general population, whereas prior to that it had only been 1.6 times the risk, so it increased by almost 40%,” said Dr Uy Hoang of Oxford. The study looked at every discharged inpatient with a diagnosis of either condition in England in the relevant time.

Hoang said at the time of the research’s release that doctors should devote attention to predicting and preventing physical illness associated with mental disorders. His study comes at a time when the UK has launched a “no health without mental health” strategy which does attempt to screen for physical illnesses coinciding with mental illnesses. The government aims to reduce the death rate of those with mental disorders.

Rodney Scott described this research result to Wikinews as “Possibly” connected to genetic association with other hereditary ailments, such as cardiovascular disease; he told us another possibility is that “The continued raised mortality rates may be associated with the diseases themselves.”

“We believe the NHS [National Health Service] and Department of Health need to do more to support research and service development for people with bipolar disorder,” Wikinews was told by Suzanne Hudson, Chief Executive of London-based British charity MDF The Bipolar Organisation. “The provision of specialist services for bipolar is very limited in the UK and the demand for our services is unprecedented.”

“A genetic test for bipolar would be a useful tool but the science and ethics are very complex,” Hudson told us, referring to the Nature Genetics genetic study. “Just because someone has ‘bipolar genes’ does not mean they might go on to develop it. Family studies of bipolar show that this is a likely outcome of genetics research in this area. Even if it were possible to accurately predict bipolar in this way, questions about how you treat that person are difficult. For example do you start medication that is not necessary at that point in time?”

“Current treatment is not satisfactory” because it does not always work and has “side effects,” Gejman told us. Robert Whitaker, a US medical journalist and book author, told an audience in New Zealand at the end of August that evidence suggests antidepressant drugs may make children and teenagers worse – “You see many become worse and end up with a more severe diagnosis, like bipolar illness,” and the suicide risk may increase.

Whitaker blames commercial interests. “The adult market appeared saturated, and so they began eying children and teenagers. Prior to this, few children and youth were seen as suffering from major depression, and so few were prescribed anti-depressants.”

One possible alternative, raised by a connection between depressive illness and inflammation, is aspirin and similar compounds. “The link between inflammation and mood disorders has been known for sometime and the use of aspirin and other drugs in depression is now becoming more common in the literature,” Hudson says. “Any new treatments for bipolar, which is a very complex and co-morbid illness, has to be a good thing.”

Professor Dr. Michael Berk, chairman of psychiatry at Australia’s Deakin University, recently gave a talk to just this effect. Speaking at this year’s Congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, held this past month, he also highlighted statins as a treatment. Recognising the link to physical ailments, he told an interviewer “The brain does not exist in isolation, and we need to understand that pathways similar to those that underpin risks for cardiovascular disorders, stroke, and osteoporosis might also underpin the risk for psychiatric disorders, and that other treatments might be helpful.”

Berk also touched upon speed of diagnosis and treatment; “Early interventions can potentially improve the outcome” of bipolar sufferers, he told his audience. MDF The Bipolar Organisation claim an average of ten years is possible before a person is diagnosed. “This clearly is an issue, if we believe that earlier diagnosis and treatment facilitate better outcomes,” Berk told Wikinews. Though he questions the effectiveness of currently-used drugs on advanced bipolar cases, he does not go so far as to say drugs are actively harmful. He told us “it appears that our best treatments work best earlier in the illness course; and that seems to apply to psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.”

Berk has already performed research using statins which suggests they can form a treatment. He now seeks funding for research involving aspirin. On funding, he tells Wikinews “psychiatric disorders comprise between 16% and 22% of the burden of disability (depending on who measures it), attracts[sic] just over 6% of the clinical budget at least in Australia and 3% of the research budget. Research as a discretionary spending item is at great risk.”

Berk’s research, in the past, has been funded by companies including GlaxoSmithKline. Hudson told Wikinews this did not concern her charity; in fact, they welcomed it. “We believe it is important pharmaceutical companies continue to invest in the development of new medications for bipolar. This is how it works in all other health specialities and mental health should be no different.”

“There is a need for greater education for mental health professionals and GPs [general practitioners] about bipolar [in the UK],” she told us. “As the national bipolar charity we receive many, many calls and requests from GPs and other health professionals for our leaflets and information sheets which is fantastic. We very much welcome opportunities to work together for the benefit of individuals affected by bipolar.”

Wikinews contacted the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to discuss issues raised in this article, including future treatments, genetic screening, and mortality rates. NICE did not respond.

Might statins and/or aspirin improve treatment – might they be cheaper, perhaps, or safer? “This is an area of research promise,” says Berk, “however it is too early to make any clinical treatment claims; [all] we can say is that this needs to be studied in properly designed trials capable of giving a more definitive answer.” And what of possible explanations for the increased mortality rate observed in England? Should researchers look at whether bipolar influences more than just the brain, or if it is linked to other genetic conditions?

“For sure,” he told us. “There is new evidence that similar pathways contribute to the risk for both medical and psychiatric illness, both in terms of lifestyle factors, and biomarkers of risk.”

MDF The Bipolar Organisation provide support to those with bipolar and their friends and family: 020 7931 6480

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