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Headline Reads

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Headline Reads

3 Compelling Stories from Home & Away

By Emily Maxwell
Associate Editor

INTERNATIONAL – from usnews.com
globe-icon-blackRussia to Miss World Championships After IAAF Ban Extended

DOHA (Reuters) – Russia will miss the world athletics championships for the second time in a row after the sport’s governing body the IAAF extended the ban against country’s federation on Monday.

The IAAF confirmed the decision four days before the start of the competition in Qatar after hearing a report from its Task Force (TF) overseeing Russia’s reinstatement efforts.

Earlier on Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed that historical data supplied by the country’s anti-doping authority contained “inconsistencies,” also putting Russia’s participation at the Tokyo Olympics under threat.

“We are aware of the allegations of manipulation of the data and that an investigation is ongoing,” said Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF Task Force. “In the light of that the task force recommended that RUSAF (the Russian athletics federation) not be reinstated and the IAAF council unanimously agreed.”

Some Russians with no doping history, including high jumper Maria Lasitskene who is Russia’s only track and field athlete currently holding a world title, have been cleared to compete internationally as neutrals.

However, the Russian flag cannot be flown nor the national anthem be played.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said that feeling was “very strong” among council members that the suspension should continue.

“No one country is bigger than the championships,” he told a media conference. “It does not remotely surprise me that the council unanimously endorsed the strongest recommendation we have probably had thus far that the Russian federation remain suspended. The responsibility of an international federation is to maintain where possible the level playing field in competition.”

NATIONAL – from npr.org
united-states-icon-blackAllergists Debate Anticipated FDA Approval Of A Peanut Allergy Drug

A panel of experts earlier this month recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve a new drug for children and teens with peanut allergies.

The drug, called Palforzia, was developed by California startup Aimmune Therapeutics to be taken daily in a regimen known as oral immunotherapy. The therapy involves ingesting small doses of peanut protein, gradually increased over months, to blunt the immune system’s overreaction to peanuts. When it’s effective, patients can become biteproof — that is, able to withstand small amounts of peanut that would have previously caused possibly dangerous allergic reactions.

With the FDA’s go-ahead, expected by January, Palforzia would become the nation’s first approved treatment for food allergies, which now afflict 1 in 13 children.

Many families and physicians are celebrating. But some are also wondering how “new” Aimmune’s treatment really is. Some 200 of 5,000 board-certified U.S. allergists already offer oral immunotherapy to treat allergies to peanuts and other foods, using peanut flour or other products from retail vendors.

The treatment is not a cure, has side effects and doesn’t work for everyone. Yet over the past decade, more than 7,800 people have received it — and for those who do benefit, the therapy can be life-changing.

“The stress and anxiety as a result of food allergies is comparable to that of other chronic illnesses,” psychologist Linda Herbert of Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., said at last week’s FDA meeting. Approval of Palforzia would allow doctors “to provide additional options for our families so we can empower them to make choices, to not feel so out of control when they go about their day-to-day lives.”

Some peanut allergy sufferers are already doing oral immunotherapy. It involves consuming prescribed doses of peanut flour — the main ingredient pre-measured and packaged into Aimmune’s colored capsules. So, some allergists are asking, what makes this pharmaceutical product any better?

“They are just packaging up what we already do, in a gold-plated capsule,” says Hugh Windom, an allergist in Sarasota, Fla. Since 2012, Windom’s clinic has administered oral immunotherapy to more than 400 people with allergies to peanuts, cashews, walnuts, milk, eggs and other foods. A 1-pound bag of peanut flour costs $6 and provides for more than 100 patients. “It lasts us all year,” Windom says.

ALASKA – from adn.com
alaska-icon-blackRapid tundra ‘greening’ on Alaska’s North Slope linked to retreating sea ice

NOME — Biologists say early-retreating sea ice is potentially causing vegetation productivity changes on the tundra across Alaska and the Arctic.

Uma Bhatt, a climate variability expert with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, says the land warms more quickly when sea ice recedes earlier than usual. “The tundra is temperature-limited, and if it has more warmth available during the course of the summer, things can grow more.” That’s the first-order effect.

“But what I think has happened is as the sea ice has gone away even further each year from the coast, there’s more time for open water and that has led, I think, to increased cloudiness.”

Bhatt says more cloudiness can cool temperatures and potentially reduce plants’ photosynthetic activity or “greening.”

According to a publication recently released by UAF and the International Arctic Research Center, the tundra on the North Slope has shown more “greening” over the last five years than any other region in the state.

“If you look at the Arctic as a whole, it’s greening, and the productivity is increasing,” Bhatt says. “But there’s a lot of spatial variability, and we think it has to do with what the permafrost is doing locally. If things are drying out locally, or if the snow patterns are changing, that’s going to affect what the vegetation is able to do.”

On the North Slope, increased shrub growth, general warming of the tundra and more available moisture are possible contributors.

According to climatologist Rick Thoman, sea ice extent in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas is still shrinking, now 37% of what used to be the average seasonal minimum.