Environmental groups withdraw from Oregon wolf plan talks
By GILLIAN FLACCUS
Tuesday, January 8
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Environmental groups in Oregon announced Monday they have withdrawn from talks on how to manage the state’s rebounding wolf population because of what they called a “broken” process, and concerns that state wildlife officials want to make it easier to kill wolves that eat livestock without trying other alternatives.
The announcement came after months of negotiations to update rules on how and when wolves can be killed as their numbers increase and they spread farther west and south after re-entering northeastern Oregon from Idaho more than a decade ago.
It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to the talks, although the environmental groups said they would “collectively and actively” oppose the wolf management plan proposed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Michelle Dennehy, an agency spokeswoman, did not return a call and email seeking comment. The agency oversees the group of ranchers, hunters and wolf conservation advocates formed by Gov. Kate Brown to update the state’s management plan after an initial draft plan was rejected in 2017. The state is supposed to update its plan every five years to account for changing wolf population numbers but is four years overdue with a revision.
The environmental groups Oregon Wild, Defenders of Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity said in a Jan. 4 letter to Brown that the fish and wildlife agency has rejected their suggestions for managing wolf-livestock conflict as too expensive or two difficult.
A key sticking point for the conservation groups is a plan provision that would allow the state or deputized private citizens — likely ranchers affected by livestock attacks — to kill culprit wolves after two documented attacks on livestock herds by the same wolf pack, said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands.
The groups are particularly unnerved by a provision that would allow the deputized citizens to keep wolf pelts, said Cady, who called the idea a “trophy hunt.”
“With a population of wolves that’s 120 animals statewide, that’s a ridiculous, ridiculous proposal,” he said in an interview.
The groups also feel the state agency’s plan favors hunters, who contend more wolves mean fewer deer for them to hunt.
Ranchers reacted to the news with surprise and disappointment.
Rodger Huffman, a small-scale rancher in rural northeastern Oregon, said wolf numbers have risen so dramatically in recent years that it’s no longer useful to focus on conservation. The population now needs to be managed to minimize damage to livestock, he said.
“There’s a huge cost, there’s a toll there,” said Huffman, who’s negotiating for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
“I don’t think anybody can expect to get everything you want, and so to pick up your marbles and say, ‘I’m going home because I’m not getting my way’ is a little bit unprofessional,” he said.
Conflict between ranchers and wolves has grown sharply in recent years as the species makes a comeback after being wiped out by a bounty-hunting program more than 70 years ago.
Wolves were reintroduced to central Idaho in the mid-1990s and in 1999, a lone wolf wandered into northeastern Oregon. It was trapped and returned to Idaho.
Two more were found dead in Oregon in 2000. But the first definitive proof wolves had returned to the Oregon came in 2007, when a wolf was found shot to death. The following year, a wolf nicknamed Sophie by conservationists gave birth to the first litter of pups born in Oregon in decades.
Most Oregon wolves live in remote northeastern areas where cattle, llamas, sheep and goats graze on private land and in federally managed forests and grassland. Ranchers often use range riders, flashing lights, remote cameras and fluttering devices on miles of fence line to keep wolves at bay — sometimes with little success.
Several packs have also established themselves in the forests of rural southwestern Oregon, near the California border, where they have attacked livestock.
The species lost its endangered status under Oregon law in 2015 — when the state’s population hit 81 wolves — and is no longer federally protected in the eastern third of the state.
As of April 2018, there were at least 124 wolves in Oregon. There were 12 known wolf packs and nine more groups of two or three wolves that are not considered packs were noted.
In 2017, two wolves were captured by remote camera in Mt. Hood National Forest, a popular recreational destination for hiking and skiing about an hour east of Portland.
It was the first time multiple wolves were documented in Oregon’s northern Cascade Mountain range since they returned to the state.
Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus
When it comes to brain tumors, a patient’s sex matters
January 8, 2019
Author: Joshua Rubin, Professor, Pediatrics and Neuroscience, Washington University in St Louis
Disclosure statement: Joshua Rubin receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, The Children’s Discovery Institute of Washington University and Joshua’s Great Things Foundation.
Have you ever wondered why, in most species, males are larger and more ornamented than females? It’s an evolutionarily determined aspect of biology, but what does it mean for human health and disease? What are the implications of needing one chart to describe normal growth in boys, and another to describe normal growth in girls? Why are there two normals for growth, and does it matter for a disease of growth like cancer?
I’m a pediatric brain tumor doctor and scientist and am interested in developing new treatments for glioblastoma (GBM) and other malignant brain tumors. Glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor and killed the late Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy, and Beau Biden III, the eldest child of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
In this new year, about 22,000 Americans will develop glioblastoma, and nearly the same number will die from it. While GBM occurs in both males and females, we can reliably predict that of the 22,000 new cases, 8,500 will be in females while the remaining 13,500 cases will be in males. Moreover, the female GBM patients can be expected to survive about six months longer than the male patients, on average.
My colleagues and I wondered whether basic differences in biology might explain why males were more vulnerable to these malignant brain tumors and why their survival time was shorter than for females. We hypothesized that if there were differences between the male and female version of glioblastoma, we might be able to generate new, sex-specific approaches to treatment that would improve outcomes for everyone.
Sex and disease
Many human diseases exhibit substantial sex differences in their frequency and severity. Autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus occur nine times more frequently in females than males, and psychiatric diseases such as like depression occur nearly twice as frequently in females compared to males. The implications of sex differences in cancer have not been extensively investigated in clinical or laboratory research.
While there is a great interest in developing more personalized approaches to cancer treatment, a patient’s sex, a key feature of personalization, has not yet been incorporated into this paradigm. In our recent study in Science Translational Medicine, my collaborators and I provide what we think is compelling evidence that patients’ sex should be incorporated into treatments for glioblastoma and more thoroughly investigated in the laboratory.
In our study, we sought to determine whether differences in survival for males and females with glioblastoma were a consequence of different responses to the standard treatment; surgery, radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy. And, if there were, we wanted to explore whether there were sex-specific mechanisms that contribute to treatment response and survival in males and females.
First, we analyzed standard magnetic resonance images – or MRIs – of 371 patients’ brains taken during routine treatment at the Mayo Clinic. We measured how the tumor proliferated and grew in the brains of these patients and how the tumor invaded and spread into the surrounding brain tissue. Both proliferation and invasion ultimately kill the patient.
We found that in female patients, radiation and chemotherapy treatment slowed tumor proliferation, but this was not the case for male patients. Male tumors continued to grow at the same rate, unhindered by these treatments. In addition, we found that tumor proliferation predicted survival for both males and females but invasion only affected survival for females.
How genes affect cancer growth
We concluded that female patients’ better response to standard treatment for glioblastoma and better survival might be determined in a sex-specific fashion by invasion in addition to proliferation. However, survival in male patients appeared to only be influenced by proliferation.
We next sought to identify what causes these differences. Among the ways we have to understand cancer biology is to look at the differences between the genes that cancer cells use to grow and respond to radiation and chemotherapy. We can then compare these genes to those that normal cells use.
The genes are the tools that cells use for these functions. If researchers can identify the tools cancers use to grow, we can try to design treatments to disable them. To do this, we took advantage of a large amount of publicly available data through The Cancer Genome Atlas, the Rembrandt study and two additional databases on cancer gene activity, which geneticists call refer to as gene expression. Then using a specialized kind of math, known as Joint and Individual Variance Explained, we found significant differences in the activities of genes in male and female glioblastoma.
We think it is important that we discovered some genes had different effects on survival in male and female patients. For instance, when the levels of a gene called CCNB2 were low in males, they survived longer. This was not the case for females. In females, when levels of a gene known as PCDHB were low, females survived longer. This was not the case for males. This suggests that it is essential that researchers study the impact of drugs on male and female cells separately, for GBM and possibly other cancers.
We were intrigued that male survival was significantly determined by genes that controlled rates of cell division, whereas female survival was significantly determined by genes that can regulate the ability of a cancer cell to migrate to a different area of the brain. This suggests that some types of drugs that target how cancer cells divide might work better in males, whereas drugs that inhibit cancer cells from spreading to distant organs might be more effective in females.
What drives cancers in men versus women?
Finally, we used asked whether the levels of gene expression mattered for how the cancer cells respond to chemotherapy in a dish. This is important because it might help researchers, including our team, to design treatments for patients by screening large numbers of drugs to find the ones to which they are most sensitive.
We found that the low levels of genes involved in proliferation were linked to longer survival in male patients and greater sensitivity to chemotherapy in a dish. Similarly, we found that low levels of genes involved in cell migration were associated with longer survival in female patients and increased sensitivity to the same chemotherapy in a dish.
Together, these results suggest that it may be possible to improve outcomes for all glioblastoma patients, and possibly other cancers, by using sex-based approaches to diagnosis and treatment. That’s because many cancers are more common in males and it is possible that for each of these cancers sex-specific approaches would be beneficial.
We believe this should be evaluated in prospective clinical trials of standard and novel therapeutics. We have just begun a clinical trial in which we are gathering data about sex differences in metabolism and response to a ketogenic diet in which tumors are starved of glucose in children with relapsed brain tumors. We are also actively working to determine when, during normal development, sex differences in risk for cancer and sensitivity to treatment arise.
Judge rips attorney as ‘unprofessional’ in Russia probe case
By CHAD DAY
Tuesday, January 8
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Monday reprimanded an attorney for a Russian company accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, saying his references to Looney Tunes and “Animal House” in recent court filings are inappropriate.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich confronted attorney Eric Dubelier after his most recent court filing included quotes from the raunchy 1978 comedy “Animal House” to criticize special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“I’ll say it plain and simply: Knock it off,” the judge told Dubelier. The judge’s reprimand prompted a heated back-and-forth in which Dubelier accused Friedrich of bias.
Dubelier has mounted a combative defense of Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which Mueller has accused of funding a large-scale Russian conspiracy to use internet trolls and fake social media accounts to sway American public opinion during the 2016 election. The case was the first brought by Mueller to directly attach criminal charges to Russian attempts to interfere in the election. Prosecutors say those efforts were in part aimed at helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
Dubelier has dismissed the case as involving a “made up” crime and accused prosecutors of misconduct.
Dubelier’s past court filings have quoted the movie “Casablanca” and the Looney Tunes character Tweety Bird to slam Mueller. In his latest complaint, Dubelier insinuated in a court filing that Mueller’s team had improperly obtained information that his client shared with a court-appointed attorney.
Mueller’s team denied any impropriety. But Dubelier scoffed, using a quote for emphasis from character Eric “Otter” Stratton, one of the leaders of the fictional Delta Tau Chi fraternity in “Animal House.”
“The Special Counsel’s argument is reminiscent of Otter’s famous line, ‘Flounder, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You (bleeped) up … you trusted us. Hey, make the best of it,’” Dubelier wrote, using stars to censor the profanity.
On Monday, Friedrich said she wasn’t amused, calling his conduct “unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective.”
Dubelier then accused Friedrich of bias, an allegation she rejected, saying: “Mr. Dubelier, you have had many inappropriate remarks in your filings and you know it.”
“Your Honor, that’s your opinion,” Dubelier fired back. He also raised the prospect of his withdrawing from the case, saying he will discuss with his client whether the company still wants to retain him in light of the judge’s comments.
Concord Management was indicted last year along with 15 other defendants in the first case brought by Mueller to directly attach criminal charges to Russian attempts to interfere in the election. None of the other Russian defendants has appeared in a U.S. court to face the charges.
Concord is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman known as “Putin’s chef” for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students
January 8, 2019
Author: Natasha Warikoo, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard University
Disclosure statement: Natasha Warikoo does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
If the Harvard admissions trial teaches us anything, it should be that there are more brilliant and accomplished young people in the United States eager for a top-notch education than there are seats to accommodate them. Places like Harvard and other elite colleges select students from a pool flush with well-qualified applicants who could handle the coursework, contribute to campus life, and go on to great things after college.
The former president of Harvard, Drew Faust, once said that Harvard could fill the class “twice over with valedictorians.” And as part of its defense in what has come to be known as “the affirmative action trial,” the university has said it could also fill its incoming class of roughly 2,000 students almost twice over with students with perfect scores on the math SAT.
As an expert on college admissions, I see a simple solution to this admissions challenge that could not only spare universities scrutiny over how they admit students, but could also save them a lot of time and money. As I suggest in my book, “The Diversity Bargain And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities,” universities should try an admissions lottery to admit students.
Political science professor Peter Stone argues that when there are more candidates than seats and no way to distinguish how deserving they are, a lottery becomes the fairest way to choose candidates in a selective system. If ever there were a university in this situation, Harvard would be it.
The admissions lottery I envision – which would involve applicants who meet a certain academic threshold – would help universities faced with large numbers of qualified applicants, such as Harvard, admit students in a more equitable way. The lottery would accomplish two important goals.
1. Make the process more fair
The so-called “fairness” of Harvard admissions holds incredible symbolic meaning in American society. The group suing Harvard over race-based admissions even call themselves “Students for Fair Admissions.” The most fair thing colleges like Harvard can do is to acknowledge that selection inevitably favors those with resources. Indeed, the more selective colleges are, the more privileged the students admitted are.
An admission lottery would send a clear message that admission is significantly based on chance, not just merit, which is actually how admissions works now – it’s just that students think it’s based exclusively on merit when it’s not. Even the extensive analyses by top economists both for and against Harvard in the affirmative action lawsuit could not predict the admissions outcomes of one in four applicants.
In other words, even when you build a statistical model that includes everything from an applicant’s grades and SAT scores to their parents’ professions, what state they live in, and many other factors, it’s hard to understand admission decisions. This suggests lottery-like outcomes.
Further, the current admissions process suggests to students who get into the likes of Harvard that they deserved their spot exclusively on their own merits – that is, despite their parents’ wealth, whether or not their parents attended the school, and any advantages stemming from the high schools they attended coming into play. As I show in my book, most undergraduates at Ivy League universities think the admissions process for their universities is fair and the best way to select students.
But it is well established that those who get into colleges like Harvard come from wealthier, better-educated families than teens in the U.S. overall. They also tend to more frequently be white or Asian. So unless society believes that merit is not evenly distributed across the population, pretending that admissions is meritocratic makes it seem like elite students are more worthy than those who are disadvantaged, when the reality is they just had more advantages.
2. Save time and money
An admissions lottery would save universities incredible resources. For instance, at Harvard, a 40-person committee of full-time, paid admissions officers votes together on each of the tens of thousands of applicants to Harvard College.
But if qualified students are entered into a lottery, the university could simply pick names out of an electronic “hat,” so to speak, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in hours of work. There could be similar savings for other universities as well.
A lottery would also save parents and teens countless hours of time and money and eliminate a lot of stress as they try to navigate an increasingly competitive admissions system. College admissions has led many high school students to strive toward ever-tougher standards of excellence in academics as well as extracurriculars. This leads to unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety for increasing numbers of teens.
I’m not suggesting that the application process be scrapped altogether. Instead, universities should carefully reflect on what qualities they seek in students. One reasonable quality would be a basic level of academic achievement, such that a student – with the supports available on campus – will be able to handle the academic expectations of the university.
In order to ensure all young people have a shot, these expectations and supports should accommodate top students from high schools around the country, including the neediest communities with the fewest resources. Selective colleges could commit to meeting the educational needs to top students from all high schools, regardless of those students’ SAT scores or other measures that compare them to peers from other, more resource-rich schools.
In addition, universities might make the case that certain individuals or groups have special status – children of wealthy donors, athletes for college teams, musicians for the orchestra. If those students are so desirable that colleges don’t want to leave their admission to chance, those students could be exempted from the lottery. My own instinct is to discard these special categories, but they do not preclude a lottery. Indeed, a lottery alongside special status provisions would make clear the special status that certain applicants have, as evidenced in the Harvard trial. Special status may also be given to increase opportunity for underrepresented groups, in the interest of campus diversity.
Some colleges might be reluctant to be the first to adopt an admissions lottery. Those colleges should consider how colleges like Bates and Bowdoin became the first to go test-optional when it comes to the SAT, long before hundreds of other colleges did. Even so, these schools achieved greater diversity and kept their graduation rates about the same.
On the other hand, if lots of colleges were to switch to an admissions lottery, they together might develop a “match” system, similar to the system that places medical school students in their residency programs. Students would first be sorted into their first choice colleges, and then the pool of those students who reach the eligibility bar would be entered into a lottery to select students. After the first choices are made, lotteries for second choices would happen, and so on. This system would also alleviate the cost to families associated with students applying to increasing numbers of colleges. It would also lessen the associated costs to colleges of evaluating increasing numbers of applicants due to students applying to so many colleges.
The struggle over college admissions has led to increasing costs, anxiety among American teens, and unfair perceptions of merit being the exclusive domain of elites. But this situation can be avoided if colleges take bold steps toward an admissions lottery.
Gavin Moodie, Adjunct professor, RMIT University: Thanx very much for this. Dutch universities have used lotteries to select into programs with restricted admissions with various adaptations since the 1970s.