Month: May 2019

California Firm Reports Progress on Blood Tests to Detect Cancer

A California company says its experimental blood test was able to detect many types of cancer at an early stage and gave very few false alarms in a study that included people with and without the disease.

Many companies are trying to develop early detection “liquid biopsy” tests that capture bits of DNA that cancer cells shed into blood.

Grail’s new results are from 2,300 people. The test detected 55% of known cancers and gave false alarms for 1%. It also accurately suggested where the cancer may be about 90% of the time.

The company gave results in news release Friday and will report them Saturday at a conference in Chicago. They have not been published or reviewed by other scientists.

more

Study: Kids Who Play Violent Video Games May Be More Likely to Handle Guns

Children who either played or watched a video game that included gun violence were more likely afterward to handle a gun and pull the trigger, a new study finds.

More than 200 children were randomly assigned to play either a non-violent video game or a game with firearm violence. Soon after, more than 60% of kids who played the violent game touched a gun, compared to about 44% of those who played a non-violent game, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

The lessons from the new findings are that: “gun owners should secure their guns,” and “parents should protect their children from violent media, including video games,” said study coauthor Brad Bushman, a professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“Each day in the United States, nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot with a firearm, often as a result of a child finding one loaded and unsecured,” Bushman and his coauthor Justin Chang, a former graduate student at Ohio State, wrote.

“Among firearm-owning households with children, approximately 20% keep at least one firearm loaded and unsecured.”

Bushman and Chang recruited 242 kids, ages 8 to 12, to look at the impact of violent video games. The children were partnered up and then randomly assigned to one of three groups: a version of Minecraft that included violence with guns, a version that included violence with swords and a non-violent version. No matter which game a pair of children was assigned to, one would play the game and the other would watch.

After playing the games for 20 minutes, the children were moved to another room that contained toys for them to play with as well as two disabled guns with trigger counters that had been tucked away in a cabinet.

Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study.

Among the 76 children who played video games that included guns, 61.8% handled the weapon, as compared 56.8% of the 74 who played a game including sword violence and 44.3% of the 70 who played a non-violent game.

Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found.

How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched.

It was a median of “10.1 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with guns, 3.6 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with swords and 3.0 times if they played the version of Minecraft without weapons and monsters,” Bushman said in an email.

“The more important outcome, though, is pulling the trigger of a gun while pointing that gun at oneself or one’s partner [children were tested in pairs],” Bushman said. There, the median was 3.4 times for the game with gun violence, 1.5 times for the game with swords and 0.2 times for non-violent games.

The new study “is the most rigorous design that can be conducted,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

While “it’s important to recognize certain types of entertainment can be violent, when it comes to firearms, the solution is to store guns safely so that children can’t gain access,” Crifasi said. “That doesn’t mean children won’t engage in other violent play. But we can cut off guns as a source of potential harm.”

Dr. Shari Platt agreed that the best way to protect kids is proper gun storage.

“The study is interesting and I think they are touching on some very real fears parents have around graphically violent video games,” said Platt, chief of pediatric medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine. But in the end, “education and prevention are always the answers.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2EHXw4w and http://bit.ly/2EJslpC JAMA Network Open, online May 31, 2019.

more

Nineteen Hours of Ramadan Sunlight for Muslims in Alaska

Muslims in the U.S. state of Alaska face nearly 20 hours of daylight during the fasting month of Ramadan. VOA Hausa reporter Yusuf Harande went to Alaska to see how some Muslims are adjusting to the long days.

more

Muslim Americans Run for Charity During Ramadan Fast

During the month of Ramada, millions of U.S. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This year, Ramadan has fallen in May. Already temperatures in Washington, D.C., have risen above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit.) Running while fasting on hot days can be challenging and ill-advised. Still about 70 fasting Muslims took part in a fundraising run to help raise $100,000 for children with special needs. VOA’s Niala Mohammad has more.

more

National Spelling Bee Crowns 8 Co-Champions

Eight contestants won the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night, the first eight-way tie in the 94-year history of the competition.

The six boys and two girls ages 12 to 14 and from six states, Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“We’re throwing the dictionary at you, and, so far, you are showing the dictionary who’s the boss,” the bee’s pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, told the remaining eight after 18 rounds of competition.

They were: Rishik Gandhasri (auslaut), Erin Howard (erysipelas), Abhijay Kodali (palama), Shruthika Padhy (aiguillette), Rohan Raja (odylic), Christopher Serrao (cernuous), Sohum Sukhatankar (pendeloque), and Saketh Sundar (bougainvillea).

The self-dubbed “octo-champs” spelled words that included aiguillette, bougainvillea, erysipelas, and pendeloque.

Each winner will receive $50,000 in cash and a trophy.

This year’s tournament at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland began with 562 contestants from across the United States, its territories and six other countries.

more

Chinese Scientists Find CO2 Better for Fracking than Water

Chinese scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide is more efficient to use in fracking than water.

Fracking is the controversial process in which water or other fluids are injected into underground rocks at high pressure to release oil and natural gas deposits. 

U.S. environmentalists have denounced the process because of the huge amounts of water needed, the contamination of underground water supplies, and small earthquakes it triggers.

In a new report in the journal Joule, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China University of Petroleum discovered that using CO2 instead of water resulted in as much as 20 times more oil.

​”These real-world results revealed that as compared to water fracturing, CO2 fracturing is an important and greener alternative,” especially in arid areas where the water has to be trucked in, the report says.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. 

The scientists say the CO2 used in fracking would stay underground and not be released into the atmosphere.

The scientists say further research is needed as well as the winning over of cooperation from the industry.

more

Claus von Bulow, Cleared in Attempted Murder of Wife, Dies

Danish-born socialite Claus von Bulow, who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife in two trials that drew intense international attention in the 1980s, has died. He was 92.

Von Bulow, who moved to London after he was cleared, died at his home there on Saturday, his son-in-law, Riccardo Pavoncelli, told The New York Times.

The tall, aristocratic von Bulow was charged with putting his wife, Martha “Sunny” von Bulow, into an irreversible coma to gain her fortune so he could live with his mistress, a raven-haired soap opera actress. He was convicted of attempted murder in 1982 at a trial in Newport, Rhode Island, that was widely followed with its high society overtones about possible attempted murder by insulin injection.

The conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted at his second trial in 1985.

The case split his family: Sunny von Bulow’s two children from her first marriage to an Austrian prince accused their stepfather of attempted murder, while the couple’s daughter maintained her father was innocent. That loyalty nearly cost her millions — she was for several years excluded from her wealthy grandmother’s will because of her belief in her father’s innocence.

The jury in the first case endorsed the prosecution claim that Sunny von Bulow’s coma was caused by insulin injections administered surreptitiously by her husband Claus, but the second jury did not reach the same conclusion.

Sunny von Bulow died in 2008, nearly 28 years after she became comatose.

Claus von Bulow, who was portrayed by Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons in a film about the attempted murder case, always maintained his innocence. He did not testify at his criminal trials, but did deny wrongdoing under oath in a civil case brought by his stepchildren.

He rarely spoke about the case, in part because an eventual financial settlement reached with his stepchildren required him to keep mum.

“If I give an interview, it will be a $5 million interview,” he told The Associated Press in 2012, referring to a fine he said he might face if he discussed the matter with the press.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who represented von Bulow and kept in touch with him for decades, said he scrupulously avoided the spotlight.

“He lived a good happy life following his acquittal, because he decided to remain in private. I advised him once we won the case to disappear from public view. He, unlike O.J. Simpson, accepted my advice,” Dershowitz said on Thursday.

Before the settlement agreement silenced him, von Bulow described the case as a disaster for all concerned. “This was a tragedy and it satisfied all of Aristotle’s definitions of tragedy,” he told members of the Harvard Law School during a 1986 talk. “Everyone is wounded, some fatally.”

When he was found not guilty at the second trial, von Bulow announced plans to permanently leave the United States for Europe. He also expressed an interest in staying out of the public eye.

“I want to be forgotten and live peacefully,” he said.

Dershowitz said he lived a “simple and humble life in a very small apartment,” enjoying the company of his daughter and grandchildren and attending the opera and theater.

The trial had shed light on the lives of the super-rich during an era when Ronald Reagan was president and TV shows such as “Dallas” and “Dynasty” were extremely popular.

The von Bulows had a grand Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City to go along with Clarendon Court, their oceanside mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, which had been the setting for the 1956 musical “High Society” starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Sunny Von Bulow — who in her youth resembled Kelly, according to many friends — was the source of the wealth. She was the heiress to a substantial fortune, with her mother’s net worth estimated at $100 million. In the trials she was portrayed as an unhappy woman, although some friends, including the writer Dominick Dunne, challenged this perception as inaccurate and unfair.

The prosecution said Claus von Bulow on two occasions injected his wife with insulin in an attempt to aggravate her hypoglycemia and kill her. They said he could not face the financial consequences of a divorce that would cut him off from her millions.

Prosecutors said he did not come to her aid after she was stricken, refusing to call a doctor, even though the family maid, Maria Schrallhammer, begged him to summon medical help. Her testimony about his cold-hearted behavior prompted the famous tabloid headline: “Maid: Claus was a Louse.”

At the first trial, actress Alexandra Isles, known for her role in “Dark Shadows,” gave damning testimony that she had told von Bulow she would end their love affair, if he did not leave Sunny. That helped convince the jury that von Bulow had a motive for trying to kill his wife.

The 1982 guilty verdict in the first trail was overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court two years later in a decision that helped establish the national reputation of Dershowitz, who managed the successful appeal. 

That led to a second trial, held in nearby Providence.

Dershowitz on Thursday recalled that the appeal he argued was the first time any appeal was covered on television. 

“It was the first really highly publicized case in the new age of widespread media coverage,” Dershowitz said. “It was a prelude in many ways to the O.J. Simpson case, but it was a decade earlier.”

Claus von Bulow used a different legal team that was better able to challenge the medical testimony linking Sunny’s coma to insulin injections, and the acquittal marked the end of von Bulow’s criminal exposure. That still left him vulnerable to a substantial civil case brought by his stepchildren, who believed he was directly responsible for their mother’s vegetative state. They sued him for $56 million in July 1985, just one month after his acquittal.

A settlement was reached two years later in which von Bulow agreed to drop all claims to his wife’s fortune, to divorce her, and to refrain from discussing the case or profiting from it.

The divorce meant that he would no longer be legally in charge of Sunny’s medical care — which gave his stepchildren some solace.

In exchange, his daughter Cosima — who had been excluded from her grandmother’s will because she sided with her father in the dispute — had her lucrative position in the will restored. Von Bulow said at the time that he was pleased with the result because he had been seeking financial parity for Cosima.

The next major development in the drama was the “Reversal of Fortune” film that saw Irons win an Academy Award for his devastating portrayal of von Bulow. Glenn Close played Sunny in the film, which portrayed appeals lawyer Dershowitz (author of the book it was based on) in a heroic light.

Dershowitz said von Bulow liked the book, but disliked the movie because it left as an open question whether he was guilty or innocent, while the book came down definitively on von Bulow’s side.

Von Bulow was born Claus Cecil Borberg in 1926 in Copenhagen. During World War II, after the Nazi occupation of Denmark, Claus was moved to England and was brought up by his mother and maternal grandfather, Frits Bulow, a former justice minister in Denmark.

Claus adopted the Bulow name and was said to have added the “von” when he was a young adult.

He graduated in law from Trinity College, Cambridge, and worked in the legal field for some years before he became a personal assistant to oil baron J. Paul Getty.

more

CDC: US Reports Most Measles Cases in 25 Years

Government health officials say there have been 971 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, the most cases since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday if current outbreaks in and around New York City continue into the fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” a CDC statement said.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the CDC says one of the primary reasons is the availability and widespread use of a safe and effective vaccine.

Fighting anti-vaccine propaganda

The CDC, World Health Organization, and other experts are fighting propaganda from parents and anti-vaccine activists who refuse to inoculate their children, insisting the vaccine is dangerous.

“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated.”

Before vaccine, 4 million cases

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine was considered perfected, the CDC says as many as 4 million Americans got the disease every year and up to 500 victims died.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

Along with the refusal of some people to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the current nationwide outbreak is linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with their own large outbreaks, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

more

‘Ramy’ Show Depicts Life of Arab American Muslims

If there is one thing highlighted by Ramy, a Hulu show about an Arab American Muslim millennial, it is that there are generational differences between the more traditional Arab Muslims who immigrated to America and those who were born and grew up here. 

 

“I was the first generation trying to marry the two worlds and see how people from my culture, who see this comedy, react to my interpretation of being an American Muslim and my dilemmas as a millennial,” said comedian Ramy Youssef, who wrote and stars in the new comedy that is roughly based on his life. 

 

The comedian describes his show as funny, darkly satirical and down to earth, aiming to dispel stereotypes about Muslims in America.

Ramy is a 10-episode series that follows a young Arab American Muslim as he tries to define his moral compass while juggling family relationships, romance and job security — or the lack thereof. 

 

In the show, Ramy’s parents are dedicated Muslim immigrants from Egypt. Set in their traditional ways, they often chide Ramy and his sister for their liberated ideas and secular way of life. But, Ramy shows that his parents’ immigrant sensibilities run deep in him. 

 

The show starts with the main character questioning his parents’ old ways and evolves with him embracing Arab Muslim traditions that define him as an Arab American.  

Youssef said he wanted to make his Arab Muslim immigrant characters relevant to American viewers regardless of culture, age or religion. “It’s been kind of overwhelming, the amount of people who have said, ‘Oh, man, this is so much like me’ or ‘This is so similar to what I went through,’ ” he said.  

 

In an America where immigration right now is a hot-button issue, Youssef said he wanted to focus on an Arab Muslim family and show the real problems they have and show their humanity. His goal, he said, is to defy stereotypes about Arab Muslims in a funny but poignant way. 

 

Ramadan 

 

The holy month of Ramadan is featured in the series, where the main character, like his family, fasts from sunrise to sunset. As he is trying to find inner purification, he grapples with the reality that the rules of Ramadan run deeper than fasting. 

 

At the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque in northern Virginia, many Muslims who come to pray echo the TV character’s thoughts and experiences.  

 

“We live in a very materialistic, capitalistic society,” said Saif Rahman, of the center. “And trying to mesh your faith understanding of helping one another, of being at your neighbor’s aid, and just trying to live a spiritual life, it’s become somewhat difficult in a life that’s motivated by social media and material and the rat race of jobs and work and everything like that.”  

 

For 16-year-old Maroa, a first-generation American of Arab descent, fasting is a way of purification. 

 

“I think fasting has more to do with your mindset. If you are fasting because you have to, it’s way harder. But if you are fasting because you know why, you have a more optimistic perspective of it and it’s really, better and way easier. And the more you fast, the easier it gets,” Maroa said. 

 

For young Arab American Muslim women, like Fatima, a high school sophomore, practicing the faith is part of their identity. 

 

“It is difficult sometimes,” she said. “I have to dress modest and people might look at me and tell me that it’s kind of hot outside. I don’t take that personally because I’m used to it. So, I would say, that’s really challenging, growing up and not looking like the other normal girls.”  

​Defying stereotypes 

 

Youssef said his comedy aims to bring up uncomfortable topics, such as the increasing mistrust of immigrants in America and particularly Arab Muslim immigrants, who may be viewed as potential terrorists. The comedian said practicing Islam is a personal choice and part of his American identity. 

 

Rahman, of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, echoed that sentiment. 

 

“I’m actually getting tired of having to apologize for being Muslim, because there is no reason to,” he said. “I’m an American, I’m a Muslim and there are no challenges, I feel, or the intersectionality of my religion as well as my Americanism don’t contradict one another.” 

more

Energy Secretary: US Aims to Make Fossil Fuels Cleaner 

The Trump administration is committed to making fossil fuels cleaner rather than imposing “draconian” regulations on coal and oil, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday at an energy conference in Salt Lake City.

Perry previously said the administration wants to spend $500 million next year on fossil fuel research and development as demand plummets for coal and surges for natural gas. 

 

“Instead of punishing fuels that produce emissions through regulation, we’re seeking to reduce those emissions by innovation,” Perry said at the conference.

Fossil fuel emissions have been cited by scientists as a major source of global warming. 

 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently said the world must change how it fuels factories, vehicles and homes to limit future global warming.

Perry said the Trump administration has proven it can make energy cleaner, but he provided no details involving coal and other fossil fuels, other than the closing of old, inefficient coal-burning power plants and exporting increasing volumes of natural gas, an alternative to coal.  

Department of Energy spokesman Dirk Vande Beek didn’t immediately return an email and voicemail seeking more details about Perry’s claim.

Perry pointed to an overall drop in emissions as proof of progress.

Greenhouse gas emissions dropped 13 percent from 2005 to 2017, according to the most recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club in Utah said trying to make fossil fuels cleaner is misspent energy.

“I don’t know that it’s possible right now, but what is ready right now are renewables. Wind, solar and geothermal are commercially viable and at scale,” Beebe said.

The summit Thursday was briefly interrupted when 15 protesters took the stage to criticize the administration’s fixation on fossil fuels. 

 

They said the misguided approach ignores climate change. Police then escorted them out.

After they left, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who sponsored the event, said he and other leaders appreciated the “youthful enthusiasm” but their call to immediately discard fossil fuels and shift entirely to renewable energy isn’t realistic.

They would like us to quit by Friday and not take anything out of the ground,'' Herbert said.That obviously doesn’t work from a practical standpoint.”

Americans burned a record amount of energy in 2018, with a 10% jump in consumption from booming natural gas helping lead the way, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

Fossil fuels in all accounted for 80% of Americans’ energy use. 

more