Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Adrian Short

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Andy Halsall

Loz Kaye : Drug Prices are Harming Patients

Right across the continent health budgets are under pressure due to austerity programmes. In the UK, a leading group of cancer experts has spoken out saying huge drug prices charged by pharmaceutical companies are putting patients at risk. The message is stark. Over 100 physicians have warned reasonable prices are “a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them”.  

But in Jeremy Hunt's National Health Service there is no fight for reasonable prices. For example, there's no arguing that the costs of the latest Leukaemia drugs are eye watering. As reported in the Independent, Pfizer's Bosulif costs £76,000 a year. The price tags increase, Ariad's 90 grand a year for Iclusig, Teva's 100 thousand for Synribo. 

What price can you put on someone's life? Quite rightly, we would fight tooth and nail to give our loved ones any chance to survive. But the real question is why these drugs should cost that much at all. The pharmaceutical industry depends on the patent system, which grants years of monopoly for each new product.

t's supposed to be about making new molecules. But what the patent system has ended up doing in healthcare is carving out areas of illness real estate that no-one else can come on to. This keeps prices high. Each area is fiercely protected and marketed. Science writer Ben Goldacre has estimated that about a quarter of what we pay for pharmaceuticals goes on marketing. This system makes perverse incentives to suppress unfavourable trial results, to spend R and D money on drugs similar existing ones to extend patents and to stop successful cheaper drugs being available.

The argument has always been that companies are given exclusive power over life giving drugs because it  allows them to get back their investment.  

Loz Kaye : The David Miranda Detention and the Surveillance State

The detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow airport for nearly nine hours under anti-terrorism laws has sent shockwaves through the British media and political life. Miranda had equipment such as his phone and laptop confiscated, was not given an interpreter, and was grilled about Snowden and even protests in Brazil.

While some details of the story have been in doubt, such as the extent to which David Miranda had legal support, the basic facts that he was stopped and questioned at length are not in dispute. Keeping someone for nine hours under the Terrorism Act 2000 is highly exceptional. No-one, least of all the police, have suggested that he was planning any kind of act of terror or posed any sort of danger to the UK or anywhere else.

The Metropolitan Police have robustly defended the holding of Mr Miranda as "legally and procedurally sound". Already much time has been spent analysing whether this is in fact the case. But that is to spectacularly miss the point - why was David Miranda stopped in the first place? Clearly his very presence raised a flag. Anyone who is even indirectly involved in the PRISM story is now in the searchlight. This is an attack on the ability of journalists to do their work and the taking of devices such as memory sticks undermines the basic principle of protection of sources.

The Whitehouse has confirmed it received a “heads up” from the British authorities before David Miranda was taken in to custody. While US officials would not be drawn on why he was singled out, this shows he deliberately targeted. Either the UK is indiscriminately enforcing a United States flagging system, or we are operating our own version of the 'no-fly' list. Whichever it is, this raises profound questions to our commitments to freedom of speech, freedom of movement and our relationship to the rest of the world. Understandably, Brazil has been hugely unimpressed by the detention of one of its citizens in this manner and has summoned the British ambassador to explain.

Andy Halsall : The internet 'blame game' - watching the watchers

Problems with the internet including child protection are not being dealt with – government, ISPs, search engines and parents are passing the buck between each other rather than taking action

In the United Kingdom, both the coalition government and the opposition have called for the increased use of web filtering to deal with a whole range of problems that they see as emanating from the internet. A summit was held at 10 Downing Street to discuss issues of child protection and the web. The meeting, chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, was attended by all of Britain's major internet service providers as well as the worlds larger tech companies including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook.

It is probably unsurprising that after the 90-minute summit, not very much changed in the ISP's or search engine's approaches to dealing with images of child exploitation online. That is not to say that the government did not immediately hail it as a great success. Yet the only concrete result appears to have been to secure additional funding for the Internet Watch Foundation, a commendable achievement. However, given that the government has already cut funding for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and the local authorities that deal with child protection issues and victims, that is scant consolation.

Of course what we should do to ensure that we are effective in detecting, investigating and dealing with abuse is to ensure that organisations like CEOP, the police and local authorities are properly funded. Yet the public discussion, even some of the stated reasons for the summit have been muddled. Far from dealing with issues of exploitation, Miller wrote in The Daily Mail on Saturday that she wanted the likes of Google to "protect my children from the depravity of internet porn".

Andy Halsall : Parenting by proxy

In a week where there has been a lot of argument about what Internet service providers and search engines should do to protect children and adults from harmful content online, we seem to have lost sight of what we want to achieve. The government, it seems, wants to teach children how to use technology and the internet, but at the same time presents a view of the internet as a medium where grave danger exists around every digital corner. This sends a contradictory message to parents about their responsibilities and does nothing to provide the resources needed to meet them.

As a parent, I know that the internet can't be treated like television. It may seem like a silly statement, but it's one that happens to be accurate and is important to determine how the internet is used and managed in the home. You can't turn the internet on and switch to a children’s channel. Sure there are sandboxes for children to play in on-line, but they are easy to get out of and metaphorically walk away from.

I think that we need to treat children using the internet more like we do when they play outside rather than when they watch a film. You can't filter the internet to the point where there is no danger, any more than you can filter the outside. Online they are interacting with other people, exploring new places and discovering new ideas. And like when they play outside, there are some dangers, but none, as in the wider world, that cannot be mitigated by supervision and awareness, if parents know where to look.

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