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NASA announces release of treasure trove of space & science programs

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 04:08

American space agency NASA released a treasure trove of space and science programs, which includes a broad swath of applications ranging from the highly technological Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems File Delivery Protocol to the fanciful like the Spacewalk game.

The treasure trove, which also includes autonomous control packages to life-support system programs, is available free of charge for anyone.

It also offers a number of tools that one can apply to Earth-based photography, such as the Video Image Stabilization & Registration program or JPL’s Stereo Vision Software Suite to calibrate stereoscopic camera setups.

In addition, the newly released catalog offers 3D models and textures. For drone fans, it offers the Autonomous Precision Landing Navigation System that was originally designed for using in cruise missiles and the Formation Flying System for UAVs.

Releasing the software catalog, NASA officials said it is way of supporting the innovation economy by providing entrepreneurs, businesses, academia and the space industry with access to tools used by modern aerospace engineers.

General: Science NewsCompanies: NASA

‘Natural’ doesn’t always mean safe: review

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:45

Herbal medications remain popular among individuals with heart disease despite the fact that there is scant evidence suggesting herbal medications are effective or safe to treat such conditions, according to a new review.

Senior review author Dr. Graziano Onder warned that natural doesn’t always mean safe, and there is need to improve knowledge of herbal medications in order to sufficiently weigh the clinical implications of their use.

In a press release from the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Onder said, “Physicians should improve their knowledge of herbal medications in order to adequately weigh the clinical implications related to their use. Physicians should explain that natural does not always mean safe.”

Onder is an assistant professor in the department of geriatrics, neurosciences & orthopedics at Rome, Italy-based Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

There is little evidence of herbal medications’ safety or effectiveness as such medications are sold in the United States without being tested in strict clinical trials. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) can declare that an herbal medication is unsafe only after it has already hurt somebody.

The review was detailed in the most recent (Feb. 27th) edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

General: HealthCompanies: FDA

Eating 10 portions of fruit & vegetables daily can prevent 7.8M premature deaths: study

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 07:22

Eating ten portions of fruit and vegetables daily significantly reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, cancer and prevent premature deaths, a new study suggested.

A tem of researchers, led by Dr. Dagfinn Aune of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, reviewed a total of 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake, and found that one can reap the greatest benefit by eating 800g or 10 portions of fruit or vegetables per day.

The study included nearly 2 million individuals, and the researchers assessed 43,000 heart disease cases, 47,000 stroke cases, 112,000 cancer cases, along with 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease.

They estimated that nearly 7.8 million premature deaths globally could potentially be prevented every year if individuals ate 10 portions or 800 g of fruit and vegetables daily.

Lead researcher Dr. Dagfinn Aune said, “We need more research … However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”

The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology.

General: HealthResearchRegion: London

Existing Medicaid participants may continue to receive federal dollars

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 08:10

Congressional Republicans are reportedly mulling a proposal to temporarily keep federal funds flowing to cover medical costs of millions of Americans already have insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but block that federal aid for any new participants.

President Donald Trump and many other high-profile Republicans have been vocal opponents of the ACA, which is also known as Obamacare. During his election campaign last year, Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal it.

However, the Republicans have thus far filed to find an efficient alterative to the ACA. Thus, the reported proposal is apparently a compromise as it will allow existing ACA participants to continue to gain federal aid, while no new participants will have access to it.

But Gov. John Kasich, a Republican from Ohio, said in a recent interview that he didn’t believe that the current compromise is adequate.

Speaking on the topic, he said, “I don’t think that paying hospitals for uncompensated care results with a healthier population. Where are they [people struggling with addiction and mental illness] supposed to go?”

Details of how the proposal’s dual elements would be implemented and their specific time frames are still under consideration by a key committee of the U.S. Congress.

General: HealthPeople: Donald Trump

Intense workouts may be killing your sex life: study warns

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 07:45

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina has linked high-intensity workouts to a low sex drive, and possibly infertility, in men.

The researchers polled more than one thousand active American men on their workouts as well as sex lives. Participating men were divided into groups by duration and intensity of workout/exercise and libido levels.

A comparison of results from the groups revealed that those who underwent moderate or light exercise/workouts were more likely to report moderate/high libidos than those who underwent intense workouts.

The researchers wrote in the study report, “Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis are significantly associated with ... decreased libido scores in men.”

They concluded that workouts improve your sex life and overall health, but if you are feeling so worn out after an intense workout that you can not perform in the bedroom, then it is the time to tone it down.

The researchers reported their study in the most recent edition of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

General: HealthResearch

New advocacy group to fight for lowering drug prices

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 08:53

Amid growing outrage over soaring drug prices, David Mitchell has launched a new advocacy group called “Patients For Affordable Drugs” to lobby for new ways to drag down the high prices that patients are forced to pay for drugs.

Mitchell said he put $75,000 of his own savings into the initiative and received a grant of $500,000 from the Laura & John Arnold Foundation to establish a website and start lobbying for dragging down drug prices.

Speaking on the topic, Mitchell said, “It has become increasingly clear that patients are getting killed by high drug prices. They are losing their homes. They are spending their kids’ education money. They are depleting their 401ks.”

Hefty drug prices have become a major concern among patients as well as politicians. Recently, several members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to Kaleo Pharmaceuticals CEO Spencer Williamson, expressing their concerns over the company’s decision of increasing the price for Evzio by a whopping 600 percent.

Turing Pharma is being criticized for increasing the price of anti-parasitic pills from $13.50 to a whopping $750 apiece, making it just impossible for many poor patients to afford it.

Taking an aim at pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and pharmacy benefit managers, Mitchell stressed that the new advocacy group will fight for policies that could lower the prices of life-saving drugs.

General: HealthCompanies: Kaleo Pharmaceuticals

Stem cell transplant halts MS disability progression: study

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 08:16

Stem cell transplants should be performed in young multiple sclerosis (MS) patients before they go through rounds of other treatments as the procedure is most effective if done in the early stage of the disease, a new study suggested.

The researchers also found in the study that patients with relapsing MS enjoy more long-term benefits from stem cell transplants than those suffering secondary progressive MS.

Long-term outcomes after Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT) were found to be good, with roughly half of all MS patients free of the devastating disease progression at 5 years.

Dr. Sorrel Bickley, the chief of Biomedical Research at the UK-based MS Society, said, “It shows that AHSCT can slow or stop progression for many years, and [that] the treatment is most effective in people with MS who have ‘active inflammation’ in their brain and spinal cord.”

The researchers reached the conclusion after the observational study tracked a total of 281 MS patients who underwent the procedure of AHSCT across 25 centers worldwide between 1995 and 2006.

The new research was detailed in the most recent (Feb. 21st) edition of the journal JAMA Neurology.

General: HealthResearch

Teen suicide rates fell as gay marriage was legalized: researchers find

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 08:40

Fewer American teens attempted suicide after same-sex marriage became legal and the biggest impact was seen among gay, lesbian and bisexual kids, a new study revealed.

As per available data, suicide is the second-biggest cause of death among American teens, and suicidal behavior is more common among gay, lesbian and bisexual children and adults. A report suggested that nearly 29 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens reported attempting suicide as compared with 6 per cent of straight teenagers.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found declines in teen suicide rates in states that approved measured and made laws to allow gays to marry before the U.S. Supreme Court made legalized gay marriage nationwide.

They analyzed data on nearly 700,000 public high school students who took part in government surveys on risky behavior among teens between 1999 and 2015. Around 230,000 of them admitted being gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 32 states, which enacted same-sex marriage laws, overall suicide attempts among teens and gay teens fell 7 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

Lead author Julia Raifman added, “There is a need for further research to understand the association between sexual minority rights, stigma and sexual minority health.”

The researchers reported their findings in the most recent edition of the JAMA Pediatrics.

General: Health

South Korea to set up foot-&-mouth vaccine plant

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 08:56

In a bid to combat frequent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, South Korea is mulling a plan to set up a manufacturing facility to locally develop a vaccine to cure animals hit by the viral infection.

South Korea currently relies on imported vaccines from foreign manufacturers like Merial to repeatedly inoculate its farm animals and to bolster inventories during foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

Vice agriculture minister Lee Junwon said the fourth-largest economy of Asia has plans to set up the foot-and-mouth vaccine production plant in 2020.

Making the announcement, Junwon said, “After securing original vaccine production technology by 2017 based on our six-year research result... we plan to operate a foot-and-mouth vaccine plant in 2020.”

For the time being, the Asian country has plans to import 32 million doses to tackle the most recent foot-and-mouth outbreak, in which nine cases of the viral disease have already been confirmed.

The latest outbreak forced authorities to cull more than 1,400 cattle to prevent the viral animal infection from spreading and hitting more animals.

General: HealthRegion: South Korea

A cure for Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 07:08

Billions of dollars have already been spent on the fight against the Alzheimer's disease, but a cure for the disease remains elusive.

No new treatment for Alzheimer’s has won the FDA’s approval since 2003, and clinical trials for the disease has 99 per cent failure rate. Merely five drugs have gained the FDA’s approval to treat the disease, and those drugs just alleviate symptoms.

In December last year, U.S. Congress passed a measure to set aside additional $3 billion to fund research of brain diseases and precision medicine to tackle disease like Alzheimer's over the next 10 years.

The effort, part of the 21st Century Cures Act, also offers prize money to egg on research and experiments on Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer's disease remains a major killer in the U.S., and the number of patients is on the rise. Some experts have warned that the disease will probably continue to grow as the U.S. population is aging rapidly.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys the patient’s memory and other key mental functions. It develops when brain cell connections degenerate and die, which destroys memory and other mental functions.

General: HealthCompanies: FDA

Texas couple celebrates twin pregnancy after years of fertility struggle

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 08:46

Following years of struggle with infertility, a couple in Texas is finally expecting twins. Sharing their excitement on social media, Lauren and Garyt Walker also revealed their grueling struggle that forced them to go through hundreds of needles and thousands of tears.

In a recent social media post, Lauren and Garyt Walker described that they prayed for 953 days and went through 452 needles, and faced failed in-vitro fertilization (IVF) rounds and transfers.

Posting the joyous update, they wrote, “We prayed for 953 days...452 Needles, 1000's of tears,1 corrective surgery, 4 clomid/letrozole attempts, 2 IVF rounds, 3 failed transfers & 1 Amazing GOD.”

The couple also shared a photo showing two onesies surrounded by hundreds of needles used during Lauren’s IVF treatments.

After Lauren and Garyt Walker started attempting to have a child, Lauren suffered five miscarriages. They spent more than $30,000 on treatment before 2014, when Lauren suffered her last miscarriage.

In 2016, they took a loan, and made one more attempt, which proved to be fruitful. Just before Christmas, they were learnt that they were expecting. Lauren is due in August, and the couple has already named their twins Diana and Duke.

General: HealthRegion: Texas

Flu vaccine is 48% effective this season: CDC

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 08:46

Flu vaccine has reduced the risk of infections in the United States by nearly half this season but the infection is expected to continue for the next many weeks, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) said in its latest report.

The federal agency said that the predominant virus strain this flu season is influenza A (H3N2), and the estimated effectiveness of the available vaccine in preventing influenza A and influenza B has been 43 and 73 per cent, respectively; with overall protection rate of 48 per cent.

The interim findings are based on analysis of data collected from Nov. 28 through Feb. 4 for 3,144 kids and adults who were enrolled in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network.

Brendan Flannery, lead investigator for the network, said the viruses in the flu vaccine proved to be a “good match” for the influenza viruses circulating this season.

Speaking on the topic, Flannery added, “The prediction for the H3N2 virus was right on in terms of that particular virus continuing to be a dominant virus. This vaccine is a much better match for the circulating virus than the vaccine we had two years ago.”

During the 2015-16 and 2014-15 flu seasons, vaccine effectiveness was recorded at 47 per cent and just 19 per cent, respectively.

General: HealthCompanies: CDC

Erosion of beaches will get worse: researchers warn

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 07:18

Portraying a gloomy picture of the future, the 2015-16 El Niño eroded an unprecedented amount of the West Coast’s beaches across the states of California, Oregon and Washington.

A new study revealed that unusually powerful waves brought by the last El Niño, together with lack of new sediment flushed down onto beaches, eroded 76 per cent more sand than usual from at least 29 beaches in the three states.

David Hubbard, UC Santa Barbara marine ecologist and one of the co-authors of the study, blamed climate change for the devastating El Niño.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Hubbard said, “It looks like climate change will bring us more El Niño events, possibly twice as many, at twice the frequency as in the past. So, this is a taste of what's coming.”

Scientists expect that erosion, a normal process, will get worse as sea levels rise and climate change makes extreme weather events more extreme.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, highlighted that erosion of coastlines is a major environmental issue that needs bipartisan agreement in Congress to be fixed.

General: ResearchEntertainmentRegion: California

Rare rat-linked disease leaves 1 dead, 2 sickened in Bronx

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 08:27

A rare bacterial disease carried by rats has killed one person in the Bronx and left two others struggling for their lives, the city health authorities confirmed.

According to the Bronx Health Department, three cases of the deadly bacterial disease of leptospirosis were first spotted in a one block radius of the city’s Concourse section more than two months ago.

Demetre Daskalakis, the department’s acting deputy commissioner, said in a statement that leptospirosis mostly affects animals and it rarely affects humans.

Speaking on the issue, Daskalakis added, “Human leptospirosis cases are very rare in New York City. This is the first time a cluster of cases has been identified. All three cases had severe illness … two cases developed pulmonary hemorrhage and one died as a result of infection.”

From 2006 through 2016, there were merely 26 cases of the leptospirosis disease in New York City, or 1-3 cases per year. The median age of the patients was 42 years.

Symptoms of the potentially deadly disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, conjunctival suffusion, photophobia, nausea, vomiting, and pain in muscles.

General: HealthResearchRegion: New York

Try drug-free remedies before resorting to medication for low back pain: ACP

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 05:35

People suffering low back pain should try drug-free remedies like heat wraps and physical therapy before resorting to medication, the American College of Physicians (ACP) suggested.

In its new treatment guidelines, ACP said that medicines, particularly powerful opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, should be used only as a last resort in cases back pain. The new guidelines put more emphasis on drug-free therapies than previous ones suggested.

Another big change in the new guidelines is the removal of acetaminophen (Tylenol) from the list of medications that can low back pain patients should be used as a last resort.

Dr. Nitin Damle, the president of the ACP, explained that a recent research showed that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not effective for the condition.

Damle underlined that most people with shorter-term ‘nonspecific’ low back pain can improve their condition with simple non-drug measures, such as heat wraps and changes in activity.

When medication becomes a necessity, the patient should opt for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, or possibly muscle relaxants. Opiate painkillers come with several risks, including accidental overdose and addiction.

General: Health

Pregnant inmate forced to deliver baby on jail cell floor

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 07:11

A Detroit-area sheriff has defended his staff over their over their controversial action that allegedly forced an eight-month pregnant inmate to give birth to a baby on a jail cell floor.

Jessica Preston was serving a 14-day sentence last year when she called for help on a morning and told the deputies that she was in labor and wanted medical help. But, the deputies allegedly didn’t believe her. She was sent back to her cell thrice before she finally delivered a baby on the jail’s floor.

A video captured by a surveillance camera showed Preston being sent back to her cell after she told the deputies that she was in labor. But, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham insisted that he is confident that his staff acted accordingly.

Defending his staff, Wickersham said, “They were on the phone with the doctor. The information at that time, the baby started to come, they took her off the cot, which is close to the wall, put her on the floor on a mattress and the baby was delivered.”

Preston had been jailed by Judge Suzanne Faunce for driving on a suspended license. Though it was Preston’s first offense, the judge sent her to the jail because she failed to pay a $10,000 cash bond.

Judge Suzanne refused to comment, but the court administrator said in a statement the judge looked not only at the woman’s current charge but also at her previous court history when determining the bond. In the past, Preston had a record of drug abuse and warrants for her failure to appear in court.

The court administrator also claimed that Judge Suzanne felt that it would be in the woman and her baby’s best interests to be locked up, and that the judge had never imagined that pregnant woman would not be taken to a hospital in case she went into labor behind the bars.

General: Health

Marathon Pharma to sell decades-old drug to treat DMD for $89,000

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 08:24

Marathon Pharmaceuticals will reportedly market decades-old drug deflazacort under the brand name Emflaza with a top price tag of roughly $89,000 for a year's worth of treatment, nearly 70 times higher than the drug's price overseas.

The drug in question is a common steroid that can be used to treat a rare disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which damages the patient's muscles and leaves many of patients dead by their late-20s.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), patients can shave the steroid for less than $1 through online pharmacies, while Marathon will market the drug for roughly $89,000 for a year's worth of treatment.

It is quite surprising how a company can get away with such a shocking list price for the drug in the U. S. It is because the drug was never approved in the country despite its widespread availability to treat other conditions, such as arthritis, in many other countries.

Since Marathon recently won the FDA's approval to treat a condition that afflicts fewer than 200,000 people in the U. S., and there has been a dearth of treatment options, the Illinois-based pharmaceuticals giant has carte blanche over the drug's pricing.

General: Health

FedEx Launches FedEx Fulfillment for Small Business to Compete with Amazon

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 16:41

FedEx has launched a new service named FedEx Fulfillment for small and medium business owners. The service will first serve customers in the United States and Canada and business owners will be able to store their goods at FedEx warehouses. The logistics service will also offer custom delivery boxes with branding options for small and medium business owners.

The service would compete with Amazon for ecommerce based clients and small business owners. Amazon has registered strong growth in its similar program under which the company offers third-party sellers to store their goods at Amazon warehouse. Amazon directly ships the products and this reduces hassle for seller and delivery time for products.

Amazon has registered growth in its fulfillment business but many sellers are concerned about Amazon competing with them for their best-selling products. This won’t be the case with FedEx as the company is only into logistics and not into retailing.

In a report published on CNN, Ryan Kelly, senior vice president of FedEx Supply Chain informed, "We're focused on the retailer, and doing what's right for the retailer, in helping them grow their business. I think that is differentiated in the marketplace. It's why we're getting such great feedback."

Amazon has been working hard on improving delivery of goods on its network. The company has invested a lot of money in improving its logistics network. FedEx and UPS are now trying to compete by offering flexibility to small and medium business owners.

Business: Business NewsRetail SectorCompanies: FedExRegion: United StatesGeneral: Featured

CDC updates 2017 advisory for recommended flu shots

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 07:15

An advisory board of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released its 2017 advisory for recommended flu shots affecting adults.

The federal agency revised its guidelines on seasonal flu shots by modifying shot advice for individuals with egg allergy and eliminating nasal flu vaccines. In addition, it tweaked recommendations for vaccines against hepatitis B, meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Doctors use the FDA’s annually updated vaccine schedule to make sure that patients get the right vaccines according to their age, medical conditions and other risk factors. The updated list includes thirteen vaccinations.

Dr. David Kim, the deputy associate director for adult immunizations in the agency’s Immunization Services Division, said, “All adults need immunizations to help them prevent getting and spreading serious disease that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.”

The federal agency also suggested that there are some ways to tell if a patient have a cold or the flu, such as symptoms of a cold often come gradually, whereas symptoms of flu appear suddenly, and symptoms like stuffy nose and sore throat are more common with colds than with the seasonal disease of flu.

General: HealthCompanies: CDC

Coca-Cola Helped by Strong North American Demand but Company Issues Lackluster Future Guidance

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 14:13

Coca-Cola announced strong quarterly results as the company reported strong demand in North America. Coca-Cola reported strong numbers for quarter ending by December 2016 but the company has reduced its guidance for year 2017. Coca-Cola is offloading most of its bottling operations in North America and this will lead to additional charges in 2017. The company will be refranchising its bottling operations in North America and has announced that there could be 1-4 percent drop in earnings in 2017.

Coca-Cola reported flat sales for soda and carbonated beverages but it reported stronger earnings in other segments. As people are becoming health conscious with rising awareness about obesity, Coca-Cola and other beverage companies face challenge of reducing sugar content in their carbonated beverages. In many overseas markets, Coca-Cola has ventured in other drinks segment to keep its earnings healthy.

With price increase, Coca-Cola reported stronger revenue in North America. During fourth quarter, Coca-Cola registered 1 percent decline in sales. The sale for non-carbonated beverages increased by 2 percent during last quarter while sale of carbonated beverages declined by two percent.

A report published by USA Today informed, “Overall, the company's revenue fell 6% to $9.4 billion for the fourth quarter. The company said that included a 2% decline attributable to foreign exchange rates and a 10% decline attributable to corporate deals and one-time items, which included bottling refranchising efforts.”

“In North America, net revenue rose 8 percent during the quarter, outperforming total retail value growth for both the North America nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverage industry and U.S. consumer packaged goods companies," CEO Muhtar Kent said.

Business: Company ResultsCompany UpdatesCompanies: Coca-ColaPeople: Muhtar KentGeneral: Featured

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