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EU countries stop clock on Commissions time change plan

GRAZ, Austria — EU transport ministers stopped the clock Monday on the European Commissions plan to ..

GRAZ, Austria — EU transport ministers stopped the clock Monday on the European Commissions plan to end twice-annual time changes next year.

At an informal meeting in the Austrian city of Graz, the ministers demanded more time to find consensus on whether to scrap daylight saving.

Austrias Transport Minister Norbert Hofer said the plan to scrap the time change in 2019 would “not be supported” by enough countries, and that at least 18 months is needed to prepare for a reform affecting everything from cow milking routines to the scheduling of trains and flights.

His ministry is pushing for countries to be given until 2021 to decide whether they will opt for permanent summer or winter time. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wanted that decision wrapped up by the end of March.

“If we say goodbye to the time change, it could come to a patchwork that would be devastating to the single market,” said Hofer, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

“We do have to take on board a possibility that more time will be necessary” — Violeta Bulc, European commissioner for transport

Hofer wants the Commission to appoint a coordinator — a sort of EU-wide time lord — to oversee the reform, and Brussels to include a safeguard clause that would trigger new legislation should problems arise from scrapping the unified time change.

In Graz, three countries — Portugal, Greece and the United Kingdom — said they wanted to continue the annual shift to daylight saving, while Cyprus, the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Denmark said they had not yet reached a position.

Commission officials still say publicly they are hopeful consensus can be reached by a formal Transport Council in December. But privately Junckers grand pledge to compel countries to ditch the time change next year is being soundly rejected as unrealistic.

“The message is clear, no agreement in December,” said one diplomat on the prospect of a final deal at the Transport Council.

Austrian Transport Minister Norbert Hofer | Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

With just months left before the end of the Juncker Commission, the proposal now looks set to slip into 2020 at the earliest, under a new Commission.

More than 80 percent of 4.6 million respondents to an EU survey backed removing the system under which clocks spring forward by an hour in March and fall back in October, with around 3 million responses coming from Germany.

“We do have to take on board a possibility that more time will be necessary,” Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in Graz after discussing the issue with delegations, although she said she still holds out hope of a deal by 2019.

The meeting in Austria came a day after EU countries moved the clock back Sunday for what Junckers legislative proposal envisaged would be the last time.

“I think many of us are still adjusting to the time change,” quipped Bulc, addressing journalists after the meeting. “The member states need more time to come to a final decision.”

The clock change was introduced to save energy in World War I and became the EU standard in 1996. The Commission has placed an end to the system at the heart of the agenda for its final months in office.

“If you want, you can make this decision fast” — Kadri Simson, Estonias economy minister

“I would question whether or not this is the most important thing for the European Commission [to focus on] these days,” the Czech Republics Transport Minister Dan Ťok said in an interview in Graz.

The decision also has Brexit implications as abolishing daylight saving in the EU could leave the Republic of Ireland out of step with Northern Ireland, since the legislation wouldnt apply to the U.K. once it leaves the EU.

The Commissions September proposal followed pressure from the European Parliament and some countries to scrap the change to maximize the health benefits from sunlight.

Slovakia came out the gate early with the labor ministry recommending permanent winter time to maximize daylight hours. Finland has launched a national consultation to give people a say in the decision.

“If you want, you can make this decision fast,” Estonias Economy Minister Kadri Simson told POLITICO after the Graz discussions. “But if you want to negotiate you can take a few years without any problems.”

Read this next: Muted budget as UK at pivotal moment in Brexit talks

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The organization helping to bring new drugs for rare diseases to market

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval o..

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval on Friday to begin a clinical trial for a new pediatric brain cancer drug, one that might have ended up overlooked by pharmaceutical companies.

The lead researcher on the team, Dr. Teresa Purzner has already beat impossible odds. The neurosurgeon and mom of three managed to get the approval in record time and with little money thanks to the help of a team of scientific altruists called SPARK.

The development of new medications in the United States is driven by pharmaceutical companies; researchers at universities rarely bring their discoveries to the bedside. For every 10,000 potential new medicines sitting on laboratory shelves around the country, only one will ever reach patients in need, according to the National Institutes of Health. Why? Because the process can take 10 to 15 years, costing upwards of a billion dollars per drug.

As a result, the number of new medications approved by the FDA has remained stagnant at about 31 per year over the past 10 years. The majority of these medications are similar to already existing ones, and many target diseases for which there are large markets — like hypertension and high cholesterol — and therefore, a return on investment.

Enter SPARK, a non-profit program created in partnership between Stanford University and volunteers from the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and investment industries, which helps academic researchers bring their discoveries to patients. Since its founding, SPARK has given special consideration to projects typically neglected by pharmaceutical companies, including rare diseases and diseases affecting children.

Purzner put her neurosurgery practice on pause to study medulloblastoma, a type of childhood brain cancer. Compared to diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol, which affect millions of Americans, medulloblastoma is rare, affecting only 250 to 500 children every year.

“Theres something especially poignant about seeing children —beautiful, wonderful, innocent things — and seeing the impact of the therapies we are giving them. The medications, the radiation therapies impact their cognition, their quality of life and their ability to function as independent adults in the future,” Purzner said in an interview with ABC News.

Purzner had a clear goal: to find a targeted therapy that could shut down the basic biochemical pathway responsible for the development of this cancer, and she did. She tested the potential drug in mice with good results, and she just received FDA approval to test it in clinical trials, which she will do through the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. She did it all in five years and for a price tag of $500,000.

“To get from my initial findings in the lab to the point where the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium picked it up for clinical trials would have never happened without the help of SPARK… they gave me a clear pathway and made me believe it was possible,” said Purzner.

Every year, SPARK provides 10 teams with funding and expert mentorship to promote efficient and cost-effective drug development. (more…)

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Widowed father works with congresswoman on legislation to prevent maternal deaths

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

“I was overjoyed. I reme..

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

"I was overjoyed. I remember thinking my family is complete," Charles Johnson told ABC News.

But then he looked down and saw his wife Kiras catheter turn pink and then red with blood.

April 12, 2016 was supposed to be a joyous day for the Johnson family, but it turned into a "nightmare."

Ten hours later, Kira Johnson died as a result of internal bleeding following a cesarean section.

Now, two years later, Johnson is raising two children on his own and advocating to rectify the country's maternal health policies and regulations to prevent anyone else from sharing the same tragedy. Johnson took to Capitol Hill to share his wife's story before members of Congress, working alongside a congresswoman who experienced her own personal difficulties during pregnancy.

Charles and Kira Johnson welcomed their first son Charles V. in 2014. He was delivered via C-section. Two years later, the Johnson family relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles and learned they were expecting their second baby boy.

"Kira and I had always wanted two boys," Johnson said. "I was excited."

The Johnsons decided to have Langston delivered at Cedars Sinai medical center, a non-profit hospital that is currently ranked as the eighth best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Charles Johnson said his wife was in exceptional health and that she took all the necessary prenatal measures to ensure their second child would be born healthy. Since their first son was born via C-section, the doctor suggested the same for their second. (more…)

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States look to breathalyze convicted drunk drivers to reduce fatalities

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that ha..

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that have laws requiring drivers with drunken-driving convictions to install breathalyzers in vehicles they own or operate.

Researchers, public health advocates and political leaders believe these laws are helping reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

The gadgets, known as ignition interlock devices, are mounted on the steering wheel of a vehicle and prevent it from starting if the drivers blood-alcohol reading is above a predetermined level.

In California, the breathalyzers are mandatory only for repeat offenders. Five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana and Ohio — have similar laws. Thirty-two states and D.C. require the devices even for first-time offenders.

The advent of such laws across the United States in the past 15 years has been accompanied by some good news: Deaths involving drunken driving are only about half of what they were in the early 1980s, though they have ticked back up in recent years. The long-term decline is largely attributable to greater public awareness, stricter seat belt enforcement and the establishment in 2000 of a nationwide legal blood-alcohol threshold of 0.08 percent — far below the 0.15 percent standard commonly used before then.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the author of the California law, said breathalyzers in cars will make roads safer than under the current law, which generally relies on license restrictions and suspensions.

“Weve seen people on a suspended license continue to drive and continue to cause destruction,” said Hill, who lost his best friend to drunken driving in the 1980s.

There is some evidence that the breathalyzers have an impact. Nationally, from 2006 to 2016, ignition-locking breathalyzers prevented 2.3 million attempts to drive by people with a blood-alcohol level at or above 0.08 percent — the legal threshold for driving under the influence — according to a 2017 report by the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Emma McGinty, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that laws requiring interlocks for all DUI offenders were associated with a 7 percent drop in the rate of fatal crashes caused by drunken drivers. Another study found that laws covering all offenders were associated with 15 percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities compared with states that have less stringent laws. (more…)

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