Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist has defected.

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Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist has defected.

Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, has announced that she’s permanently left her country for Europe.


“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” the 21-year-old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”
Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal after claiming bronze in the 57kg category of Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Affectionately known in Iran as “The Tsunami,” Alizadeh announced she was leaving her birth country amid searing criticism of the regime in Tehran.
“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit for her success always went to those in charge.
“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh added, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”
Reports of her defection first surfaced Thursday, with some Iranians suggesting she had left for the Netherlands. It was unclear from her post what country Alizadeh had gone to.
On Friday the head of Iran’s Taekwondo Federation, Seyed Mohammad Pouladgar, claimed Alizadeh had assured both her father and her coach that she was traveling as part of her vacation, a trip he claimed was paid for by the Iranian government. He dismissed the reports of Alizadeh’s defection as politically motivated rumors amplified by the foreign media.
Alizadeh confirmed the rumors Saturday, saying she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.”
“My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.
She said the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am,” she said.
Her defection came amid anti-government protests in cities across Iran Saturday and international pressure after Iran admitted it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, killing all 176 people aboard.
Canada, Sweden and other countries whose citizens died on the plane have increased demands on Tehran to deliver a complete and transparent investigation against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions on Iran and a dangerous escalation with Washington.
“Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them,” said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus about Alizadeh’s defection.


New Cambridge Analytica leak shows global manipulation is out of control.

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New Cambridge Analytica leak shows global manipulation is out of control.

An explosive leak of tens of thousands of documents from the defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica is set to expose the inner workings of the company that collapsed after the Observer revealed it had misappropriated 87 million Facebook profiles.

More than 100,000 documents relating to work in 68 countries that will lay bare the global infrastructure of an operation used to manipulate voters on “an industrial scale” are set to be released over the next months.

It comes as Christopher Steele, the ex-head of MI6’s Russia desk and the intelligence expert behind the so-called “Steele dossier” into Trump’s relationship with Russia, said that while the company had closed down, the failure to properly punish bad actors meant that the prospects for manipulation of the US election this year were even worse.

The release of documents began on New Year’s Day on an anonymous Twitter account, @HindsightFiles, with links to material on elections in Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil. The documents were revealed to have come from Brittany Kaiser, an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, and to be the same ones subpoenaed by Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Kaiser, who starred in the Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary The Great Hack, decided to go public after last month’s election in Britain. “It’s so abundantly clear our electoral systems are wide open to abuse,” she said. “I’m very fearful about what is going to happen in the US election later this year, and I think one of the few ways of protecting ourselves is to get as much information out there as possible.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress after it was reported 87 million Facebook users had information harvested by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress after it was reported 87 million Facebook users had information harvested by Cambridge Analytica. Photograph: Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The documents were retrieved from her email accounts and hard drives, and though she handed over some material to parliament in April 2018, she said there were thousands and thousands more pages which showed a “breadth and depth of the work” that went “way beyond what people think they know about ‘the Cambridge Analytica scandal’”.

Steele made a rare public intervention to comment on the leaks. He said that while he didn’t know what was in them, the context couldn’t be more important because “on our current trajectory these problems are likely to get worse, not better, and with crucial 2020 elections in America and elsewhere approaching, this is a very scary prospect. Something radical needs to be done about it, and fast.”

He said authorities in the west had failed to punish those practising social and other media manipulation, and “the result will be that while CA may have been exposed and eventually shut down, other, even more sophisticated actors will have been emboldened to interfere in our elections and sow social divisions”.

Kaiser said the Facebook data scandal was part of a much bigger global operation that worked with governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns to manipulate and influence people, and that raised huge national security implications.

The unpublished documents contain material that suggests the firm was working for a political party in Ukraine in 2017 even while under investigation as part of Mueller’s inquiry and emails that Kaiser says describe how the firm helped develop a “sophisticated infrastructure of shell companies that were designed to funnel dark money into politics”.

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, said the failure to properly punish bad actors meant prospects for manipulation of the election this year were worse. Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent, said the failure to properly punish bad actors meant prospects for manipulation of the election this year were worse. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

“There are emails between these major Trump donors discussing ways of obscuring the source of their donations through a series of different financial vehicles. These documents expose the entire dark money machinery behind US politics.” The same machinery, she says, was deployed in other countries that Cambridge Analytica worked in, including, she claims, Britain.

Emma Briant, an academic at Bard College, New York, who specialises in investigating propaganda and has had access to some of the documents for research, said that what had been revealed was “the tip of the iceberg”.

“The documents reveal a much clearer idea of what actually happened in the 2016 US presidential election, which has a huge bearing on what will happen in 2020. It’s the same people involved who we know are building on these same techniques,” she said.

“There’s evidence of really quite disturbing experiments on American voters, manipulating them with fear-based messaging, targeting the most vulnerable, that seems to be continuing. This is an entire global industry that’s out of control but what this does is lay out what was happening with this one company.”


New Hacking Threat: Editing X-Ray Images to Add or Remove Cancer.

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New Hacking Threat: Editing X-Ray Images to Add or Remove Cancer.

Hackers trying to steal your data is one thing, but what if they tried to trick your doctors into thinking you had cancer? Or fooled them into ignoring it?

It’s a ruse that’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Security researchers in Israel recently duped real doctors into misdiagnosing patients by hacking a hospital X-ray scanning machine and altering the images it produced.

“In particular, we show how easily an attacker can access a hospital’s network, and then inject or remove lung cancers from a patient’s CT scan,” Yisroel Mirsky, a researcher at Ben-Gurion University’s National Cybersecurity Research Center, said in a statement.

Mirsky and his colleagues demonstrated the attack by getting the permission of a local hospital to secretly break in and hack a Computerized Tomography (CT) scanning machine. To pull off the attack, the researchers created a USB-to-Ethernet device, which can be connected to a hospital workstation to secretly take over a CT machine.

Three radiologists were then hired to examine the edited images. “When the scans of healthy patients were injected with cancer, the radiologists misdiagnosed 99 percent of them as being malign. When the algorithm removed cancers from actual cancer patients, the radiologists misdiagnosed 94 percent of the patients as being healthy,” the researchers said.

Editing the X-rayed images involved more than just Photoshop. The researchers used AI-powered computer algorithms to automatically add or remove medically accurate cancerous growths to images taken over the CT machine.

Hacking CT Scanner Research

The edited images were so accurate the radiologists and their own AI-assisted tools still had trouble diagnosing the patients when told the images had been doctored.”They still could not differentiate between the tampered and authentic images, misdiagnosing 60 percent of those with injections, and 87 percent of those with removals,” the researchers said.

The theoretical attack has the potential to unleash mayhem in a number of ways. “Consider the following scenario: an individual or state adversary wants to affect the outcome of an election. To do so, the attacker adds cancer to a CT scan performed on a political candidate,” the researchers wrote in a paper about their findings. “After learning of the cancer, the candidate steps down from his or her position. The same scenario can be applied to existing leadership.”

In a worst-case scenario, the same attack could lead to someone’s death by fooling doctors into thinking they’re healthy, when they actually need immediate treatment. The attack could also be used to generate money by perpetrating fraudulent health insurance claims.


“Another scenario to consider is that of ransomware: An attacker seeks out monetary gain by holding the integrity of the medical imagery hostage. The attacker achieves this by altering a few scans and then by demanding payment for revealing which scans have been affected,” their paper says.

The researchers published their findings to call attention to vulnerabilities in CT and MRI machines at a time when hospitals and clinics remain major targets for hackers, since medical records can be hugely valuable to cybercriminals wishing to commit identity theft or extortion.

It doesn’t help that some archiving systems for CT and MRI machines can be exposed to the internet, whether intentionally or accidentally, opening the door for hackers to get in, the researchers wrote. Another way to break in is by hacking a hospital’s Wi-Fi hotspots to gain entry into the internal network.

Using encryption to protect the data between X-ray-scanning machines and hospital workstations could help address some of the threat. But researchers also recommend hospitals use digital signatures and watermarking on the X-rayed images as a way to verify their authenticity.


Empathy Is Taught To Students Ages 6 To 16 In Schools in Denmark.

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Empathy Is Taught To Students Ages 6 To 16 In Schools in Denmark.

Every week, students aged six to 16 are following empathy classes during “Klassens tid”. The idea behind these classes is to teach kids to practice empathy, how to build relationships, how to succeed at work and how to prevent bullying.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

Students can talk about their struggles and issues during this hour

The problems the kids talk about can vary between personal problems or anything regarding to school. Along with the teacher, the other kids will discuss the problem and figure out a way to possibly solve it. They are taught how to really listen and understand one another.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

“Together, the class tries to respect all aspects and angles and together find a solution,” Iben Sandahl said. “Kids’ issues are acknowledged and heard as a part of a bigger community. [And] when you are recognized, you become someone.”

Iben Sandahl is a Danish psychotherapist, educator, and co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting together with Jessica Alexander who is an American author, and cultural researcher.

Source: The Danish Way

The book they wrote together discusses the real reason behind the happiness of the Danish people.

According to the book, the answer lies in the Danish upbringing. Happy children are raised by Danish parents who, in their turn, raise happy children and the cycle repeats itself and so on.

Klassens tid is the ultimate opportunity for the students to be heard and for them to receive support and encouragement from their peers. Mutual respect is one of the bonuses to these classes.

“The children are not afraid to speak up, because they feel part of a community, they are not alone,” according to journalist, Carlotta Balena.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

There are two ways the Danes teach empathy, according to Sandahl’s and Alexander’s study.

60% of the classes revolve around teamwork, which is an important part of the program. They try to teach children to not merely focus on being the best among their peers but to focus instead on improving the skills and talents of other students who are not gifted equally.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

You won’t find any prizes of trophies at a Danish school as they try instead to focus on “the culture of motivation to improve, measured exclusively in relation to themselves.”

Source: YouTube Screenshot

The second way of teaching empathy is through collaborative learning.

This is where the upbringing comes in, which is key to happiness according to the authors. With upbringing they mean a cohesive society that supports everyone.

“A child who is naturally talented in mathematics, without learning to collaborate with their peers, will not go much further. They will need help in other subjects. It is a great lesson to teach children from an early age since no one can go through life alone,” Jessica Alexander said.

Source: YouTube Screenshot

The students learn more about the subject they’re talking about as well as learning new ways to communicate, at the collaborative learning course.

“You build empathy skills, which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works,” Jessica Alexander further explained.


The dark side of plant-based food.

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The dark side of plant-based food.

If you were to believe newspapers and dietary advice leaflets, you’d probably think that doctors and nutritionists are the people guiding us through the thicket of what to believe when it comes to food. But food trends are far more political – and economically motivated – than it seems.

From ancient Rome, where Cura Annonae – the provision of bread to the citizens – was the central measure of good government, to 18th-century Britain, where the economist Adam Smith identified a link between wages and the price of corn, food has been at the centre of the economy. Politicians have long had their eye on food policy as a way to shape society.

That’s why tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain were enforced in Britain between 1815 and 1846. These “corn laws” enhanced the profits and political power of the landowners, at the cost of raising food prices and hampering growth in other economic sectors.

Over in Ireland, the ease of growing the recently imported potato plant led to most people living off a narrow and repetitive diet of homegrown potato with a dash of milk. When potato blight arrived, a million people starved to death, even as the country continued to produce large amounts of food – for export to England.

The Irish famine. internetarchivebookimages/flickr

Such episodes well illustrate that food policy has often been a fight between the interests of the rich and the poor. No wonder Marx declared that food lay at the heart of all political structures and warned of an alliance of industry and capital intent on both controlling and distorting food production.

Vegan wars

Many of today’s food debates can also be usefully reinterpreted when seen as part of a wider economic picture. For example, recent years have seen the co-option of the vegetarian movement in a political programme that can have the effect of perversely disadvantaging small-scale, traditional farming in favour of large-scale industrial farming.

This is part of a wider trend away from small and mid-size producers towards industrial-scale farming and a global food market in which food is manufactured from cheap ingredients bought in a global bulk commodities market that is subject to fierce competition. Consider the launch of a whole new range of laboratory created “fake meats” (fake dairy, fake eggs) in the US and Europe, oft celebrated for aiding the rise of the vegan movement. Such trends entrench the shift of political power away from traditional farms and local markets towards biotech companies and multinationals.

Estimates for the global vegan food market now expect it to grow each year by nearly 10% and to reach around US$24.3 billion by 2026. Figures like this have encouraged the megaliths of the agricultural industry to step in, having realised that the “plant-based” lifestyle generates large profit margins, adding value to cheap raw materials (such as protein extracts, starches, and oils) through ultra-processing. Unilever is particularly active, offering nearly 700 vegan products in Europe.

Researchers at the US thinktank RethinkX predict that “we are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption” of agriculture in history. They say that by 2030, the entire US dairy and cattle industry will have collapsed, as “precision fermentation” – producing animal proteins more efficiently via microbes – “disrupts food production as we know it”.

Westerners might think that this is a price worth paying. But elsewhere it’s a different story. While there is much to be said for rebalancing western diets away from meat and towards fresh fruits and vegetables, in India and much of Africa, animal sourced foods are an indispensable part of maintaining health and obtaining food security, particularly for women and children and the 800 million poor that subsist on starchy foods.

To meet the 2050 challenges for quality protein and some of the most problematic micronutrients worldwide, animal source foods remain fundamental. But livestock also plays a critical role in reducing poverty, increasing gender equity, and improving livelihoods. Animal husbandry cannot be taken out of the equation in many parts of the world where plant agriculture involves manure, traction, and waste recycling – that is, if the land allows sustainable crop growth in the first place. Traditional livestock gets people through difficult seasons, prevents malnutrition in impoverished communities, and provides economic security.

Boys with their cattle, Tanzania. Magdalena Paluchowska/

Follow the money

Often, those championing vegan diets in the west are unaware of such nuances. In April 2019, for example, Canadian conservation scientist, Brent Loken, addressed India’s Food Standards Authority on behalf of EAT-Lancet’s “Great Food Transformation” campaign, describing India as “a great example” because “a lot of the protein sources come from plants”. Yet such talk in India is far from uncontroversial.

The country ranks 102nd out of 117 qualifying countries on the Global Hunger Index, and only 10% of infants between 6–23 months are adequately fed. While the World Health Organization recommends animal source foods as sources of high-quality nutrients for infants, food policy there spearheads an aggressive new Hindu nationalism that has led to many of India’s minority communities being treated as outsiders. Even eggs in school meals have become politicised. Here, calls to consume less animal products are part of a deeply vexed political context.

Likewise, in Africa, food wars are seen in sharp relief as industrial scale farming by transnationals for crops and vegetables takes fertile land away from mixed family farms (including cattle and dairy), and exacerbates social inequality.

The result is that today, private interest and political prejudices often hide behind the grandest talk of “ethical” diets and planetary sustainability even as the consequences may be nutritional deficiencies, biodiversity-destroying monocultures and the erosion of food sovereignty.

For all the warm talk, global food policy is really an alliance of industry and capital intent on both controlling and distorting food production. We should recall Marx’s warnings against allowing the interests of corporations and private profit to decide what we should eat.



FCC Approves Plan For 3-Digit Suicide Prevention Number Similar To 911.

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FCC Approves Plan For 3-Digit Suicide Prevention Number Similar To 911.

It’s a lesson you learn as early as grade school: If you find yourself injured, threatened or otherwise in harm’s way, just break out your phone and dial a simple, three-digit number: 911. After more than five decades, the 911 emergency call system has become so memorable and ubiquitously known, it even has its own network TV adaptation.

But what if the danger is rooted less in the physical, and more in one’s mental health?

On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to proceed with a proposal to set up a new hotline similar to 911 — only, instead of dialing the police, the number would connect callers to experts in suicide prevention and mental health. The proposed number, 988, would link callers to an already existing network of crisis centers around the country set up by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That network, comprised of 163 such call centers around the country, is already accessible at 1-800-273-TALK or online right here. But the simplified alternative laid out Thursday would, in the words of an FCC report published in August, “make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources.”

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


“Overall, the record supports the use of a dedicated 3-digit dialing code as a way to increase the effectiveness of suicide prevention efforts, ease access to crisis services, and reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health conditions,” the federal agency explained in the study, prepared in collaboration with HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA.

Congress requested the report as part of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, passed and signed into law last year in a rare display of bipartisan agreement.

Thursday’s FCC vote does not mean you can dial 988 today and be connected with the suicide prevention hotline. The move simply represents a major step forward in the process, opening a period of public comment on the proposal before the commission reaches the stage of finalizing the rules.

The notice proposes an 18-month time frame for making the number a reality.

“Our hearts go out to those who are struggling,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a recorded statement released Thursday, “and we hope to move as quickly as we can in order to help them get the help they need and deserve.”

Pai pointed to some alarming statistics, noting that the U.S. recently has seen its highest rates of suicide since World War II. To wit:

  • “More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide and more than 1.4 million adults attempted suicide” in 2017, according to SAMHSA.
  • In a span of less than two decades, 1999 to 2017, the age-adjusted suicide rate rose about 33%, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year.
  • At-risk populations such as veterans, LGBTQ youth and American Indians have been shown to be particularly vulnerable.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24, who saw a stark 56% rise in suicide rates from 2007 to 2017.
  • Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

The FCC says that last year alone, counselors at the 163 crisis centers around the country answered more than 2.2 million calls and more than 100,000 online chats. SAMHSA says its research shows that “callers were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful” by the end of their calls with counselors.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on Thursday applauded the commission’s vote as a “historic action” toward boosting access to these kinds of services.

He and a bipartisan group of his colleagues introduced a bill in the Senate in October that would pursue the same aim of setting up 988 as a suicide prevention hotline. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act would also allow states to collect fees to support the plan’s implementation.

On Wednesday it received the approval of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which sent it along to the wider chamber for further consideration.

Cervical pre-cancer rates down 88% since HPV vaccinations began 10 years ago.

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Cervical pre-cancer rates down 88% since HPV vaccinations began 10 years ago.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in the UK under the age of 35 after breast and skin cancer. In the majority of cases, the cancer only develops if the patient is infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 or 18. This virus is mainly transmitted between people having vaginal, anal or oral sex. At some point in their lives, four in five people will be infected by HPV strains – as many as 14 can cause cancer in total. According to recent studies, other cancers heavily linked to HPV infections include head-and-neck, vulvo-vaginal and anal.

Green = gynaecological diseases. 

In an effort to reduce rates of cervical cancer, a number of countries launched immunisation programmes in the late 2000s, starting with Australia in 2006. The UK and its devolved governments launched a school immunisation programme in 2008 to vaccinate all girls aged 12-13. To speed up the time lag associated with achieving the benefits of vaccination, they also kicked off a three-year catch-up programme for girls aged up to 18 years.

A decade on, we are finally able to publish the first results. The data relates to Scotland, since it was cervically screening women from the age of 20 until 2016 – before falling into line with the minimum age of 25 used in the rest of the UK. This meant that Scotland obtained screening data for the 2008-09 cohort before the change in screening age. Scotland also has very detailed information about take-up rates, which have been very high: running to approximately 90% in Scotland for the routinely vaccinated girls and 65% for the older girls vaccinated as part of the catch-up programme.

For the first time, we can now confirm that the vaccination programme has begun to profoundly alter the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 among Scottish women – and presumably elsewhere as well.

The study

My team performed an eight-year study of the women eligible for the Scottish national vaccination and cervical screening programmes. We looked at their vaccination status, year of birth, indicators of deprivation and whether they lived in urban or rural areas. Using complex statistical modelling, we were able to calculate the effect of vaccination on cervical pre-cancer. Though not all pre-cancer becomes cancer, all cancer requires pre-cancer. Cervical pre-cancer occurs quicker than cancer and therefore this focus has allowed us to see the impact of the vaccine earlier.

Among women born in 1995-96 – the first group to go through the regular vaccination programme in 2008/09 – there has been an 88% reduction in rates of cervical pre-cancer. This is a fall in incidence from 1.44% to 0.17%.

Not only that, women born in these years who had not received the vaccine were also less likely to develop cervical pre-cancer. This was because the high vaccine uptake meant that HPV incidence was much lower in their age group, thanks to a phenomenon known as “herd protection”. This is particularly good news, since this group is also less likely to attend cervical screenings.

UK vaccination programme is over a decade old. Image Point Fr

The findings clearly show that the routine HPV vaccination programme for girls aged 12 to 13 has been a resounding success. This is consistent with the fact that we have also seen a big fall in high-risk HPV infection in Scotland in recent years. The obvious conclusion is that we are going to see far fewer cases of cervical cancer in years to come.

From September, the UK is going to extend the vaccination programme to boys – becoming one of numerous countries to do so. This is in response to the fact that rates of head and neck cancer are rising in men: approximately 60% of head and neck cancer is associated with HPV16 infection, and should therefore be mostly preventable through vaccination. This programme should also mean that high-risk HPV infections among the population should be eliminated more quickly, which should have knock-on benefits for rates of HPV-driven cancers.

Meanwhile, in parts of Canada, HPV vaccinations are now being offered to uninfected women as part of the cervical screening process. This may protect older women from developing cervical cancer. This process may be adopted internationally, including the UK. When we look at the picture as a whole, eliminating the HPV virus, and making huge inroads into the various cancers that it helps develop, is now becoming a realistic possibility.