World and Nation

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Mass. Speaker Lambastes Patrick on Casino Jobs

Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi stepped up his attacks Monday on Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts, accusing the governor and his staff of failing to do their homework and calling Patrick’s prediction that it would generate 30,000 new construction jobs “absurd.”

The unusually harsh critique from DiMasi, who until now has said only that he was skeptical of Patrick’s plan, signaled that the speaker is preparing for a no-holds-barred fight as the House plans hearings on the governor’s proposal.

“The governor’s arguments for casinos are clearly losing credibility,” DiMasi said in a written statement.

DiMasi was reacting to a report published in Sunday’s Globe that detailed how Patrick’s prediction of 30,000 new construction jobs, 10,000 each from three $1 billion casinos, rested solely on a gambling industry estimate and appeared excessively optimistic.

The report said that just 2,600 new construction jobs have been generated by the $1.5 billion expansion of two casinos in Connecticut. The story also quoted an independent financial analyst who said that 4,000 to 5,000 new construction jobs appeared more reasonable for three casinos statewide.

Although his administration defended its estimate, Patrick downplayed the significance of the estimate, even though he cited it as evidence of gambling’s economic benefits in his State of the State speech Jan. 24.

Europe’s Journey to the Center of the Space Station

Europe is set to significantly increase its involvement with the International Space Station with the launching of a large new spacecraft that is to regularly supply the outpost with fuel, oxygen and other cargo.

The first of the new Automatic Transfer Vehicles, dubbed Jules Verne after the famous French author, is to lift off Sunday from a launch site in French Guiana on a week’s long checkout flight before docking with the station in early April.

The almost 21-ton robot vessel, also known as the ATV, will be the largest payload ever launched by Europe’s largest rocket, a beefed-up version of the Ariane 5 built by the commercial launch company Arianespace. Along with carrying more than 10 tons of experimental equipment, fuel, water, food and other supplies, Jules Verne represents a major new role and more responsibilities for Europe in the space station project.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency, said the inauguration of ATV flights — along with last month’s delivery of the Columbus science module and activation of a European control center — cements Europe’s major new role in space.

“This makes us full partners and a significant player in the space station and space in general,” Dordain said of his organization, which represents 17 European nations. The supply vehicle, Columbus laboratory and other components represent Europe’s investment of more than $7 billion in the station project.

Antibiotics Questioned in Care at Life’s End

A yearlong study is raising questions about the widespread use of antibiotics in nursing homes to treat infections in patients with terminal dementia a treatment that the authors suggest is of dubious value to the patients and may be dangerous in the long run.

The study found that two-thirds of the patients received antibiotics and that 40 percent of that group received them in the last two weeks of life.

Antibiotics are often prescribed for illnesses against which they are ineffective, the authors say, but even when they are properly used, the elderly and frail can be particularly susceptible to their side effects. Intravenous administration of the drugs, common in the people in this study, can be extremely uncomfortable.

And there is the risk that widespread antibiotic use can lead to the emergence of drug-resistant germs, a significant and growing public health problem. Previous studies have found that as many as 40 percent of patients in nursing homes harbor drug-resistant bacteria.

For the study, published Feb. 25 in The Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers tracked antibiotic use among 214 patients in 21 nursing homes near Boston. Seventy percent had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and the rest had other kinds of severe dementia.

Gene Map Becomes a Luxury Item

On a cold day in January, Dan Stoicescu, a millionaire living in Switzerland, became the second person in the world to buy the full sequence of his own genetic code.

He is also among a relatively small group of individuals who could afford the $350,000 price tag.

Stoicescu is the first customer of Knome, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., that has promised to parse his genetic blueprint by spring. A Chinese executive has signed on for the same service with Knome’s partner, the Beijing Genomics Institute, the company said.

Scientists have so far unraveled only a handful of complete human genomes, all financed by governments, foundations and corporations in the name of medical research. But as the cost of genome sequencing goes from stratospheric to merely very expensive, it is piquing the interest of a new clientele.

“I’d rather spend my money on my genome than a Bentley or an airplane,” said Stoicescu, 56, a biotechnology entrepreneur who retired two years ago after selling his company. He says he will check discoveries about genetic disease risk against his genome sequence daily, “like a stock portfolio.”