French literati ponder ‘brexit’ dictionary entry

FILE PHOTO: A pro-Brexit supporter is seen outside Parliament in London, Britain, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

PARIS (Reuters) – French literary types aghast at the political turmoil engulfing Britain as it seeks to leave the European Union launched a tongue-in-cheek Twitter campaign on Wednesday to add ‘Brexit’ to the national lexicon.

French commentator Bernard Pivot’s proposed dictionary entry for “brexit”, as a common noun with a small “b” describing an insoluble mess, was re-tweeted 2,700 times within six hours.

“It would signify a cacophonous and insoluble debate or a shambolic meeting,” wrote Pivot, chairman of the panel that awards France’s prestigious Goncourt Prize for fiction.

The term might even replace “bordel”, as several of his followers suggested – a word of similar metaphorical meaning but which literally designates a brothel. Exasperated compatriots would then exclaim “Quel brexit!” instead of “Quel bordel!”

“Excellent,” another replied approvingly. “More violent and less vulgar.”

Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by Richard Lough and Gareth Jones

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Israeli archaeologists ponder possible whodunit

1 of 3. A worker for the Israel Antiquities Authority displays ancient flint sickle blades near a well uncovered in recent excavations in the Jezreel Valley, near the northern Israeli town of Yokneam November 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM | Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:25am EST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli archaeologists are scratching their heads over a possible 8,500-year-old murder mystery after discovering two skeletons at the bottom of an ancient well.

Flint sickle blades and arrowheads found in the eight-meter (26 foot)-deep Stone Age well in the Jezreel Valley in Israel’s Galilee region, suggest it was used by the area’s first farmers.

But archaeologists cannot explain why the skeletal remains of a woman, believed by archaeologists to have been aged about 19, and those of an older man were also uncovered deep inside the now-dry well.

“How did these come to be in the well? Was this an accident or perhaps murder? As of now the answer to this question remains a mystery,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

Yotam Tepper, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Authority, said that “what is clear, is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well, it was no longer used for the simple reason that the well water was contaminated and was no longer potable”.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, editing by Paul Casciato)

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Reuters: Oddly Enough

Panel to Ponder Fate of Qnexa Weight-Loss Pill

Once Rejected Over Safety, Qnexa Again Before FDA Panel

Feb. 17, 2012 — Once rejected by the FDA over safety concerns, the weight loss pill Qnexa on Wednesday will get a second chance before an FDA advisory committee.

Will the second time around be the charm? Qnexa maker Vivus Inc. hopes so. And the company will be showing off new safety data from patients who took Qnexa for a second year after completing a one-year clinical trial.

Whether that will sway the panel — and, ultimately, the FDA — is a tough call.

Qnexa combines two currently approved drugs. One is the appetite suppressant phentermine, the safer “phen” part of the infamously unsafe fen-phen diet drug.

The other half of Qnexa is the seizure/migraine drug topiramate. The topiramate label lists some scary side effects: eye problems, decreased sweating and increased body temperature, acidic body fluids, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and fetal toxicity.

But Vivus’ new data suggests that the FDA’s main safety concerns, heart risk and birth defects, were not a big issue in the follow-up study. Neither were worries about increased suicide risk, mental dulling, or too much acid in body fluids.

These may not have been major issues in the clinical trials, but troubling safety issues persist. In the FDA’s analysis of Qnexa safety, there were some ominous comments:

  • There was indeed evidence of increased heart rate and acidic body fluids in people taking Qnexa.
  • The FDA states that “only a long-term” study can tell whether Qnexa increases the risk of heart disease in obese people already at high heart risk. One question before the panel is whether Vivus must conduct such a study.
  • A disturbing number of women in the clinical trials got pregnant, even though they had agreed to be on birth control and had regular pregnancy checks. One of the ingredients in Qnexa is linked to birth defects, although none were seen in the clinical trial. Since 36% of U.S. women are obese, the FDA worries that a lot of pregnant women will be exposed to Qnexa.

Does Qnexa Benefit Outweigh Qnexa Risk?

While the argument over Qnexa approval isn’t about efficacy, not everyone taking the drug loses a significant amount of weight:

  • On average, people taking the dose of Qnexa proposed for approval lost 6.6% of their body weight. For approval, the FDA requires that a drug result in average loss of at least 5% of body weight.
  • In one study, 62% of obese and overweight people taking Qnexa lost at least 5% of their body weight — about three times as many as in the placebo group. The FDA standard is that 35% of people must lose 5% of body weight.
  • In a follow-up study, people continuing to take Qnexa for a second year regained some of the weight they lost the first year. They did not regain as much weight as people taking a placebo.

Since Qnexa exceeds the FDA’s minimum effectiveness requirement, the question is whether the new safety data will sway the new FDA panel.

The last panel voted 10 to 6 against approval. But a lot of those voting said it was a close call.

This year, there are 22 panel members scheduled to vote. Twelve of them were on the last panel. Last time, seven of them voted “no” to approval, and five voted “yes.”

WebMD Health

Scientists Ponder Santa’s High-Tech Secrets

FRIDAY Dec. 23, 2011 — You’d better watch out: Santa Claus has a good grasp on quantum theory, genetic engineering and the space-time continuum.

That’s the verdict of scientists who are pondering how one jolly, bearded guy manages to get gifts to nice-but-not-naughty kids around the world in one magic night.

And never mind what you may have heard about his old-fashioned transportation system. “It could be that the sled and reindeer are something that the marketing department came up with” to distract people from the reality, said Jim Kakalios, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

Kakalios, who can look forward to a lump of coal in his stocking for spilling the beans, thinks that the man in red independently controls his “quantum mechanical wavefunction.” That means he can appear in multiple places at once and pass through solid barriers, Kakalios explained.

After all, he said, “we’re talking about somewhere over 2 billion households that he has to visit.”

Gregory Mone, a science journalist and author of the book “The Truth about Santa: Wormholes, Robots and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve,” thinks there are other explanations — a hypersonic sleigh, warp drive, teleportation and, yes, wormholes. “It’s obvious that he has to time travel. Every time he moves from one home to the next, he also goes back in time by about thirty seconds.”

Could Santa solve his problems by moving at the speed of light? Kakalios is doubtful. “You acquire mass as you’re going that fast getting in out and out of chimneys,” he said. And everyone knows about Santa’s mass problems.

Speaking of his mass, how does he manage to take a nibble out of the cookies and milk — or other culture-appropriate foodstuffs — that are left for him on Christmas Eve? We know he’s, um, vertically gifted, possibly because of the lack of exercise facilities at the North Pole. But he’d have a whole lot more excess poundage if he was gobbling down millions upon millions of sweets.

So what gives other than his pants? “He clearly has some kind of genetic engineering or advanced drugs working in his favor, allowing him to digest all that sugar. Otherwise he’d be dead,” speculated Mone.

Then there’s the matter of Santa’s surveillance system — all that inside knowledge into whether we’ve been bad or good. For goodness sake, how does he do it?

Larry Silverberg, associate head of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, suspects he uses a 4-square-mile underground antenna in the North Pole to monitor the very-real brain waves of kids.

“You’d have to isolate the signals from each child, so you could identify which ones are naughty or nice, and what presents they want,” Silverberg said. “It’s a good thing it’s Santa Claus,” he added, and not someone nefarious.

More information

Check the U.S. Department of Defense’s announcement about how North American Aerospace Defense Command will once again monitor Santa’s movements in the skies on Dec. 24.

Posted: December 2011

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