Blood pressure drug ‘fights cancer’


Losartan pill
Losartan has been prescribed as a blood pressure drug for decades

A commonly used blood pressure drug could help fight cancer by opening up blood vessels in solid tumours.

Used beside conventional cancer-fighting drugs, it could improve life expectancy, experts believe.

Following successful testing in mice, doctors plan to give losartan to patients with pancreatic cancer to see if it can tackle this hard-to-treat disease, Nature Communications reports.

Currently, only 5% of pancreatic cancer patients survive for at least 5 years.

This is partly because only one in 10 people with the disease has a tumour that is operable.

Future hope

Investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US are currently recruiting volunteer patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer to test out the new drug combination of chemotherapy plus losartan.

Although the treatment will not cure them, the researchers hope it will give the patients more months or years of life than they might otherwise get.

Losartan has been used for more than a decade as a safe blood pressure medication.

It works by making the blood vessels relax or dilate so that they can carry more blood, easing pressure.

The Massachusetts team found that the drug was beneficial in mice with breast and pancreatic cancer.

It improved blood flow in and around the tumours allowing more of the chemotherapy drugs to be delivered to their target.

Mice given this treatment, rather than standard chemotherapy alone, survived for longer.

Dr Emma Smith of Cancer Research UK said: “This interesting study in mice sheds light on why drugs for hypertension might improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, but we don’t yet know if they work exactly the same way in people.

“The fact that these drugs are already widely used to treat high blood pressure will hopefully cut down the amount of time it will take to test their potential in treating cancer but they may not be safe for all patients or when combined with other cancer treatments, so we need to wait for the answers from clinical trials which are already under way.”

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Top five physics discoveries chosen.


‘Top five physics discoveries’ chosen by magazine

Four-qubit quantum device (E Lucero)
Quantum computing – one of five physics discoveries that could “improve the everyday lives of ordinary people around the world”

Five physics discoveries with the potential to transform the world have been selected by a leading science magazine for its 25th birthday issue.

Quantum computing and science that could enable shoes to charge a mobile phone are among the list compiled by Physics World.

A potential new tumour treatment called hadron therapy and the “wonder-material” graphene also feature.

The magazine also picked its top five breakthroughs of the last 25 years.

In all, the publication compiled five lists of five to examine different aspects of physics.

Eternal riddles

Graphene has been one of the most talked-about discoveries in the last decade.

Its strength, flexibility and conductivity make it a potentially ideal material for bendable smartphones and superior prosthetic limbs.

Top 5 discoveries to change the world.

Graphene

But graphene has another, less-heralded property which could help it transform the everyday lives of people around the world.

Despite being just one atom thick, it is impervious to almost all liquids and gases.

Generating holes in sheets of graphene could therefore create a selective membrane – “the ultimate water purifier” – which might someday create drinking water from the sea.

“Predicting the future is a mug’s game. Of course, we expect to get a few of them wrong,” Hamish Johnston, editor of physicsworld.com told BBC News.

“Grandiose, utopian predictions that never materialise always look faintly ridiculous in years to come – have you seen anyone recently flying to work on a nuclear-powered jet-pack?”

Physics World is the monthly magazine of the Institute of Physics and was first published in October 1988.

Selecting the five most important breakthroughs of its lifetime was “harder than choosing Nobel laureates”, according to reporter Tushna Commissariat.

Cat's Eye Nebula
The Cat’s Eye Nebula is one of the “five best images” chosen by Physics World

“There have been so many eye-popping findings that our final choice is, inevitably, open to debate,” she wrote.

“Yet for us, these five discoveries stand out above all others as having done the most to transform our understanding of the world.”

They are, in chronological order:

The magazine’s 25th anniversary issue also highlights five images that have allowed us to “see” a physical phenomenon or effect.

They range from the microscopic – electrons on a copper crystal – to the enormous – the Cat’s Eye Nebula, as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The list of five “biggest unanswered questions” features some eternal riddles – “is life on Earth unique?” Another is: “what exactly is time?”

The 5 biggest unanswered questions

  • What is the nature of the dark universe?
  • What is time?
  • Is life on Earth unique?
  • Can we unify quantum mechanics and gravity?
  • Can we exploit the weirdness of quantum mechanics?

The final top five is a set of “fiendish physics-themed puzzles” devised by the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ.

The first has already appeared online – a jumbled set of letters on a page which need to be deciphered before arriving at a physics-themed answer.

A similar puzzle was recently used by GCHQ to attract potential employees.

It will be followed by another four problems, one per week throughout October, which will become progressively more challenging.

“We think the puzzles are going to really stretch even the brightest minds,” says Matin Durrani, editor of Physics World.

“You won’t need any physics to solve them, but they are certainly going to make you think and they’re a fun way to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

“I also hope our top fives in the birthday issue will remind everyone just how vital, enjoyable and interesting physics can be.”

Can a drug make you tell the truth?


In movies and TV dramas, sodium thiopental is shown as a sinister truth serum used to get information out of captured people. Michael Mosley tried it out.

One of the great challenges of living in our society is knowing when people are telling the truth or not. We lie all the time and are remarkably bad at detecting when other people are deliberately deceiving us.

There are lots of urban myths about lie detecting, such as the claim that liars tend to look away, twitch their feet or touch their noses when lying (the so-called Pinocchio effect).

In study after study, it has been shown that professionals such as policemen are no more reliable at detecting liars than the rest of us. So it’s not surprising that for many years scientists have been working to develop “truth drugs” – drugs that will make you open up and tell all you know to an interrogator.

One of the oldest and best known of these truth drugs is sodium thiopental. Although it was first developed in the 1930s, it is still used today in a range of settings, including, in some countries, by the police and the military.

I was intrigued but also extremely sceptical about the claims that sodium thiopental, originally developed as an anaesthetic, could make people speak the truth if they chose not to. So I decided, as part of a series I’ve been making on the extraordinary history of pharmaceuticals, to try it out.

Sodium thiopental is part of a group of drugs called barbiturates, drugs widely used in the 1950s and 60s to help people sleep better. They are no longer used for that purpose because they are extremely addictive and potentially lethal – Marilyn Monroe famously died from a barbiturate overdose.

I decided to take a low dose of sodium thiopental under proper medical supervision, with anaesthetist Dr Austin Leach monitoring my vital signs throughout. Barbiturates work by slowing down the rate at which messages travel through the brain and spinal column. The more barbiturates there are, the harder it is for chemical messages to cross the gaps between one neuron and the next.

Your whole thinking process slows down until you fall asleep. With thiopental, that happens very quickly indeed.

Although it was originally developed as an anaesthetic, it was soon noticed that when patients were in that twilight zone halfway between consciousness and unconsciousness, they became more chatty and disinhibited. After the drug had worn off, the patients forgot what they had been talking about.

It was decided that sodium thiopental might form the basis for a truth drug, an interrogation tool. But does it really work?

I decided that I would have a go at trying to maintain the fiction that rather than being Michael Mosley, science journalist, I would be Michael Mosley, famous heart surgeon. We started with a very low dose. Immediately I felt extremely light-headed, intoxicated. But would this make me more inclined to speak the truth?

There is an expression, “in vino veritas” (in wine there is truth). Alcohol is an anaesthetic and it depresses some of our higher centres, areas like the cerebral cortex where a lot of thought processing occurs. It reduces inhibitions but also slows thought processes, making it difficult to think clearly. The Roman historian Tacitus claimed that Germanic tribes held their important councils while drunk, as they thought it made effective lying harder.

One theory about sodium thiopental is that it works in much the same way. Because lying is generally more difficult and complicated than telling the truth, if you suppress higher cortical functions you are more likely to speak the truth, simply because it’s easier.

I’m not sure if I lied effectively while under the influence of low dose thiopental, but I found that I could still lie.

“I am a cardiac – ha ha ha! – cardiac surgeon, a world famous cardiac surgeon,” I shouted out when Dr Leach asked me what I did for a living.

“Would you like to tell me what the last operation you carried out was?” he enquired, politely.

“It was a heart bypass,” I improvised. “They survived, yeah, I was awesome.”

Not convincing, but I had just about managed to stick to my fictional story. But what would happen when the dose was upped?

Truth drug experiment, 1945
Truth drug experiment, Britain 1945

At this point I felt some trepidation. There was a risk that I might say something that I really didn’t want the world to know, but, confident in my ability to keep on lying, I told Dr Leach to go ahead.

I was given another slightly larger dose of sodium thiopental and this time I actually felt more sober, more in control. So what happened next was a complete surprise.

Again Dr Leech asked me my name and my profession. This time there was no hesitation.

“I’m a television producer. Well, executive producer, well, presenter, some, mix of the three of them.”

“So you don’t have any history of performing cardiac surgery?” he asked gently.

“None whatsoever. None whatsoever”

I’m still confused about what happened because one effect of the drug is to distort short-term memory. But I think the reason that I spoke the truth on this occasion is because the thought of lying never occurred to me.

So does it work? Well my conclusion after trying it out and speaking to experts is that it will certainly make you more inclined to talk, but that when you are under the influence you are also in an extremely suggestible state. The reason you become more suggestible is probably because the drug is interfering with your higher centres, like your cortex, where a lot of decision making goes on. There is a serious risk you will say what your interrogator wants to hear rather than the truth.

The truth is we don’t have a reliable truth drug yet. Or if there is one out there, nobody’s telling.

Ten years in: taking stock of the biosafety protocol.


Speed read

·         The Cartagena protocol covers the safe transfer and use of GM organisms

·         But most of its 164 signatories have still not fully implemented it

·         Industry has been making efforts to work with governments within the protocol

Many challenges lie ahead for the Cartagena protocol to be effective, Maria Elena Hurtado reports.


  Ten years after the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety entered into force to detail the safe handling, transfer and use of living 
genetically modified organisms, vast majority of its 164 signatories have not fully implemented it.  

Yet in recent years, researchers have started producing 
genetically modified fish in Panama for human consumption, and releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild in Brazil and elsewhere to try and prevent dengue fever, sometimes with unclear safety and regulatory oversight.

The protocol commits signatory countries to appoint a national authority to administer the protocol, to create national biosafety frameworks and regulations, and to build capacity for risk assessment and the safe handling and transport of living modified organisms (LMOs).

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Fifty-two countries have domestic regulations fully in place, 75 have one or more biosafety laws and almost all of them have national authorities for administrating it, reports an article published in the anniversary edition of the protocol’s newsletter.

“But still there is a long way to go to make sure the national biosafety rules and regulations in place are workable and countries have the necessary capacity to enforce them,” Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, tellsSciDev.Net.

“For example, the effectiveness of biosafety regulations will be minimal unless countries have the necessary tools to detect and identify LMOs.”


Challenges ahead


And for the protocol to be fully effective, “we need to work towards achieving its universal membership”, said de Souza Dias, in a press release published earlier this month (10 September). “I call upon all countries that have not yet done so to fast track their national processes to ratify or accede to the Cartagena protocol … as soon as possible.”

“The absence of legal certainty in many countries has been commonly regarded as one of the most serious stumbling blocks in the path of biodiscovery.”

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dia, Convention on Biological Diversity

Also, the speed of implementation has decreased over the last three years, Stefan Jungcurt of the Canada-based International Institute on Sustainable Development, tells SciDev.Net.

“As more and more countries approve LMOs for cultivation and import, the political priority given to biosafety is diminishing, which translates into a lack of financial and other support to implement the protocol on a national level,” he says.

In his view, a key pending issue is approving UN guidelines for risk assessment and risk management. Claudio Chiarolla, director of biodiversity governance at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, a non-profit policy research institute based in France, agrees 

Both Jungcurt and Chiarolla tell SciDev.Net that one of the most important issues will be to determine  the protocol’s scope regarding the 
potential socioeconomic impact that LMOs pose for the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and what appropriate action can be taken.

“The protocol will also have to deal with other types of LMOs such as genetically modified mosquitoes, aquatic species, microorganisms or
products of synthetic biology, which are different to LMO crops,” Jungcurt adds.

A new international treaty was adopted at a 2010 meeting in Japan, called the Nagoya – Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
This treaty deals with potential damages resulting from the export and import of LMOs.

Jungcurt says: “The most immediate challenge here is achieving its coming into force and its national implementation, as well as establishing rules and procedures on who is liable if damage occurs during transboundary movements”.


A fair share


De Souza Dias told a meeting in Denmark this month (4 September) that the Nagoya protocol “put an end to the mistrust among industry, indigenous and local communities over the equitable sharing of benefits”.

“The absence of legal certainty in many countries has been commonly regarded as one of the most serious stumbling blocks in the path of biodiscovery,” he adds. “The Nagoya protocol seeks to address this concern.”

He recognises the high stakes involved for different groups. “Over the last two decades, the issue of free trade in LMOs on the one hand, and biosafety on the other, have led to heated debates and, at times, to tense legal disputes.”

But he believes industry has been making efforts to work with governments within the process of the biosafety protocol.

“The participation of representatives of industry and civil society in the Cartagena protocol process has been helpful to maintain transparency and balance in taking decisions,” he says.

Microbes ‘cheaper, fairer’ for boosting yields than GM.


Speed read

  • Microbes may offer a more equitable choice for smallholder farmers
  • Improvements in technology must continue to get them from the lab to the field
  • Melon yields in Honduras have already benefited from microbes.

Adapting microbes that dramatically increase crop yields while reducing demand for fertilisers and pesticides through selective breeding or genetic engineering could be cheaper and more flexible than genetically modifying plants themselves, says an author of a report.
 
Microbes, such as beneficial bacteria, fungi and viruses, could be produced locally for smallholder 
farmers to significantly improve food security and incomes in developing regions, believes Ann Reid, director of the American Academy of Microbiology and co-author of a report published by the organisation last month (27 August).
 
“Genetic modification of crop plants, which has seen a huge investment, is closed to all but the biggest agricultural companies,” she tells SciDev.Net.
 
“Optimisation of microbes could be done at the level of the local community college and is much more obtainable for a smallholder farmer.”
 
Her comments echo the findings of the report — the product of an expert meeting in 2012 — which underscored the significant impact microbes could have on food production by increasing crops’ absorption of nutrients, resistance to disease and environmental stresses, and even improving flavour.
 

“Optimisation of microbes could be done at the level of the local community college and is much more obtainable for a smallholder farmer.”

Ann Reid, American Academy of Microbiology

As well as to accentuate naturally occurring traits such as the secretion of pest-killing toxins or nitrogen-fixation, the modification of microbes is often needed to allow them to be grown in large numbers out of their natural environment.
 
For example, researchers in Colombia could only produce large quantities of a fungus that improves the nutrient absorption of cassava once they bred a strain of that fungus that was capable of growing on carrot roots.
 
Recent technological developments in rapid DNA sequencing, imaging and computer modelling can help provide further solutions, as well as building a greater understanding of the complex environment that microbes themselves need to flourish, the report says.
 
These advances raise the possibility that, within two decades, microbes could increase food production by a fifth and reduce fertiliser demands by the same proportion, it finds.
 
But to achieve this ambitious goal, the research community must engage in curiosity-driven basic research, develop even cheaper sequencing techniques, and establish a process to move discoveries from the lab to the field, it says.
 
Reid adds that, unlike genetic modification, which requires farmers to regularly buy improved seeds, microbes may be able to stay in the soil indefinitely.
 
But larger universities are still needed to drive more-complex areas of investigation, which inevitably requires funding, she says. “We wanted to get the word out that this could be a big-bang-for-your- buck area for funding agencies.”
 
Matteo Lorito, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Naples, Italy, agrees that sophisticated research centres must be involved in identifying and selecting suitable microbes and techniques.
 
But once this groundwork has been done, growing microbes will require as little as a fermenting tank, he says.
 
The impact of this approach is already being seen in areas such as Honduras, where melon yields have been improved by 15 per cent by applying a fungus that boosts the plants’ defence mechanisms.
 
Other crops such as maize, tomatoes and wheat could see rises in production of more than 50 per cent from such techniques, he believes.
 
But Ken Giller, professor of plant production systems at the Netherland’s Wageningen University, says that much more work needs to be done, particularly on how to get the microbes into the soil, before farmers will benefit, he says.
 
“Molecular biology has been incredibly important in understanding biology in general, which has helped when thinking about solutions [for food production],” he tells SciDev.Net.
 
“But in terms of the manipulation of these processes to make an impact in the field, we have yet to make any great inroads

GM bacteria ‘could eliminate’ sleeping sickness


Speed read

  • Sleeping sickness affects 30,000 people and causes yearly loss of US$1 billion in Africa
  • Bacteria that live inside tsetse flies can be engineered to try curb infections
  • A study finds that in some areas such bacteria can help eliminate the disease

Releasing tsetse flies that carry genetically modified bacteria resistant to the parasite that causes sleeping sickness could eliminate the disease in Africa under certain conditions, a modelling study has shown.African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness — caused when the parasite is transmitted between livestock and humans via tsetse fly bites — infects 30,000 people, and causes losses of US$1 billion from livestock production a year in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases last month (15 August).

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Researchers have been considering genetically modifying bacteria that live inside tsetse flies, to try to eliminate the disease in the wild, a strategy called paratransgenesis.

A group of researchers in the United States modelled the spread of a bacteria (Wolbachia) to see if it could help drive another bacteria (Sodalis) carrying the resistance gene into the wild tsetse population.

Sodalis lives in the gut and Wolbachia lives in the reproductive organs [of tsetse flies]. But they are transmitted together to the tsetse progeny,” Serap Aksoy, co-author of the study and a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health, tells SciDev.Net.

Wolbachia gives the female tsetse flies in which it resides a reproductive advantage over female flies in which it does not, therefore becoming more common over time in the tsetse population. (But its presence in the population of flies also depends on different factors.)

It is this well-known feature of Wolbachia that made researchers think of it as a way to spread the resistance gene inserted into Sodalis, as the link in transmission between the two bacteria species had been shown to work in the laboratory in previous studies.

Sodalis is an ideal carrier of the resistance gene as it resides in the gut, which is where the sleeping sickness parasite first multiplies following infection, researchers say.

The study used data from Sub-Saharan Africa on the transmission of sleeping sickness among tsetse flies, humans and livestock, alongside data from Uganda on the number of wild tsetse flies carrying Wolbachia, to show that paratransgenesis is a promising technique for eliminating the disease.

It shows that a single release of tsetse flies, carrying both Wolbachia and genetically-modified Sodalis, could potentially eliminate sleeping sickness in between one-to-ten years, depending on the exact numbers of flies released.

But because several tsetse fly species exist in the wild, this can only be achieved if the species released comprises at least 85 per cent of the total population in the area of release.

Aksoy also warns that the model works under the assumptions that the anti-parasite gene is not lost from the tsetse population, the parasite does not gain resistance to it and the link between Sodalis and Wolbachia does not break.

François Chappuis, a medical advisor for Médecins Sans Frontières, an NGO involved in the fight against sleeping sickness, says: “Every new control method that is developed can be used alongside existing methods … If this technique of paratransgenesis is applicable on a large-scale while using limited resources, it may prove to be a very useful control method.

“But going from a mathematical model to a pilot study in infected areas and then applications in large, remote areas seems a long way off.”

Aksoy’s lab is now planning to insert the resistance gene into Sodalis, a feat that has been independently achieved by Jan Van Den Abbeele, a senior researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.

Van Den Abbeele plans to take the technique a step further by recolonising tsetse flies with genetically modified Sodalis to see if it protects flies from carrying the sleeping sickness parasite.

“So far, we were successful in genetically-modifying Sodalis to express an [anti-parasite gene] that specifically targets bloodstream [parasites]. With this we showed the proof-of-concept that indeed the Sodalis bacterium is able to express and release a sufficient amount of active, functional, parasite-targeting [compound],” Van Den Abbeele tells SciDev.Net.

His team is continuing to identify genes coding for proteins that target the parasite in the tsetse fly gut, and studying the inheritance of the genetically modified bacteria.

“We are now doing more basic research to understand better the mechanism of Sodalis mother-to-offspring transfer in order to use that knowledge to improve [its] transfer to the [tsetse] offspring,” he says.

The aim is to produce tsetse flies that are resistant to human and animal sleeping sickness , says Van Den Abbeele, but a similar approach is also being explored for malaria and Chagas disease, which are transmitted by mosquitoes and Triatoma bugs respectively.

Evaluating Paratransgenesis as a Potential Control Strategy for African Trypanosomiasis


Genetic-modification strategies are currently being developed to reduce the transmission of vector-borne diseases, including African trypanosomiasis. For tsetse, the vector of African trypanosomiasis, a paratransgenic strategy is being considered: this approach involves modification of the commensal symbiotic bacteria Sodalis to express trypanosome-resistance-conferring products. Modified Sodalis can then be driven into the tsetse population by cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) from Wolbachia bacteria. To evaluate the effectiveness of this paratransgenic strategy in controlling African trypanosomiasis, we developed a three-species mathematical model of trypanosomiasis transmission among tsetse, humans, and animal reservoir hosts. Using empirical estimates of CI parameters, we found that paratransgenic tsetse have the potential to eliminate trypanosomiasis, provided that any extra mortality caused byWolbachia colonization is low, that the paratransgene is effective at protecting against trypanosome transmission, and that the target tsetse species comprises a large majority of the tsetse population in the release location.

Source: PLOS

7 Things Outstanding Leaders Do Differently


“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

What makes some people stand out of the ordinary crowd as awesome leaders?

Why do these people live wonderful lives, while the rest just drag themselves from day to day?

Great leaders shape history. Average people just get by. Greatness, however,  is simply a set of different behaviors and habits. You too can become great if you adopt them. Here’s what outstanding leaders do differently and how you can start implementing these habits into your own life.

lead1

1. They have a vision for their future

Outstanding leaders are the captains of their own boat called life. They know that the boat is following their directions and they take on the responsibility for giving those directions. They are the ones shaping the future by having a clear vision and taking 100% responsibility for whatever happens to them..

A man without a vision is like a boat without a destination. It just sails adrift in the middle of the ocean, being at the mercy of tides and waves.

All great leaders have a vision and they pursue that vision with tremendous passion. They know exactly what they want, so they are able to get others to follow them towards their desired outcome.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” ~ Proverbs 29:18

2. They stay true to themselves above anything else

Outstanding leaders follow their own inner guidance whenever faced with a decision. They know what’s best for them and they will do whatever they think it’s right, even in the face of adversity.

They speak their truth and they act according to what they feel to be true, even with the risk of offending others. Outstanding leaders are authentic and congruent. That’s how they gain other people’s trust so easily. They aren’t afraid to expose themselves just as they are – with both strengths and weaknesses.

They admit they are human and can make mistakes. They cherish their imperfection and use it as an asset. Above all, they value their individuality and aren’t afraid to show it, even to those who disagree.

Outstanding leaders stay true to themselves, even if others demand compliance. They know they are the only person worth appeasing. They have a very strong inner validation system that guides them, so they don’t need the approval of others.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch

3. They persevere in the face of obstacles

One of the most important traits of outstanding leaders is their ability to slide over setbacks and rejections. Many outstanding leaders have faced rejections before they managed to get their ideas through. Nonetheless, they persevered and succeeded.

What got them to success was their mindset. They viewed obstacles as challenges and growth opportunities, not as indicators to quit. Instead of stopping them, obstacles had the exact opposite effect: they made them even more determined to succeed and to prove they were right and others were wrong.

Great leaders don’t focus on problems and rejections. Instead, they focus on solutions and what they can learn and do better next time. They don’t take setbacks personally. They know that they are right – their internal validation system tells them that – and they do everything needed to convince the world of that fact.

4. They act with courage despite having fear

Outstanding leaders are admired for their courage. Many people who have displayed great courage have remained in history as heroes.

But what made these people different wasn’t their lack of fear. On the contrary. They felt fear just like any other human being. What set them apart was their ability to feel that fear and act despite having it.

Outstanding people have the same fears, doubts, inner conflicts and mixed emotions like everyone. But they have learned to follow their vision, no matter what they feel. They know they’re taking action for a bigger cause and  that vision inspires them to keep going even in the face of fear.

It’s not that they ignore their fear. In fact, they acknowledge it – since they admit their weaknesses and are confortable with exposing vulnerability – but they do whatever is more important for them and they don’t allow fear to paralyze them to inaction. They use fear as a catalyst that propels them in the desired direction.

5. They anticipate obstacles and find solutions

Outstanding leaders have a plan. They don’t just jump into things unprepared. They carve out a path towards their goal. Furthermore, they attempt to predict what can go wrong on their path, so that they can be prepared for any situation.

But they don’t start thinking of all the things that can work out badly and find ways to counter them. It would consume too much energy and time. Besides, one can thing of a million reasons why things could go wrong. That’s not the purpose.

Outstanding leaders have learned to use their common sense and anticipate challenges. They do that by observing how things work and relate to another. They have a realistic view and avoid over- or underestimating their current circumstances. They don’t get too excited, nor do they become paranoid. They succeed in looking at circumstances, situations and people and seeing them just as they are.

Their ability to think clear and not be limited by beliefs allows them to accurately anticipate obstacles and find solutions in advance.

6. They spend time on things which matter most

Outstanding leaders are very efficient. And they have the exact same 24 hours per day like everyone else does. The difference is in their ability to manage time.

Outstanding leaders spend most time on those activities which matter to them and bring them greatest fulfillment. Since they have a vision with a plan, they know exactly what to do to make it a reality. So they invest energy in making things happen and in creating a meaningful life.

On the flipside, average people spend time in activities which distract their attention and don’t bring them any long-term gains. They just seek instant gratification and pleasure as much as possible.

Outstanding leaders will often sacrifice short-term pleasure for long term gain, because they know that’s where real happiness comes from. They have learned to delay their gratification,while keeping an eye on the vision and taking massive action which brings them closer to living their dreams.

“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” ~ Tom Peters

7. They are constantly improving

Outstanding leaders don’t settle for what they have. They seek to constantly expand themselves, they are continuously learning new skills and developing their abilities. Outstanding leaders are perpetual students and they never get tired of learning.

They also never stop dreaming and setting goals for themselves. They have a permanent vision of how their ideal life looks like and they are always updating this image, as soon as they get close to reaching it.

Outstanding leaders set very high standards for themselves. Whenever they’re close to reaching their goals, they set new ones, so they can keep moving further and further. They are expanding and growing and constantly seeking new challenges to face and new ways to push their comfort zone.

Unlike average people who settle for comfort, outstanding leaders embrace challenges, because they know these are the prerequisites for lasting growth and satisfaction.

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” ~ Harvey Firestone

Your turn

Take one step at a time and make these changes permanent in your life. What will you do starting today to become an outstanding leader? I really want to know what are your thoughts on this.

Rabies Vaccine Dropped from the Sky


Story at-a-glance

  • There are only 2-4 human rabies cases in the US each year, but annual prevention costs are more than $300 million
  • The Texas Department of Health is using helicopters to spread 100,000 rabies vaccines for skunks in the wilderness; other states have also conducted similar vaccination efforts
  • No one knows if such programs are effective or if the indiscriminate spreading of a pharmaceutical product into the environment is going to have any unforeseen consequences to wildlife or the surrounding ecosystem.
  • rabies

In 2009, there were just four human cases of rabies in the US. In 2010, there were two1… yet each year, the US spends more than $300 million for rabies prevention,2 which includes the vaccination of companion animals, animal control programs, maintenance of rabies laboratories and medical costs.

Even at the turn of the century, rabies-related human deaths only numbered around 100 annually, and by the 1990s, this had dropped to one or two.  While rabies is a serious, potentially deadly, illness, it is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid wild animal – a risk factor that is negligible for many in the US.

Texas Department of Health Is Dropping Experimental Rabies Vaccines from the Sky

About 92 percent of the reported rabies cases in 2010 were in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, rodents and others. This poses a theoretical risk not only to humans but also to family pets, which could then transmit rabies to their owners.

Nonetheless, human rabies cases remain extremely rare… but efforts are still underway to knock out the rabies virus in wild skunk populations in Texas.

The Texas Department of Health is actually using helicopters to spread 100,000 rabies vaccines in two counties. The vaccines, which are contained in plastic cases coated with fishmeal to entice wildlife to eat them, are part of a pilot program to help reduce the number of rabid skunks in the area.

No one knows yet if the program is going to work – skunks will need to be caught and tested for rabies 30-60 days after the vaccines are dropped – or if the indiscriminate spreading of a pharmaceutical product into the environment is going to have any unforeseen consequences to wildlife or the surrounding ecosystem.

Should Wildlife Be Vaccinated Against a Disease That Infects 2-4 People a Year?

It’s also unclear why Texas is taking such aggressive measures against rabies. There has so far been only one reported case of human rabies in Texas in 2013, and the man was exposed in Guatemala, Mexico — not in Texas. The last case of human rabies in Texas prior to that was in 2009 and prior to that in 2004 – for a total of just 6 human cases in the last decade.3

For comparison, there were 2,390 cases of campylobacteriosis in Texas in 2012 alone… an illness largely spread by contaminated poultry raised on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This illness, too, can be deadly if it infects a person with a compromised immune system, yet we’re not hearing about widespread efforts to curb its transmission…

Even if you factor in data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states there were 6,153 reported cases of rabies in animals in 2010, that’s for animals in the entire US, and not only skunks but also raccoons, foxes, bats and others. Texas isn’t the only state to opt for preventative rabies vaccination of wildlife, either. According to the Human Society of the United States (HSUS):4

“Federal and state wildlife officials have been vaccinating wildlife in many regions over the past 15 years. They distribute vaccine-laden baits that the target animals eat and thereby vaccinate themselves. Right now, oral rabies vaccination of wildlife focuses on halting the spread of specific types of rabies in targeted carrier species. Next, it’s hoped that this tool can shrink the diseases’ range.”

The end question remains the same, not only for Texas but for the entire US: is it really necessary to spend $300 million a year on rabies prevention… and what are the potential consequences of vaccinating wildlife?

What Exactly Is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that most often enters your body through a bite or wound contaminated by the saliva from an infected animal. If it manages to infect the central nervous system, it can lead to early symptoms that include fever, headache, weakness and discomfort. As the disease progresses, it can lead to insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, fear of water and death.

If you have been bitten by a wild animal (or a dog with unknown rabies status), wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, as this will help to decrease your risk of infection.

Next, talk to a doctor about your next steps. He or she will probably contact the local or state health department and, if it’s deemed that the animal was rabid or at high risk of being rabid, you may need to start postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which consists of a series of vaccines that can protect you from developing rabies. But remember, though rabies is serious, and frightening, it’s extremely rare. HSUS puts it into perspective:

Given all the media attention that rabies regularly receives, it may be somewhat surprising to learn that very few people die from rabies nationwide each year. Over the past 10 years, rabies has killed only a total of 28 people in the U.S. This amounts to fewer than 3 fatalities a year nationwide.

People who contracted rabies in the United States were mostly infected by a bat. Most didn’t even know they were bitten. Some may have been sleeping when bitten. Others handled a bat bare-handed without realizing they’d been potentially exposed to rabies. But don’t panic over every bat sighting. Less than one-half of one percent of all bats in North America carries rabies. Although raccoons suffer from rabies more than any other mammal in the United States (about 35 percent of all animal rabies cases), only one human death from the raccoon strain of rabies has been recorded in the United States.”

Fukushima has ‘new leak of radioactive water which may have entered the Pacific Ocean’


  • At least 430 litres spilled when workers overfilled a storage tank 


Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water which may have entered the Pacific Ocean. 

The operator of the meltdown-plagued plant says at least 430 litres spilled when workers overfilled a storage tank that lacked a gauge that could have warned them of the danger.

The amount is tiny compared to the untold thousands of tons of radioactive water that have leaked, much of it into the Pacific Ocean, since a massive earthquake and tsunami wrecked the plant in 2011. 

Concerning: Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water which may have entered the Pacific Ocean

Concerning: Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water which may have entered the Pacific Ocean

Danger: The operator of the meltdown-plagued plant says at least 430 litres spilled when workers overfilled a storage tank that lacked a gauge that could have warned them of the danger

But the error is one of many the operator has committed as it struggles to manage a seemingly endless, tainted flow.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said this morning that workers detected the water spilling from the top of one large tank when they were patrolling the site the night before. 

The tank is one of about 1,000 erected on the grounds around the plant to hold water used to cool the melted nuclear fuel in the broken reactors. 

Wrecked: This aerial view shows the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station 2011

Wrecked: This aerial view shows the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011.

TEPCO said the water spilled out of a concrete barrier surrounding the tank and believed that most of it reached the sea via a ditch next to the river. 

The new leak is sure to add to public concern and criticism of TEPCO and the government for their handling of the nuclear crisis. 

In August, the utility reported a 300-ton leak from another storage tank, one of a string of leaks in recent months. 

That came after the utility acknowledged that contaminated groundwater was seeping into ocean at a rate of 300 tons a day. 

TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono told an urgent news conference Thursday that the overflow occurred at a tank without a water gauge and standing on an unlevel ground, slightly tilting toward the sea. 

The tank was already nearly full, but workers pumped in more contaminated water into it to maximize capacity as the plant was facing storage crunch. 

Dangerous: Workers spray water to cool down the spent nuclear fuel in the fourth reactor building at Fukushima in 2011

Dangerous: Workers spray water to cool down the spent nuclear fuel in the fourth reactor building at Fukushima in 2011.

Experts have faulted TEPCO for sloppiness in its handling of the water management, including insufficient tank inspection records, lack of water gauges, as well as connecting hoses lying directly on the grass-covered ground. 

Until recently, only one worker was assigned to 500 tanks in a two-hour patrol. 

In recent meetings, regulators criticized TEPCO for even lacking basic skills to properly measure radioactivity in contaminated areas, and taking too long to find causes in case of problems.

They also have criticized the one-foot (30-centimetre) high protective barriers around the tanks as being too low. 

The government has said it will spend $470 billion to build an underground ‘ice wall’ around the reactor and turbine buildings to block groundwater inflows and prevent potential leaks from spreading. 

It is also funding more advanced water treatment equipment to make the contaminated water clean enough to be eventually released into the sea. 

People wear face masks as they visit the cemetery at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie

People wear face masks as they visit the cemetery at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie.

The level of radiation is seen near the abandoned civic centre at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie

The level of radiation is seen near the abandoned civic centre at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie