Stark P.,US House of Representatives
The American journal of managed care | Year: 2010
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, calls for an unprecedented federal investment in health information technology (IT). Incentive payments will be made available through the Medicare programs and Medicaid to doctors and hospitals that use health IT in a meaningful way (ie, to advance delivery of high-quality healthcare). These IT systems have to be certified as meeting certain technological standards. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that HITECH will reduce federal and private sector spending on health services during the next decade by tens of billions of dollars by increasing efficiency. Source
How many senior scientists — usually men and usually with significant power over the careers of those in their labs — have been sanctioned and disciplined by their universities for sexual harassment? Nobody knows, especially not young researchers who eagerly apply for their first jobs, spend long hours on fieldwork and feel under pressure to socialize and make contacts after hours and at academic conferences. How many times have colleagues turned a blind eye to inappropriate comments and actions, and made excuses for people who should know better — and who are morally, legally and contractually obliged to behave better? How many young scientists have left positions, or left science completely, because of such behaviour, or because it is seemingly not taken seriously? We don’t know the answers to those questions. But one thing we do know is that sexual harassment is a serious problem in science. And we know that young female scientists are speaking up about it. We know this not because universities are being transparent about such complaints and how they are dealt with, but because, dissatisfied with the official responses, victims, journalists and others are bringing the facts about these complaints to light. In a World View this week, for example, Nature publishes the testimony of a female researcher who was persistently harassed by a senior male colleague. His university investigated and upheld her complaint. But it told her to keep the matter confidential, and although it promised action against him, allowed the offender to stay in his post. Nature knows who he is, but in this case, the female researcher did not want to name him for fear of reprisals. Apologists for sexual harassment will tell you that it ‘is rarely a black and white issue’ and that inappropriate behaviour often ‘falls into a grey area’. Read this woman’s story: having an influential male colleague 30 years your senior ask to stay at your house for a work trip, request kisses and then enquire whether his night-time masturbation kept you awake is 100% wrong. Nature and others have encouraged scientists to stand up to such behaviour. But it is clear that the system is weighted towards protecting powerful faculty members at the expense of students and young researchers. Although institutions proclaim that they have zero tolerance for abuse of the policies that they claim to enforce, too often their primary concern seems to be secrecy and reputation management. A string of cases in the US astronomy community demonstrates this. In each, a university investigated sexual-harassment claims against a faculty member, found the claims substantiated and attempted to bury that fact from public view. The latest disclosures, made public last week, revealed that astrophysicist Christian Ott of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena was suspended without pay last year for harassing two female graduate students. And Congresswoman Jackie Speier (Democrat, California) took the extraordinary step of decrying sexual harassment in science on the floor of the US House of Representatives. She entered into the Congressional Record a 2005 University of Arizona finding of harassment regarding Timothy Slater, an astronomy educator who later moved to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. These incidents follow probably the most high-profile recent case, which saw exoplanet hunter Geoffrey Marcy leave the University of California, Berkeley, late last year, but only after complaints and a university finding against him were revealed by news media. Scientists accused of such behaviour have the right to have their identities protected unless and until the claims are proved. But once an investigation has been completed and signed off, it is incumbent on those in power to be sure that they act on it. Disciplinary action is a good first step; ensuring that the victims have a path forward in science is another. There have been baby steps in the right direction, such as the effort by US President Barack Obama’s administration to make it clearer to students what their rights are and how they can go about reporting a sexual violation. And Speier is working to force the US Department of Education to make sure that when a person found to have violated the law changes institutions, all institutions involved are aware of the situation. Any principal investigator who thinks, “It cannot happen at my university,” is wrong. These are not one-off cases. They are examples of a systemic underlying rot that is driving many young researchers out of science for good.
News Article | September 7, 2016
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would give the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management authority to conduct federal offshore oil and gas lease sales online. The measure, which Reps. Garrett Graves (R-La.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced on June 24, passed the House by voice vote on Sept. 6.
News Article | January 18, 2016
The big news is that two Chinese state owned nuclear firms have announced plans to build floating nuclear power plants in the 100-300 MW range. (WNA) A demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC’s) ACP100S small reactor will be built by 2019. The move comes just days after China General Nuclear (CGN) said it will build a prototype offshore plant by 2020. CGN announced (next story) on 12 January that development of its ACPR50S reactor design had recently been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan for innovative energy technologies. CNNC said that its ACP100S reactor – a marine version of its ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) design – had also been approved by the NDRC as part of the same plan. CNNC said its Nuclear Power Institute of China subsidiary had completed a preliminary design for a floating nuclear power plant featuring the ACP100S reactor as well as “all the scientific research work.” Construction of a demonstration unit is to start by the end of this year, with completion set for 2019. (WNA) China General Nuclear (CGN) expects to complete construction of a demonstration small modular offshore multi-purpose reactor by 2020. CGN said development of its ACPR50S reactor design had recently been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan for innovative energy technologies. The company said it is currently carrying out preliminary design work for a demonstration ACPR50S project. Construction of the first floating reactor is expected to start next year with electricity generation to begin in 2020. The 60 MWe reactor has been developed for the supply of electricity, heat and desalination and could be used on islands or in coastal areas, or for offshore oil and gas exploration, according to CGN. The Chinese company said it is also working on the ACPR100 small reactor for use on land. This reactor will have an output of some 450 MWt (140 MWe) and would be suitable for providing power to large-scale industrial parks or to remote mountainous areas. CGN said the development of small-scale offshore and onshore nuclear power reactors will complement its large-scale plants and provide more diverse energy options. (WNA) A US House of Representatives committee has approved a bipartisan bill to support federal research and development (R&D) and stimulate private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act. The bill was introduced by energy subcommittee chairman Randy Weber (R-Texas), along with full committee ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The legislation directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to set priorities for federal R&D infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies and provide a clear path forward to attract private investment for prototype development at DOE laboratories. It enables the private sector to partner with national laboratories for the purpose of developing novel reactor concepts, leverages DOE’s supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D, and provides statutory direction for a DOE reactor-based fast neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility. It also authorizes DOE to enable the private sector to construct and operate privately-funded reactor prototypes at DOE sites. In addition, the bill requires DOE to present a transparent, strategic, ten-year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs. (NucNet) The global nuclear security system still has “major gaps” that prevent it from being truly comprehensive and effective, the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative says in its 2016 Index. The index, which assesses nuclear materials security conditions in 24 countries with one kilogramme or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials, says there is no common set of international standards and best practices, there is no mechanism for holding states with lax security accountable, and the legal foundation for securing nuclear materials is neither complete nor universally observed. In addition to assessing the risks posed by vulnerable nuclear materials and insufficient security policies in states that don’t have materials, the index assesses for the first time the potential risks to nuclear facilities posed by sabotage and cyberattack. It says cyberattacks are increasing and a growing number of states are exploring nuclear energy even though they lack the legal, regulatory, and security frameworks to ensure that their facilities are secure as well as safe. (NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company’s Springfields facility in the UK has reached the requirements necessary to manufacture Westinghouse small modular reactor (SMR) fuel, Westinghouse said. This milestone is “a key first” for the UK’s SMR programme and an important part of Westinghouse’s proposed partnership with the UK government to deploy SMR technology. Westinghouse Springfields achieved the milestone following a readiness assessment based upon fabrication data for two proprietary SMR fuel assemblies manufactured at the company’s Columbia fuel fabrication facility in the US state of South Carolina. Mick Gornall, managing director of Westinghouse Springfields, said manufacturing Westinghouse SMR fuel at Springfields will “secure the future of a strategic national asset” of nuclear fuel manufacturing capability. (WNA) The first of four reactor coolant pumps for the initial AP1000 unit at the Haiyang site in China’s Shandong province has been transported by road from Curtiss-Wright’s manufacturing facility in Cheswick, Pennsylvania, to the port of Philadelphia ahead of shipment to China, State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation announced yesterday. The first two such pumps for Sanmen 1 in Zhejiang province – expected in September to be the first AP1000 to start up – arrived on the site on 30 December. (NucNet) Testing of the instrumentation and control (I&C) systems has begun at Teollisuuden Voima’s (TVO) Olkiluoto-3 nuclear plant with an application for an operating licence likely to be submitted in April, TVO said. The I&C systems will be used for operating, monitoring and controlling the 1,600-MW EPR unit. In December 2015 TVO said system commissioning of the plant is expected to begin in the spring of 2016 with regular electricity generation beginning in “more than three years. TVO said the estimated schedule came from plant supplier Areva-Siemens. Commissioning of the plant is about nine years behind schedule and costs are almost three times over budget. Market Reform Essential For Nuclear In US, Says NEI (NucNet) Market reform is essential to ensure that the reliability, environmental and economic benefits of nuclear power are not taken for granted, and that reactor operators are compensated for these attributes in the same way as other low-carbon sources, Alex Flint, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice-president for governmental affairs, said in an interview published on the NEI’s website. Mr Flint said there has been “movement to address the issue”. He said at the national level, the NEI is working with the Edison Electric Institute and the Electric Power Supply Association to make officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency aware of the potential challenges to grid reliability and the administration’s clean air goals. In 2015, FERC and a number of regional transmission organizations took significant steps to address flaws in electricity markets that fail to provide the price signals needed to support investment in new or existing nuclear power plants. Mr Flint said, “Urged on by the NEI and a number of energy associations, FERC has begun a rulemaking to address price suppression and promises to address other issues in future. In an encouraging sign, Exelon Corporation cited positive regional reforms in deferring decisions on the potential closing of its Clinton nuclear station in Illinois and the Ginna nuclear station in New York.” Late last year Entergy Corporation said it would close its Pilgrim-1 and Fitzpatrick reactors because of poor economic conditions for nuclear.
A protein that helps Zika virus infect adult skin cells might also give the virus access to stem cells that make brain cells, suggests a study carried out on donated human fetal tissue. The result — published today in Cell Stem Cell1 — is part of a growing body of research that seeks to determine how Zika might cause birth defects, but that requires a type of tissue that is increasingly controversial for researchers in the United States. Recent advances in neuroscience and cell technology have given hints as to why some babies born to Zika-infected mothers have abnormally small heads — a condition called microcephaly — and other problems, such as eye damage. But to fully understand what is happening in the womb, some scientists say that they need to study tissue from fetuses, which can be donated by couples who terminate pregnancies. Researchers already knew that a protein called AXL enabled Zika to enter human skin cells. Now, Arnold Kriegstein, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues show that the protein is also made by cells in the fetus that form the eye and the brain. AXL could provide a means for Zika virus to infect these cells. Two other studies published this month2, 3 showed that Zika specifically targets and kills neural cells in organoids — brain-like structures derived from reprogrammed human skin cells. These studies suggest that Zika causes microcephaly by damaging fetal cells that make the brain, says neuroscientist Patricia Pestana Garcez of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who led one of the organoid studies. “We can say for sure that Zika has the ability to infect neural progenitors, and this is a good explanation for why Zika is correlated with microcephaly,” she says. Kriegstein says that the fetal tissue used in his study was donated by patients treated at UCSF medical facilities. But such tissue may be harder to come by, as the collection and use of fetal cells is under renewed scrutiny in the United States. Last July, an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress in Irvine, California, released video of employees from the non-profit health-care provider Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue from abortions for research. Members of the US House of Representatives are now investigating the use of fetal tissue in research. US scientists worry that the controversy is affecting the availability of donated fetal tissue, and could thus hamper crucial research on the Zika virus. “Many fewer people are willing to donate, and it’s slowing us down,” says Susan Fisher, a stem-cell and developmental biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Fisher is studying how Zika virus is transmitted from mother to baby through the placenta, which carries blood and nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy. She has found AXL in fetal cells called trophoblasts that anchor the placenta to the mother's uterus. These cells are known to transmit infections such as cytomegalovirus from mother to baby. “This suggests that the placenta is extremely capable of transmitting Zika,” says Fisher, whose studies rely on fetal tissue donated from terminated and full-term pregnancies. Carolyn Coyne, a virologist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, is also probing Zika transmission between mother and baby — but using cell lines and placentas donated after full-term pregnancies. She says that fetal tissue is particularly critical for studies of Zika because the virus appears to be able to harm a fetus throughout pregnancy4. “It is absolutely essential to study Zika infection in human fetal tissue,” says Coyne. “These types of studies need to extend to all stages of pregnancy.” Because abortion is illegal or highly restricted in many Latin American countries, laboratory research on neural development in the regions hit hardest by Zika relies mainly on other types of human tissue, such as organoids. Researchers in Brazil, for example, are studying the lethality of different Zika viruses in neurons and organoids derived from cord blood. Fisher used donated fetal tissue in part because an embryonic stem-cell line that she developed is ineligible for federal grant funding. Fisher derived this stem-cell line, which is capable of making trophoblast cells like those found in the placenta, from an eight-cell embryo. But current federal guidelines restrict funding for embryonic stem-cell research to cells derived from a blastocyst — an embryo about three days older than that which gave rise to Fisher's cell line. Both Fisher and Kriegstein are planning further studies to test how Zika infects developing brain and placental cells. They argue that such studies are crucial to establish why the virus damages babies' brains, and whether this can be prevented. The scientists will also use organoids and animal models, but they note that neither of these is a perfect substitute for human fetal tissue. For instance, researchers aren't sure how faithfully the growth of brain organoids replicates human brain development. “It’ll be important to demonstrate in human tissue exactly how the virus is creating the pattern of damage that is emerging,” Kriegstein says. “In situations like this, where there’s considerable time pressure to try to unravel what’s going on and to protect the developing human brain, it’s especially important.”