Thursday, December 1, 2016

World population up, girls struggle; Australian boys recreate life-saving drug, cheap; Eager to work at 89

1 World population up, girls struggle (San Francisco Chronicle) The world's population grew slightly to 7.4 billion in 2016, the UN has said, with a substantial youth bulge challenging political and social systems across the planet.

The United Nations Population Fund released its 2016 State of the World Population report in Amman, Jordan. Daniel Baker, regional humanitarian coordinator, highlighted the potential fallout — and gains — to be had by overcoming the world's clear gender inequality in the half of the world's population under the age of 24.

"Failing to invest in girls is nothing less than planned poverty. Unless we invest in girls, we're planning to have a poorer future," Baker said. The report said the world's population grew 1.1 percent to 7.433 billion from 7.349 billion the previous year.

The report focuses on the well-being of 10-year-old girls as indicators of development success or failure. It says 89 percent of the world's 125 million 10-year-olds live in developing countries where girls face obstacles to equal education, healthcare and safety.

The report estimated that developing countries could generate or lose at least $21 billion depending on their investments in the health and education of their 10-year-old girls today. UNFP goodwill ambassador, Princess Basma Bint Talal, said the fate of the world's young girls rests in international commitment to equality.

2 Australian boys re-create life-saving drug, cheap (Greg Dunlop on BBC) The man who sparked outrage last year by hiking the price of a life-saving drug may have met his match in some Australian schoolboys. US executive Martin Shkreli became a symbol of greed when he raised the price of a tablet of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750.

Now, Sydney school students have recreated the drug's key ingredient for just $20. Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used by malaria and Aids patients. The Sydney Grammar boys, all 17, synthesised the active ingredient, pyrimethamine, in their school science laboratory.

"It wasn't terribly hard but that's really the point, I think, because we're high school students," one boy, Charles Jameson, said. The students produced 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine for $20. In the US, the same quantity would cost up to $110,000. In most countries, including Australia and Britain, the drug retails for less than $1.50 per pill.

The boys said they conducted the year-long experiment to highlight the drug's inflated cost in the US. "It seems totally unjustified and ethically wrong," student James Wood said. Developed in the 1950s, Daraprim is the best treatment for a relatively rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis.

Mr Shkreli, also known as "Pharma Bro", was chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals when it acquired exclusive rights to Daraprim. Its decision to increase the cost by more than 5,000% in August last year drew international condemnation. Mr Shkreli has argued the Daraprim price increase was warranted because the drug is highly specialised.

But the firm eventually agreed to lower the price to something more affordable. Mr Shkreli was arrested in December on allegations of securities fraud. He subsequently stepped down as the head of Turing. His trial is set for 26 June, 2017.

3 Eager to work at 89 (Alexandra Topping in The Guardian) An 89-year-old has found a job after placing an advert in his local paper asking for part-time work to stop him “dying of boredom”. Joe Bartley, from Paignton, south Devon, is due to start work at a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his request.

“No matter what your age or your background, you deserve a chance,” said Cantina Bar and Kitchen’s co-owner Sarah Martin. “Most people have got something to offer and Joe is someone who is keen, who is putting himself out there. What is not to like about that?

“A lot of people who come here don’t just come for coffee, they come for a chat, so Joe is perfect.” Bartley, who was a member of the 6th Airborne division and served in Palestine after the second world war, put an advert twice last month. It read: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!”

He said he had been overwhelmed by the response to the advert, which he described as “not unusual, just an old guy looking for work”, adding: “The owner phoned me and said she was interested, and asked me to come in. So I arrived at the cafe and we’ve had a bit of a chat with the owner, and shook hands.”

He said he had lived alone since his wife, Cassandra, died two years ago, and had been lonely. “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement,” he said.

Bartley will get a lift to work with his new employer on Sunday, but will take a bus the rest of the week. “He is delighted, and we are looking forward to it,” said Martin. “We think about these things all the time. We are never going to be rich, but we like to give something back, so when we saw the advert there was no question – the minute we saw it we knew we’d give him a job.”

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