News: They own cancer, but should they be allowed?


Who owns the cancer genes?

Not you, in some cases. An Australian breast cancer survivor is challenging the right of four US biotech companies to hold cancer gene patents because it means they can control the testing. American company Myriad Technologies owns the patent for the breast cancer gene mutation BRCA1 which is a solid indicator of a woman’s likelihood to develop the cancer. Some 80 per cent go on to form breast cancer where this mutation is present. The ABC reported:

“Outside court, breast cancer survivor Yvonne D’arcy said she was worried about a slippery slope when biotech companies start to own this material.

“I’m just hesitant about somebody owning a part of me, or you, or anybody else,” she said.

“I don’t believe that it’s right.”

The United States company has told the court that its scientists identified the sequence and have the right to own it.

The government authority that grants patents over genes has previously argued that banning patents would threaten innovation.


Rebecca Gilsenan from Maurice Blackburn says companies should not be able to patent genes.

“Patent law is intended to protect inventions, not discoveries,” she said.

In the US, the gene test costs around $3700 due to the patent.

David Beckham would be banned…

Forget thongs, now tattoos are banned at pubs and clubs

New South Wales has taken a fixation with banning visible body ink in the police force even further. Now some licensed venues have decided they want tatts out of the picture. quoted one Double Bay venue owner: Andrew Stanway, owner of dining spot and watering hole Mrs Sippy in Double Bay, made no apologies for the sign on his door: “All body art is to be covered and not visible to the naked eye.” Mr Stanway said the policy was to keep out “riff-raff”. “With some tattoos, people can be of a lesser persuasion, if you like. We don’t want the riff-raff, we don’t want the crap. I’ve watched too many places get ruined because of that. I’ve worked too hard for that.” A sign at the Australian Hotel and Brewery in Rouse Hill reads: “NO Visable (sic) Tattoo’s (sic).” The two-year-old pub only enforces the policy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and also bans “gangs or gang clothing”. What say you?

Major school funding report is released

And it has some huge recommendations. Proposals that would cost $5 billion … in 2009. The Government has refused to commit financially at this stage but it says it has its ‘sleeves rolled up’ and is willing to help. Read our cheat sheet here for all the details.

The world says goodbye to Whitney

Kevin Costner’s moving Whitney eulogy, ex storms out

The memorial for Whitney Houston was held over the weekend with an array of stars turning out to say goodbye. In attendance were Oprah Winfrey, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Beyonce Knowles, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder and her cousin, Dionne Warwick. Ms Houston’s legendary mentor, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was unable to attend because of illness. But it was Kevin Costner’s tribute to the fallen star that left the room on its feet. “Whitney returns home today to the place where it all began and I urge us all inside and across the nation and around the world to dry our tears, suspend our sorrow, perhaps our anger, just long enough to remember the sweet miracle of Whitney,” he said. “The Whitney that I knew, despite her worldwide success and fame, still wondered, ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.” He closed with a message directed at Whitney: “Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father, when you sing before him, don’t you worry you’ll be good enough.” Houston’s ex-husband Bobby Brown stormed out of the church after his entourage was asked to move out of the seats reserved for Houston’s family. The funeral was broadcast live on the Internet.

Stephen Conroy

The most powerful person in the Australian media is…

Not a media mogul. But, then again, Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy does have a lot of the media at his beck and call as he attempts to change the media landscape, for better or worse. The Australian wrote: “Rarely have the planets aligned in such a way that a politician has the chance to shape an industry for at least the next couple of decades. Most previous communications ministers have merely overseen the administration of media law; Conroy is in the seat at the height of the digital revolution and gets a chance to re-write it. Should the media in the digital age be regulated more or regulated less? The answer is in Conroy’s hands.

How many billions of dollars can be raised from the sale of redundant analog spectrum to telephone companies? Conroy will find out at auction. Should SBS be rescued from its financial plight by taxpayers? Should the ABC get more money to fund its digital adventures? Conroy will decide.” And that’s to say nothing of the multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network which comes under his jurisdiction. That might explain why Conroy beat Channel 7 boss Kerry Stokes and News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch who fell into second and third place respectively. The first woman on the list, at number 23, is editor-in-chief of the Australian Womens Weekly Helen McCabe who beat Gina Rinehart, herself in 28th spot.

Mental illness disorders set to rise as definitions redefined

A team of psychiatrists are re-defining what constitutes a psychiatric disorder in the redesign of the 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which set the gold standard for who had what condition. But there are multiple concerns with the upcoming redesign which could lead to increased diagnoses with some conditions and diagnoses with others taken away; and the funding and therapy funding that goes with them. Proposed changes include offering an extra six symptoms – one of which is the tendency to ‘not think’ before doing something out of the ordinary – which could potentially relate to a child having Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Where previously they needed 12 of 18 symptoms that now becomes 12 of 24. Experts fear it could lead to another boom in diagnoses with many ‘waking up’ with a new disorder. On the other hand, changes will likely lead to the dramatic decline in the number of Autism Spectrum Disorders diagnoses due to a tightening of the criteria.

Kevin Rudd in a screengrab from that ‘angry video’

Will there be a leadership challenge in two weeks?

That’s the word on the street, the latest pronouncement in a long line of Federal Labor leadership speculation. The most recent flare up in the tensions took place after a video of Kevin Rudd swearing during a private moment trying to record a message when he was Prime Minister. But for the first time Labor MPs have spoken out publicly against their Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Marginal-seat-holder and Labor backbencher Darren Cheeseman didn’t pull any punches at the weekend. “There’s no doubt about it, Julia Gillard can’t take the party forward,” Mr Cheeseman told News Limited. “The community has made its mind up on her. Certainly it would be in the interest of (the) party for Julia to stand down and allow cabinet to select a strong candidate.” However, another Victorian Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons tweeted: “Only a psychopath with a giant ego would line up again after being comprehensively rejected by the overwhelming majority of colleagues. Rudd took us to a magnificent victory in 2007 on a well established policy platform after the caucus rejected Kim Beazley as leader. However, his chaotic and deeply offensive style of leadership since then gradually eroded the goodwill that caucus had awarded him. Federal Labor cannot afford to adopt the strategies of the NSW branch of the party in regularly changing leaders just because the going gets a bit rough.” It has now emerged Gillard has been urged to sack Rudd before he strikes first. Confused? Meshel Laurie writes for MM on this exact problem today. Have a read, share your thoughts.

Supermarket wars will rage with Costco plans

The US bulk-buy store Costco says it will spend at least another $140 million on store openings in Australia after the opening of the firs round of stores in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra starting in 2009. It is believed a second Sydney site is on the cards as well as an expansion into Queensland within 18 months. Costco shoppers pay an annual membership fee of up to $60 to shop at the warehouse outlet, which specialises in household goods and food in bulk, and whitegoods, furniture, alcohol and even luxury items such as diamonds. Have you shopped at one yet? Did it do it for you?


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