To our desk-bound readers: have you noticed that those blue-sky brainstorming meetings have subdued to a sombre grey of late? Is your new product development drizzling rather than sparkling? Losing clients left, right and centre? It could be something to do with your limp, pappy office sarnies.A new survey shows that 80% of employees think the quality of sandwiches at their business meetings has fallen. The study, by office design company Maris Interiors, found that only 4% of those questioned felt that the quality of sandwiches had improved over the last five years, with 16% noticing no change.Employers have cut their sarnie bill by 50% as the average cost of sandwiches per person at meetings fell to a dreary £3.80, plummeting from a near £6 per person pre-recessionary height in 2006. The popular crayfish and avocado and chicken teriyaki varieties of five years past have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced with cheapo cheese and pickle and tuna and sweetcorn, which featured heavily in the new survey. “It’s a sign of these austere times that companies are spending much less on sandwiches in the boardroom,” said Maris Interiors’ chairman Michael Howard. “You won’t impress a client with jam sandwiches.”If the wave of political activism sweeping the world has taught us anything, it is not to ignore the will of the people. With four in five people unhappy with their lunchtime lot, employers take note, lest you find egg mayonnaise on your faces.
There is a new band in town, and they go by the name of Maximum Love Vibes. The new group is comprised of four musicians that are already quite familiar with each other: Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools, guitarist Jerry Joseph (whose songs WSP has frequently adopted), Mike Gordon solo band drummer Johnny Kimock, and his father, decorated guitarist Steve Kimock.Maximum Love Vibes will make their debut next month, with a three-night “destination event” at Girwood, Alaska’s The Sitzmark at Alyeska Resort set for February 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. As of now, these are the only dates on the books for the new group, though we hope they make their way down to the continental U.S. soon for the masses to enjoy.You can find more info on the trio of Maximum Love Vibes shows and purchase tickets via Steve Kimock’s website here.[H/T JamBase]
When pregnant women need medications, there is often concern about possible effects on the fetus. Although some drugs are clearly recognized to cause birth defects (thalidomide being a notorious example), and others are generally recognized as safe, surprisingly little is known about most drugs’ level of risk.Harvard researchers in the Children’s Hospital Boston Informatics Program (CHIP) have created a preclinical model for predicting a drug’s teratogenicity (tendency to cause fetal malformations) based on characterizing the genes that it targets.The model, described in the March 2011 issue of Reproductive Toxicology (published online in November), used bioinformatics and public databases to profile 619 drugs already assigned to a pregnancy risk class, and whose target genes or proteins are known. For each of the genes targeted, 7,426 in all, CHIP investigators Asher Schachter and Isaac Kohane crunched databases to identify genes involved in biological processes related to fetal development, looking for telltale search terms such as “genesis,” “develop,” “differentiate,” or “growth.”The researchers found that drugs targeting a large proportion of genes associated with fetal development tended to be in the higher risk classes. Based on the developmental gene profile, they created a model that showed 79 percent accuracy in predicting whether a drug would be in Class A (safest) or Class X (known teratogen).For example, the cholesterol-lowering drugs cerivastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, and fluvastatin are all in Class X. All of these drugs also targeted very high proportions of high-risk genes (98 to 100 percent). The anti-coagulant warfarin, also in Class X, had a proportion of 88 percent.When Schachter and Kohane applied the model to drugs across all risk classes, the proportion of developmental genes targeted roughly matched the degree of known risk. However, the model needs further validation before Schachter is willing to share actual predictions for specific drugs. “We don’t want to risk misleading pregnant women from taking necessary medicines,” he says.One difficulty in validating the model is that the “known” teratogenicity it’s being tested against often isn’t known. Between Class A and Class X are Classes B, C, and D, with increasing amounts of risk, but the boundaries between them are based on minimal data. Teratogenic effects may be difficult to spot, since most drugs are taken relatively rarely in pregnancy, some may be taken along with other drugs, and any effects tend to be rare or too subtle to be noted in medical records. Moreover, data from animal testing doesn’t necessarily apply to humans.“A lot of drugs in the middle of the spectrum, and maybe even some in Class A, may cause subtle defects that we haven’t detected,” says Schachter. “We can’t provide a yes/no answer, but we found a pattern that can predict which are riskier.”Given the degree of uncertainty, Schachter and Kohane believe their model may be of interest to drug developers and prescribing physicians, and might provide useful information to incorporate in drug labeling.“We can now say to patients, ‘This drug targets a ton of genes that are involved in developmental processes,’” says Schachter, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS).Or, conversely, if a young pregnant woman has a heart condition and needs to be treated, physicians may be reassured by a cardiac drug’s profile, he adds. “Instead of saying, ‘we don’t know,’ we can now say that the drug is more likely to be safe in pregnancy.”“We have here a prismatic example of the utility of a big-picture, macrobiological approach,” says Kohane, CHIP director and Lawrence J. Henderson Professor of Pediatrics at HMS. “By combining a comprehensive database of protein targets of drugs and a database of birth defects associated with drugs, we find a promising predictive model of drug risk for birth defects.”The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Today, the Department of Labor published in the Federal Register a Final Rule regarding the labor certification process required under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program. This Final Rule amends regulatory changes to the program introduced in December 2008. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Department of Labor must ensure that U.S. workers are provided access to the jobs, and that both U.S. and foreign workers are provided with appropriate worker protections. This Final Rule reflects the Administration’s commitment to providing fair wages and strong labor protections for all workers.On September 4, 2009 the Department published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the 2008 regulations. The comment period was initially planned to end on October 5, 2009 but was extended to October 20, 2009. The Department received approximately 7,000 comments on this rule. Among many other provisions, this rule:increases access to job opportunities for U.S. workers by increasing coordination with state workforce agenciesprovides transparency by creating a national electronic job registry where job orders will be posted by the Departmentraises wages for foreign workers by reinstating the use of USDA wage surveys andincreases oversight and enforcement powers to ensure that the worker protection requirements of the H-2A program are enforced.We have provided a fact sheet summarizing the Final Rule, as well as a document with many of the questions and answers concerning this rulemaking. You can find the text of the Final Rule by going to the following link:http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-02731_PI.pdf(link is external) .We hope this document will be of assistance to you and would be happy to help answer any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact DOL’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at (202) 693-4600 or email at [email protected](link sends e-mail). Source: Leahy’s office. WASHINGTON (Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on Thursday said he will introduce legislation to address the US Department of Labor’s new rules that exclude the dairy industry from eligibility for certification in the seasonal agricultural worker program, called H-2A visas.“I am deeply disappointed with the Department of Labor’s final rule on H-2A agricultural workers,” said Leahy. “This rule falls short, leaving dairy farms in the lurch. With the dairy industry reeling in Vermont and across the nation, the final rule continues to exclude the dairy industry from lawfully hiring seasonal foreign workers when needed. The agency claims that because dairy workers are needed year-round, they do not fit the ‘temporary or seasonal’ definition of an H-2A worker. Nonetheless, the Department continues to allow certain other year-round agricultural workers access to the program and has added H-2A coverage to logging workers in this final rule. This exemption is unreasonable and inexplicable, especially when the final rule itself observes that ‘Congress clearly gave the Secretary [of Labor] authority to define agricultural labor and services through regulation.’ They have punted this issue away, and now Congress has even more of an obligation to step in to fix it, as difficult as doing that may be.”In its new rules on seasonal agricultural workers released Thursday, the Labor Department said it has “no legal authority” to include the entire dairy industry in the H-2A visa program. The H-2A program allows farmers to lawfully hire foreign workers when needed, to help keep American farms productive. Dairy farmers have been unable to take advantage of the H-2A visa program due to the year-round nature of dairy farming.Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said Thursday that he will introduce legislation to make explicit that dairy workers are eligible to work under the H-2A program. The bill will also provide that this unique class of workers be eligible to remain in the United States for an initial period of one year and be eligible for additional one-year periods, as approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under Leahy’s proposed legislation, workers will be able to petition to become lawful permanent residents after three consecutive one-year periods.“This bill will make explicit in law that dairy farms can use the H-2A program, ensuring that dairy farmers in Vermont and throughout the nation can find the labor they need to stay in business, meeting the needs of their communities and the nation’s families,” said Leahy. Leahy has led efforts to include dairy workers in the H-2A visa program. Last October he submitted comments to the Department of Labor in its rulemaking process for this rule, urging the Department to make full use of its authority and extend H-2A visas to dairy workers. In 2006 and 2007 Leahy authored and included legislation to fix the H-2A dairy exemption in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bills to alleviate the inequity caused by the Department of Labor’s interpretation of law. He is a leading sponsor of the bill he and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others have introduced – the AgJOBS bill — which offers a comprehensive overhaul of the H-2A visa program and which includes Leahy’s provision to fix the dairy exemption. Feinstein and Leahy reintroduced their bill last year.# # # # #(Department of Labor notice is below, for reference)