Burying an Ebola victim in West Africa.

© EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser

Burying an Ebola victim in West Africa.

A week after sharp criticism met the U.S. military’s announcement that it planned to help Liberia combat its Ebola epidemic with a “deployable hospital” that has a mere 25 beds, U.S. President Barack tomorrow plans to unveil dramatic new efforts to assist the West African countries besieged by the disease.

Obama, who will be visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to discuss the U.S. response, likely will announce plans to send more deployable hospitals, critical medical supplies like personal protective gear, and doctors and other health care workers who can care for infected people and help contain spread. (A U.S. Senate hearing on Ebola will also take place tomorrow with testimony from key public officials and Ebola survivor Ken Brantly.)

Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke with ScienceInsider on Friday and said she expected there would be “a substantial surge” in the U.S. government’s assistance. She particularly wants to see more attention paid to providing infected people with good care. “There’s a very, very wide variability in what’s being delivered as clinical care,” says Lurie, noting that case fatality rates differ dramatically  in different locations. “We know that simple interventions are likely to save the most lives.”

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An entrance to the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a 2012 snowstorm.

LANL

An entrance to the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a 2012 snowstorm.

An independent watchdog at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will investigate whether political scientist James Doyle was booted out of Los Alamos National Laboratory this summer after writing about the futility of nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

In a letter today to Doyle’s attorney, Mark Zaid, DOE officials rejected Doyle’s petition to reverse or modify his dismissal this summer. Doyle had argued that the lab’s decision to classify the scholarly article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—after it had appeared in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy violated federal guidelines and that he was wrongly punished. Los Alamos officials have said that Doyle was laid off for budgetary reasons.

It’s no surprise that DOE stands by that decision. But what has raised eyebrows is that the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, has asked the department’s inspector general to determine “whether Mr. Doyle’s termination resulted, in whole or in part, from the publication of his article … or the views expressed in it.”

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The University of Bern. A new agreement with the European Union means that Swiss researchers are eligible for some Horizon 2020 grants.

Bobo11/Wikimedia Commons

The University of Bern. A new agreement with the European Union means that Swiss researchers are eligible for some Horizon 2020 grants.

BRUSSELS—Starting today, scientists in Switzerland will again be able to apply for some research funds from the European Union's Horizon 2020 program—including coveted grants from the European Research Council (ERC). Both sides reached a short-term deal undoing restrictions imposed on Swiss scientists after a referendum to curb mass immigration back in February.

Scientists were the first to feel the cooling of the relationships between the European Union and the affluent country it surrounds after the referendum. The union expects Switzerland to include Croatia, which entered the union last year, in its agreement on the free movement of persons. But following the vote, Switzerland said it couldn't sign the Croatian deal. As a result, Switzerland lost its privileged status as an associated country to Horizon 2020, the bloc's research funding program.

After several months of negotiations, the commission has now agreed to give Switzerland its associated country status back for the so-called first pillar of Horizon 2020, worth €24.4 billion for 7 years. This includes individual grants from ERC and the Marie Curie fellowships for science training, staff exchanges and mobility, as well as the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme, which is showering two 10-year projects with up to €1 billion each. (One of them, a controversial plan to model the human brain, is the brainchild of Henry Markram, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.)

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A pro-democracy rally earlier this year in Hong Kong.

larique/Flickr/Creative Commons

A pro-democracy rally earlier this year in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's academics are being drawn into a long-running debate over local election procedures as student activists organize a boycott of classes to protest what they argue are undemocratic restrictions proposed by Beijing. More than 500 professors and staff members at 20 of the city's colleges and universities have signed a statement supporting the students. And at least a few worry that Beijing's attempts to micromanage local affairs could eventually crimp academic freedom.

A statement of support titled "Don’t let the striking students stand alone" is posted in Chinese and English on the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union’s website. 

"As teachers and as citizens, we are pained and outraged to see the advancement of democracy in Hong Kong stifled and suppressed," the statement begins before strongly endorsing student activism: "When we look back at history, both in China and overseas, we see that student movements have been an important force in pushing for social progress. Our hope in Hong Kong’s future lies in the passion and spirit shown by our young people and their willingness to take up the mantle in the fight for democracy and social justice."    

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Circle marks landing spot: Lander hopes to avoid jets of gas and dust that could complicate descent.

ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Circle marks landing spot: Lander hopes to avoid jets of gas and dust that could complicate descent.

The Rosetta mission has picked a destination on top of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for its Philae lander, mission managers announced today at European Space Agency (ESA) headquarters in Paris.

The area—site “J”—is near the top of the smaller lobe, or head, of the comet, which some have likened to the shape of a duck ever since the Rosetta spacecraft arrived at the comet on 6 August. The spacecraft is the first to accompany a comet as the sun heats it up and turns on its jets of gas and dust. The landing, to take place on 11 November, would be the first to scoop up a sample of dust and ice and analyze its composition.

Scientists and engineers picked the site, an ellipse with an area of about a square kilometer, from a shortlist of five candidates following a 2-day meeting in Toulouse, France. Site “C” will be the backup landing, in case site “J” proves troublesome on further inspection. “It is not a perfectly flat area,” says Stephan Ulamec, the Philae landing manager at the German space agency (DLR) in Berlin. “Even here the risk is high.”

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Health care workers in Sierra Leone earlier this year.

© EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre

Health care workers in Sierra Leone earlier this year.

The Cuban government is sending 165 doctors and nurses to battle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced this morning in Geneva, Switzerland, at a joint press conference with Cuba’s minister of public health, Roberto Morales Ojeda. The health care workers, 103 nurses and 62 doctors, are going to be deployed to Sierra Leone in the first week of October.

It is the biggest contribution of health care staff by any single country so far to help control the epidemic, noted WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “This will make a significant difference in Sierra Leone,” Chan said.

To put the numbers in perspective: WHO has deployed about 500 foreign medical experts to the region. Because they rotate, at any one time about 170 of them are in the affected countries, Chan said.

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Carlos Moedas

Portuguese Republic Government

Carlos Moedas

BRUSSELS—Carlos Moedas, secretary of state to Portugal's center-right prime minister, has been appointed European commissioner in charge of research, science, and innovation here yesterday. If his appointment is approved by the European Parliament, he will take over from Máire Geoghegan-Quinn for a 5-year term in this top-level position at the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch.

Moedas will oversee the use of funds from Horizon 2020, the European Union's €80 billion research program. Jean-Claude Juncker, president-elect of the European Commission, has tasked Moedas with promoting the excellence of European science, monitoring national research policies, making sure that “Commission proposals and activities are based on sound scientific evidence,” and focusing more on applied research, among other duties.

Moedas, 44, has no apparent research policy experience, but he is likely to have a good understanding of scientific research, says Marco Alves, a researcher at WavEC - Offshore Renewables, a nonprofit research center in Lisbon. Moedas earned his civil engineering degree at the Higher Technical Institute of the University of Lisbon—one of the country's top schools, with a strong research component—where Alves also studied. Moedas worked as an engineer before turning to banking and economics. After an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2000, he worked as a banker for Goldman Sachs and Aguirre Newman, and founded his own investment company in 2008.

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Questions have dogged the STAP technique—which the researchers claimed could make all the cell types in a mouse fetus—from the start.

HARUKO OBOKATA

Questions have dogged the STAP technique—which the researchers claimed could make all the cell types in a mouse fetus—from the start.

As two discredited, and now retracted, stem cell papers have produced an almost unimaginable fallout—a national hero accused of scientific fraud, the revamping of one of Japan’s major research institutes, and the suicide of a respected cell biologist—researchers have privately and publicly asked how Nature could have published work that, in retrospect, seems so obviously flawed. 

Another piece of the puzzle has come to light. The Science news team received a copy of e-mail correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, that indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously. The e-mail, dated 4 April 2013, includes detailed separate criticisms of the two papers and suggestions for new data to support the authors’ claims of a simple and novel way to make stem cells that could form the myriad cell types within a body. The Nature editor rejected the papers, but left open a window, writing, “Should further experimental data allow you to address these criticisms, we would be happy to look at a revised manuscript.” The two papers were published 10 months later.

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The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab - Roy Kaltschmidt

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Think nationally, act regionally. That’s the bumper-sticker version of a new study out today that says the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 17 national science laboratories need to get more engaged in economic development, innovation, and technology commercialization at the regional level.

To date, the DOE labs have failed “to aggressively and fully seize the opportunity to turn federally funded research into new products and services, particularly at the state and regional level,” concludes the report, available here and here. The trio of authors, from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s Center for Clean Energy Innovation (CCEI), offers 15 recommendations for improving the labs’ connections to their communities. They include giving lab managers more control over funds for building local economic partnerships, creating off-campus “microlabs” to attract local businesses, and providing small- and medium-sized firms with “vouchers” for research assistance. The report also calls for making an array of current federal technology transfer and commercialization programs more flexible and nimble.

The idea, says co-author Mark Muro of Brookings, is to help a federal laboratory system initially established to fight the Cold War adapt to the global economic and security challenges of the 21st century. “The competitiveness and innovation game is changing very quickly, and [the United States] needs to be seeking the greatest return on our investments,” he says. “The point is not to completely rethink what the labs are, but update them.”

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Some diagnostic tests designed and manufactured in clinical labs will soon need FDA approval.

CDC/Amanda Mills

Some diagnostic tests designed and manufactured in clinical labs will soon need FDA approval.

A move by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate diagnostic tests developed in thousands of laboratories is picking up steam—and drawing fire. The agency recently notified Congress that it plans to regulate some of these so-called laboratory developed tests (LDTs)—which, unlike tests marketed by diagnostic manufacturers, don’t currently require FDA approval. FDA has not yet released a draft guidance on the matter, but at a hearing yesterday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee raised questions about the agency’s authority to regulate these tests, its motivation for doing so, and the potential impact of such regulations on the diagnostic industry.

Doctors use diagnostic tests to determine which patients are at risk for developing a disease and which would benefit from a treatment. And while companies offer FDA-approved kits for many of these uses, clinical labs often design and offer their own. According to the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA), more than 11,000 laboratories are authorized to develop and perform LDTs, and the majority of them do.

FDA has had the authority to regulate LDTs—and all in vitro diagnostics—since 1976, explained Jeffrey Shuren, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, at the hearing. But the agency has so far exercised “enforcement discretion” and has not required that labs manufacturing these tests seek its approval. Labs have instead been regulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services through the 1988 Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).

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Pacific bluefin tuna

Aes256/Wikimedia Commons

Pacific bluefin tuna

TOKYO—A multinational organization that coordinates fishing activities in the western Pacific is throwing a lifeline to heavily overfished Pacific bluefin tuna stocks.

Speaking today at a press briefing, Japanese officials provided details on a plan agreed to last week that aims to rebuild the spawning population by halving the catch of juveniles and limiting takes of mature fish as well. The proposal calls for total Pacific bluefin catches to be kept below the 2002 to 2004 annual average levels and for catches of fish weighing fewer than 30 kilograms—juveniles too young to spawn—to be reduced to 50% of those levels.

Conservation organizations see the proposed limits as a step in the right direction. But they are "far from enough," Wakao Hanaoka, senior ocean campaigner for Greenpeace, tells ScienceInsider. He says that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks have shrunk to just 4% of the historical population, making proper stock management a matter of urgency.

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The diatom known as rock snot has sparked efforts to stop its spread.

rickpilot_2000/Flickr/Creative Commons

The diatom known as rock snot has sparked efforts to stop its spread.

Max Bothwell is an expert on the nuisance algae didymo, also known as rock snot. And when he first published an article online about the origins of the algae this past May, a reporter with the Canadian Press, a news agency, asked to interview him. But Bothwell works for the government agency Environment Canada, and the interview request got bogged down in bureaucracy. Really bogged down. 

In all, 16 public affairs people in various agencies wrote a total of 110 pages of e-mails, according to records acquired through a freedom of information request by the enterprising and presumably fairly frustrated reporter. The minders were busy dealing with “agreed answers” that Bothwell would be allowed to give and an “approved interview script.” But they didn’t get the interview approved by deadline.

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Valerie Barr spent a year as a program director in NSF’s education directorate.

Carla Schaffer/AAAS

Valerie Barr spent a year as a program director in NSF’s education directorate.

Valerie Barr was 22 and living in New York City in 1979 when she became politically active. A recent graduate of New York University with a master’s degree in computer science, Barr handed out leaflets, stood behind tables at rallies, and baked cookies to support two left-wing groups, the Women’s Committee Against Genocide and the New Movement in Solidarity with Puerto Rican Independence. Despite her passion for those issues, she had a full-time job as a software developer—with 50-plus-hour workweeks and frequent visits to clients around the country—that took precedence.

After a few years, she found herself devoting even less time to those causes. By the late 1980s, she had resumed her pursuit of an academic career. A quarter-century later, she’s a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field.

That social conscience also led her to decide it was time to “give something back to the community.” So in August 2013 she took a leave from Union College to join the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a program director in its Division of Undergraduate Education. And that’s when her 3-decade-old foray into political activism came back to haunt her.

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Roll back aging, win $1 million

James Benninger/Flickr/Creative Commons

Google has already gotten into the age-fighting business. Now another Silicon Valley initiative is taking aim at the science of boosting longevity. The Palo Alto Longevity Prize, announced yesterday at a shindig in San Francisco, is offering $1 million to scientists who can solve two aging-related research challenges.

Joon Yun, an M.D. who is president of the health care investment firm Palo Alto Investors in California, put up the prize money. Researchers have plenty of fresh ideas about how to boost health and stretch lifespan, but few were getting public attention, he says. “We needed a way to accelerate these ideas into action.”

The prize’s immodest goal is to stop aging, but it’s starting out with two less ambitious competitions that could represent steps toward that objective. One $500,000 award will go to the research team that can restore an older animal’s homeostatic capacity—its ability to balance its internal conditions—to a youthful level. As a gauge of that capacity, the prize organizers selected variability in heart rate. Not only is reduced variability linked to age-related diseases, Yun says, but heart rate is also easy and cheap to measure, potentially allowing more scientists to take part in the challenge.

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Monrovia

Christopher Herwig/www.unmultimedia.org/photo/

Monrovia

When President Barack Obama spoke about the U.S. military helping combat the Ebola epidemic on NBC News’s Meet the Press this past Sunday, Tim Flanigan, an American clinician working in Monrovia, says he was “ecstatic.” It was exactly what many of the people leading the Ebola effort in Liberia, the hardest hit country, had been hoping for. But that joy turned to dismay the next day, when Flanigan learned the details of the Pentagon’s plans.

Obama pledged “to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world.” On Monday, a Pentagon representative said the military planned to send only a $22 million, 25-bed field hospital to Monrovia, Liberia's capital. “It's not going to make any dent in Ebola treatment for the people of Liberia,” Flanigan warns. “It's such a small number of beds and they may well be directed toward non-Liberians."

Flanigan, who works at Brown University and from 1999 to 2012 headed the infectious disease unit there, arrived in Monrovia on 1 September and plans to stay for 2 months. A Catholic deacon, he is also working with health-oriented church groups and is blogging about his experience.

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A massive influx of money and people is needed immediately to stop Ebola, says Bruce Aylward.

© PIERRE ALBOUY/Reuters/Corbis

A massive influx of money and people is needed immediately to stop Ebola, says Bruce Aylward.

Bruce Aylward is used to mobilizing armies of health workers. An assistant director-general at the World Health Organization (WHO) in charge of polio and emergencies, he leads the massive global effort to eradicate the poliovirus. But Aylward says he has never encountered a challenge as great as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has infected more than 4000 people and killed more than 2000. Margaret Chan, who heads WHO, asked Aylward to help with the response in August; since then, he has been running operations and helped draw up WHO’s Ebola Response Roadmap, released on 28 August. He spoke with Science on 4 September. (This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

Q: Margaret Chan has said that all organizations involved in the outbreak, including WHO, underestimated its complexity and magnitude. How did this happen?

A: I didn't live through it all, but as I've gone back and  asked what was happening, clearly these guys [in the response effort] have been flat-out on this for 6 months. And they’ve put 450 people in the field. Those are unheard-of numbers in responding to Ebola. But the virus got ahead of them.

Could the response have been scaled up faster? Maybe they were off by 2 weeks at one point here or there. As Margaret says, you're always a couple of weeks behind this virus, and there are so many reasons why. It's a dangerous pathogen. Foreign medical teams and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] are used to dealing with trauma and primary health care; they're not trained to deal with  pathogens.

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The fate of the U.K. Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh is up in the air.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY FACILITIES COUNCIL

The fate of the U.K. Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh is up in the air.

On 18 September, the people of Scotland will vote on whether their nation should separate from the United Kingdom and become independent. With the margin of victory now expected to be razor-thin, the debate among researchers is growing more strident over whether independence will ring in a golden era for Scottish science—or cripple it for years to come. Researchers opposed to independence say a split will harm science, depriving it of funds and talent. "Yes" campaigners counter that the Scottish government has vowed to protect science during the transition and to maintain funding at least at current levels. A strong science record is at stake.

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The ʻIʻiwi, a honeycreeper, is one of dozens of Hawaiian birds in need of conservation efforts.

Jack Jeffrey

The ʻIʻiwi, a honeycreeper, is one of dozens of Hawaiian birds in need of conservation efforts.

On the heels of the 100th anniversary of the demise of the passenger pigeon, organizations interested in the fate of the rest of U.S. birds have independently released two reports to draw attention to avian perils and conservation needs.

Yesterday, the Audubon Society introduced its analysis of which birds will have the most trouble finding suitable places to live as the climate warms. And today, it and 22 other conservation organizations, government agencies, and research labs put out The State of the Birds 2014 report. It "presents a very clear and easy to understand up-to-date summary of the population trends and status of the birds in the U.S.," says Stuart Butchart, a conservation scientist at BirdLife International in Cambridge, U.K. "Everyone ought to pay attention to what this report tells us."

By folding long-term monitoring data from the Christmas Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey for 588 species into computer programs along with climate change predictions, the Audubon's Birds and Climate Change Report concludes that 314 species may lose half their habitats over the next several decades. Although 188 species should be able to colonize new places, 126 will have no place else to go and 28 will lose all suitable habitat. The effort generated maps for each species showing how ranges might shift, shrink, or expand. It was designed to help conservation organizations and managers set priorities about what land and species need the most protection. 

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U.S. is often an outlier in global education

www.audio-luci-store.it/Flickr/Creative Commons

The United States cut back on education spending after the Great Recession, whereas the government of the United Kingdom poured more money into its schools.

Those two contrasting data points are part of a massive new analysis of the state of education around the world by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Released today, the group’s 2014 report, Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, draws upon student test results, government spending, employment statistics, and other metrics to make the case for what OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría calls “the critical role that education and skills play in fostering social progress.”

The United States remains the world leader in overall education spending, although the OECD report suggests that it’s getting a poor return on its investment in terms of what students learn. Even so, spending dropped by 3% in real terms for the 3 years after the global financial meltdown in 2008. Only five other countries chose to go that route. (Italy, Iceland, Hungary, and Estonia recorded double-digit declines, and Russia cut spending by 5%.) The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 1% during that period, meaning that 2011 education spending in relation to its GDP was only 96% of what it was in 2008.

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Kazutoshi Mori (left) and Peter Walter won this year’s Lasker Award for basic medical research.

Courtesy of the Lasker Foundation

Kazutoshi Mori (left) and Peter Walter won this year’s Lasker Award for basic medical research.

Five researchers who study a cellular system for fixing misfolded proteins, deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease, and breast cancer genetics have won this year’s prestigious Lasker Awards for biomedical research.

The Lasker Foundation announced today that its award for basic medical research goes to Kazutoshi Mori, 56, of Kyoto University in Japan and Peter Walter, 59, of the University of California, San Francisco, for their work on what’s known as the unfolded protein response. Starting in the late 1980s, their labs revealed steps in how the endoplasmic reticulum, the cell’s factory for processing secreted and membrane proteins, deals with proteins whose linear sequence of amino acids hasn’t folded into a proper 3D shape. After detecting a harmful buildup of unfolded proteins, the endoplasmic reticulum sends a signal to the nucleus that activates genes that work to fix the problem. The research has had implications for diseases such as cystic fibrosis and retinitis pigmentosa. The Lasker basic research award often precedes a Nobel Prize in medicine; 86 Lasker laureates have gone on to win a Nobel.

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A burial team with a victim of Ebola.

©EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser via Flickr

A burial team with a victim of Ebola.

The Ebola virus that is causing the raging epidemic in West Africa is famously lethal. In previous outbreaks it has killed as many as 90% of the people it infects. That’s why the figures in World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) latest “Situation Report” look like they might be a rare glimmer of good news. Although the rate of infections is picking up speed at an alarming rate, the report says the fatality rate is 53% overall, ranging from 64% in Guinea to just 39% in Sierra Leone.

But there’s a catch: The apparent low proportion of deaths probably depends more on the way health officials are calculating the number than on the deadliness of the virus—or the quality of care patients are receiving. Indeed, the dramatic increase in cases in recent weeks is one of the main reasons the reported death rate appears to be artificially low.

There are several ways to calculate what officials call the “case fatality rate,” or CFR, of a disease outbreak. One of the simplest is to divide the number of deaths by the number of total cases. That is what WHO does in its recent CFR calculations.

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Ebola virus (blue) budding from an infected monkey kidney cell (yellow).

NIAID

Ebola virus (blue) budding from an infected monkey kidney cell (yellow).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a statement saying problems related to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia are increasingly dire.

Here is the full statement:

Situation in Liberia: non-conventional interventions needed

8 September 2014

During the past weeks, a WHO team of emergency experts worked together with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and members of her government to assess the Ebola situation in Liberia.

Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially.

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Plague (Yersinia pestis) growing in a culture dish.

CDC/Todd Parker

Plague (Yersinia pestis) growing in a culture dish.

A search of National Institutes of Health (NIH) laboratories for forgotten infectious agents has turned up a handful of dangerous bacteria and toxins in labs not approved to handle them, according toThe Washington Post, which broke the story late Friday.

The samples included two vials of plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis); two vials of Burkholderia pseudomallei, which causes the tropical disease melioidosis; three vials of tularemia bacteria; two vials of botulinum toxin; and a sample of deadly ricin in an old collection dating to 1914. These agents and toxins are all on the federal select agent list, which means they must be registered and handled only by approved labs.

The Post also reported that in July, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found samples of staphylococcal enterotoxin, which can cause food poisoning, in an unapproved lab. The finds came as part of a sweep for select agents at NIH and other federal agencies launched after six vials of live smallpox dated 1954 were found in July in a cold storage room in an FDA lab on the NIH campus.

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Ebola virus (blue) budding from an infected monkey kidney cell (yellow).

NIAID

Ebola virus (blue) budding from an infected monkey kidney cell (yellow).

Researchers and health professionals should fast-track extraordinary efforts to give people unproven treatments and vaccines in locales hard hit by Ebola, more than 200 experts attending a World Health Organization (WHO) forum recommended today.

“We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who spoke at a press conference with two other attendees of the consultation. More people have become sick and died from Ebola in the last few months than in the 4 decades since the virus was discovered, she noted.

No treatments or vaccines exist that have proved their worth against Ebola, and when the outbreak in West Africa first started to receive attention 2 months ago, many dismissed the idea that biomedical interventions could help. As the outbreak has grown into what some are calling a full-blown epidemic—despite containment efforts that have proved effective in the past—the idea of rolling out experimental treatments and vaccines has moved to center stage.

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A lab mouse

JacobStudio/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

A lab mouse

Embattled U.K. biomedical researchers are drawing some comfort from a new survey showing that a sizable majority of the public continues to support the use of animals in research. But there’s another twist that should interest social scientists as well: The government’s decision this year to field two almost identical surveys on the topic offers fresh evidence that the way you ask a question affects how people answer it.

Since 1999, the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has been funding a survey of 1000 adults about their attitudes toward animal experimentation. But this year the government asked the London-based pollsters, Ipsos MORI, to carry out a new survey, changing the wording of several questions. (The company also collected additional information, including public attitudes toward different animal species and current rules regarding their use.)

For example, the phrase “animal experimentation” was replaced by “animal research” because the latter is “less inflammatory,” notes Ipsos MORI Research Manager Jerry Latter. In addition, says Emma Brown, a BIS spokeswoman, the word research “more accurately reflects the range of procedures that animals may be involved in, including the breeding of genetically modified animals.”

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