Cervical cancer vaccine program is a success

The first evidence has emerged that nationwide vaccination programmes for young women against HPV, the virus that triggers cervical cancer, are likely to cut the numbers who get the disease.

A study in Australia, one of the first countries to introduce the vaccination, has shown a drop in high-grade cervical abnormalities – changes to the cells in the neck of the womb that can be the precursor to cancer.

Australia introduced nationwide HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination for women aged 12 to 26 from 2007.

While it will take many years to find out whether vaccination programmes definitely reduce the numbers of cervical cancers in the population, Australian scientists were able to analyse the results from their screening programme to find out whether there has been any drop in the number of young women with abnormal cell changes that are the precursor of cancer…

That finding, say the authors, “reinforces the appropriateness of the targeting of prophylactic HPV vaccines to pre-adolescent girls”…

In spite of worries that parents would refuse to have their daughters vaccinated against what is essentially a sexually-transmitted virus, the take-up has been good, according to figures from the Department of Health.

Well, that’s the case in the UK and, obviously, in Australia.

Meanwhile – here in the land of religious nutballs, spooky vaccination deniers and opportunist pundits and politicians, the uptake is more like negligible. While about 25% of girls targeted as the best vector for the vaccination received the first shot – the number receiving the full course of three shots is more like 11%.

Anyone surprised?

Adoptions by gay couples rise – in spite of bigots

A family around the supper table

Growing numbers of gay couples across the country are adopting, according to census data, despite an uneven legal landscape that can leave their children without the rights and protections extended to children of heterosexual parents.

Same-sex couples are explicitly prohibited from adopting in only two states — Utah and Mississippi — but they face significant legal hurdles in about half of all other states, particularly because they cannot legally marry in those states.

Despite this legal patchwork, the percentage of same-sex parents with adopted children has risen sharply. About 19 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported having an adopted child in the house in 2009, up from just 8 percent in 2000…

That reality has been shaped by what advocates for gay families say are two distinct trends: the need for homes for children currently waiting for adoption — now about 115,000 in the United States — and the increased acceptance of gays and lesbians in American society.

The American family does not look the same as it did 30 years ago, they argue, and the law has just been slow to catch up.

Most of the legal obstacles facing gay couples intending to adopt stem from prohibitions on marriage, according to the Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for gay families. In most states, gay singles are permitted to adopt…

“The reality is we really need foster and adoptive parents, and it doesn’t matter what the relationship is,” said Moira Weir, director of the job and family services department in Hamilton County, Ohio. “If they can provide a safe and loving home for a child, isn’t that what we want?”

RTFA. Lots of details.

Providing a safe and loving home for a child is not – of course – what homophobes and other bigots care about. Ordering a nation to obey moral precepts from the dim and backwards history of religion and laws that pander to such foolishness is the goal of fundamentalist opposition to most civil rights, civil liberties and equal opportunities for American citizens.

“Peace on Earth, good will to all” – is how most organized religion speaks [way too highly] of itself in America. Practice does not follow propaganda. What’s characterized as dissent within these religion/businesses is often a willingness and hope to return to those original values. If they think they stand a chance.

Sorry, Steve: Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work – May 21, 2001

By Cliff Edwards

For years, Apple Computer CEO Steven P. Jobs has tried working with retailers to make shopping for Apple’s stylish products as appealing as using them–everything from setting up kiosks to special sections adorned with Apple’s Think Different posters. Still, the computer maker’s share has fallen, and Jobs figures he knows why. “Buying a car is no longer the worst purchasing experience. Buying a computer is now No. 1,” he griped at the MacWorld trade show in January.

Now, he’s taking matters into his own hands. On May 19, Apple will open a swanky new retail store–the first of as many 110 nationwide–at Tyson’s Corner Galleria mall outside Washington. While Apple execs won’t comment on their plans, the idea seems clear: Well-trained Apple salespeople in posh Apple stores can convince would-be buyers of the Mac’s unique advantages, including its well-regarded iMovie software for making home videos and its iTunes program for burning custom CDs…

The way Jobs sees it, the stores look to be a sure thing. But even if they attain a measure of success, few outsiders think new stores, no matter how well-conceived, will get Apple back on the hot-growth path. Jobs’s focus on selling just a few consumer Macs has helped boost profits, but it is keeping Apple from exploring potential new markets. And his perfectionist attention to aesthetics has resulted in beautiful but pricey products with limited appeal outside the faithful: Apple’s market share is a measly 2.8%. “Apple’s problem is it still believes the way to grow is serving caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers,” gripes former Chief Financial Officer Joseph Graziano.

Rather than unveil a Velveeta Mac, Jobs thinks he can do a better job than experienced retailers at moving the beluga. Problem is, the numbers don’t add up…Apple would have to sell $12 million a year per store to pay for the space. Gateway does about $8 million annually at each of its Country Stores. Then there’s the cost of construction, hiring experienced staff. “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,” says Goldstein…

Maybe it’s time Steve Jobs stopped thinking quite so differently.

An example why – before making a business decision, equity purchase, or maybe just buying a new TV set – you should consider the opinions of several analysts. Not just one.

Apple now has over 320 stores around the world. Cliff Edwards still writes for Bloomberg Businessweek. BTW, Bloomberg is still one of the several sources I always consult about business, not necessarily technology.

Thanks, Charles Jade

Commonwealth Games come to successful end in Delhi

The 19th Commonwealth Games have ended in Delhi with Australia topping the medals table, winning 74 gold medals.

India edged ahead of England to the second place on Thursday when Saina Nehwal won the 38th gold medal for the host nation in the women’s singles badminton final.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Indian capital, Delhi, Pradeep Magazine, a sports journalist, said: “The major thing which has saved the game for India is that [Indian] athletes have won record number of medals and that has pleased Indians quite a lot.”

“The games have been fairly successful because Indians didn’t expect much of it, people were fearing that there will be a lot of glitches, even a major mishap.”

Disappointing the usual suspects in the international media.

In the run-up to the games, the organisers of the games had come in for severe criticism over delayed completion of the athletes’ village and other facilities. Several prominent athletes had even pulled out of the event, citing health and security concerns…

A glitzy ceremony was held amid tight security at Jawharlal Nehru Stadium to mark the end of the games.

Mike Fennell, the Commonwealth Games Federation president, declared the games a success, saying that despite the late completion of the athletes village, lack of ticket sales and transport issues, the athletes enjoyed them.

India has proven themselves in the inevitably political judgement of international sports competitions. A step forward whether you like it or not. It’s part of acceptance as a global leader.

This is an an especially pleasing victory in practice for a developing nation. There was no helping hand from a colonial overseer. Indians accomplished this on their own.

Brockton High becomes education success story

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.

Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.

Their efforts paid off quickly. In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools. And its turnaround is getting new attention in a report, “How High Schools Become Exemplary,” published last month by Ronald F. Ferguson, an economist at Harvard who researches the minority achievement gap.

What makes Brockton High’s story surprising is that, with 4,100 students, it is an exception to what has become received wisdom in many educational circles — that small is almost always better…

The liberal side of the political spectrum – in America – is as guilty as the conservative side of accepting a maxim which has value within a single issue and trying to make it a magic bullet capable of resolving every question.

Small historical note. Brockton HS grew large for 2 reasons – 1 good, 1 bad. By accepting a large single district, it was easiest to inhibit tendencies of schools to form around racial and ethnic real estate boundaries. That’s the good part. By having an enormous pool of students to draw from, Brockton managed to dominate Massachusetts high school football the way it’s done in the Permian Basin in Texas. A truly crap accomplishment.

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Afghan vote “success” = low turnout, violence and fraud

Donkeys delivering ballot boxes

Afghan officials hailed a parliamentary vote on Saturday as a success despite low turnout, attacks that killed 14 people and widespread fraud that could undermine the result and test the government’s credibility.

Taliban attacks and attempts at vote-rigging were reported across the country. While there was less violence, attacks were more widespread than during a deeply flawed presidential vote last year and reached into once peaceful areas…

A flawed poll would also weigh on Obama when his administration faces mid-term Congressional elections in November amid sagging public support for the war, with violence at its worst since the Taliban were ousted in 2001…

The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the poll and warned voters not to cast ballots. Their threats appeared to have an impact, with 3,642,444 votes cast, according to preliminary figures released by the IEC.

The United Nations’ top diplomat in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, told Reuters before the vote that a turnout of between 5 million and 7 million could be considered a success. The IEC has put the number of eligible voters at 11.4 million…

As well as the low turnout and violence, thousands of reported attempts at fraud threatened to undermine the poll’s credibility, and that of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The lure of graft is sufficient to guarantee on average 10 candidates for every seat in the lower house of parliament, the wolesi jirga.

There is no doubt of the number of candidates risking their lives for a democratic Afghanistan. Theirs is truly a story of courage – though perhaps taking place well before their nation, their fellow Afghans, are ready to support such a change. On their own.

Out-of-date FDA bureaucrats rejected Salmonella vaccine

Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat.

But when American regulators created new egg safety rules that went into effect last month, they declared that there was not enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to mandate vaccination of hens — a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.

Now, consumers have been shaken by one of the largest egg recalls ever, involving nearly 550 million eggs from two Iowa producers, after a nationwide outbreak of thousands of cases of salmonella was traced to eggs contaminated with the bacteria.

The F.D.A. has said that if its egg safety rules had gone into effect earlier, the crisis might have been averted. Those rules include regular testing for contamination, cleanliness standards for henhouses and refrigeration requirements, all of which experts say are necessary.

However, many industry experts say the absence of mandatory vaccination greatly weakens the F.D.A. rules, depriving them of a crucial step that could prevent future outbreaks.

Salmonella bacteria is passed from infected hens to the interior of eggs when they are being formed. The salmonella vaccines work both by reducing the number of hens that get infected and by making it more difficult for salmonella bacteria to pass through to the eggs…

The F.D.A. said it considered mandatory vaccination very seriously. “We didn’t believe that, based on the data we had, there was sufficient scientific evidence for us to require it,” said Dr. Nega Beru, director of the agency’s Office of Food Safety…

Unfortunately, no one decided to look beyond the prelimary studies from 1999. That seems to be as much a political decision as anything else.

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Plastiki Wraps Up an 8,300-Mile Voyage

The Plastiki, a boat made of bottles that set sail from San Francisco in March, glided past the Sydney Opera House at midday local time Monday in a grand finale to a voyage intended to highlight the problem of plastic waste.

“Overwhelmed! Wow! Need to breathe. Wow! Wow! Wow!” read one of the final tweets from the boat, whose buoyancy relied on the 12,500 plastic bottles encased in its hull…

Underlining the vessel’s mission, Plastiki estimated at its Web site that 8.7 billion plastic bottles, give or take, had been used in the United States since it set out…

Wearing a pink cap and a mariner’s full beard, the leader of the expedition, David de Rothschild, 31, strode up the dock at Darling Harbor to a welcoming ceremony that included the American ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich. “The journey of the Plastiki is a journey from trash to triumph,” Mr. Bleich said, in a nod both to the boat’s recycled nature and its path through a large garbage patch in the Pacific.

We posted on the start of this adventure back in March. We can stop worrying about the voyagers, finally.

And return to worrying about what we all do to this small planet.

Sony pulls the plug on OLED TV

$2000 for an 11″ TV set

Sony Corp has pulled the plug in Japan on sales of a next-generation flat TV due to sluggish demand, a setback for a product the company had trumpeted as a sign of its revival as an innovator.

Sony said it had stopped production of ultra-thin TVs using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology for Japan, just a little over 2 years since it launched its first set. It plans to keep selling the TVs in overseas markets, a spokesman said…

Apparently, Sony thinks everyone else in the world is too dumb to notice the price vs. utility.

Sony has aimed to become a leader in the technology and positioned the product as crucial in its drive to regain its reputation as an innovator after losing out to Apple Inc in portable music and Nintendo in video games.

“I want this world’s first OLED TV to be the symbol of the revival of Sony’s technological prowess. I want this to be the flag under which we charge forwards to turn the fortunes around,” then president Ryoji Chubachi told a briefing in October 2007…

Sony did not disclose how many OLED TV sets it has sold. DisplaySearch said it estimates worldwide shipments of about 2,000 Sony OLED TVs in 2009.

App army promises new software revolution

In line to enter the World Wide Developers Conference 2009
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A decade ago, San Francisco’s trendy South of Market district was the birthplace of hundreds of web design firms that have since gone under or been swallowed by rivals.

Now it is the turn of the “app army“, the scores of companies devoted to churning out small programs known as applications that run on Apple’s iPhone and rival devices, as well as on regular computers for users of Facebook and similar websites…

Indeed, veteran industry executives, investors and analysts are calling the shift to internet-capable devices and the apps that run on them a once-a-decade leap in technology, on a par with the great personal computing boom of the 1980s and the debut of the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

“The ramp [growth rate] of the iPhone and iPod touch in the first eight or nine quarters is more than five times the ramp for the internet,” says Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley tech analyst. These devices, and faster wireless networks, are both now reaching about a fifth of the global population, she estimates, which will drive much more rapid development : “Globally,” she says, “2010 is the tipping point.”

No company is more central to the shift towards the mobile internet than Apple, which enjoys a wide lead in distributing applications. More than 100,000 apps are available on its App Store and more than 2 billion have been downloaded in less than a year and a half.

To keep that gusher flowing, Apple has sought to inspire more outsider developers with the rare rags-to-riches stories — like that of Steve Demeter, a bank programmer who earned $250,000 in two months of 2008 after launching a simple game called Trism…

The advantages the bigger companies have over the smaller developers — scale, expertise and marketing know-how — mean there may not be any “app millionaires” in the years ahead, says Matt Murphy of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who runs a fund devoted to backing iPhone developers.

But small groups that have multiple successes will be pursued by bigger companies. “There will be teams of people who get a hit franchise acquired for north of $1 million,” Mr Murphy says.

Useful article. Beaucoup information.

As visionary as their leadership may be, this is a phenomenon that, after all, even surprised Apple.