Friday, July 31, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

FDA: E-Cigarettes Contain Toxins

Federal health officials said Wednesday they have found cancer-causing ingredients in electronic cigarettes, despite manufacturers' claims the products are safer than tobacco cigarettes. (July 22)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solar system: Longest Eclipse Of The Century

Across Asia, millions of people watched the longest eclipse of the century, which lasted up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds. The next eclipse this long won't come until 2132. Terry McCarthy reports.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Apple sales and profits top analysts’ estimates

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc. reported 3rd-quarter sales and profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates after wooing customers with a faster iPhone and less-expensive Macintosh notebook computers.
Profit rose to $1.23 billion, or $1.35 a share, from $1.07 billion, or $1.19, a year ago, Apple said yesterday. Sales gained 12% to $8.34 billion in the quarter ended June 27. Analysts on average predicted profit of $1.17 and sales of $8.21 billion, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Apple added the faster iPhone 3GS, cut the price of its older iPhone 3G to $99, and updated its MacBook notebooks to entice shoppers. The Mac and iPhone account for more than half of Apple’s sales. Chief executive Steve Jobs returned from medical leave last month and is trying to spur sales growth.

“Their business continues to hold up really well in this tough economy,’’ said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros. in San Francisco.

Apple, which usually gives forecasts that miss analysts’ estimates, said sales in the back-to-school quarter will be $8.7 billion to $8.9 billion. Profit will be $1.18 to $1.23 a share. Analysts predict sales in the 4th quarter, which ends in September, of $9.03 billion and profit of $1.29 a share.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., advanced $4.96 to $156.47 in extended trading after closing at $151.51.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince praised by Vatican

The Vatican's official newspaper lauded Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for its "clear" depiction of the eternal battle between good & evil represented by the struggle between Harry and his nemesis, the evil sorcerer Lord Voldemort.

L'Osservatore Romano said the movie was the best adaptation yet of the JK Rowling books, describing it as "a mixture of supernatural suspense and romance which reaches the right balance".

"There is a clear line of demarcation between good and evil and [the film] makes clear that good is right. One understands as well that sometimes this requires hard work and sacrifice," the newspaper judged.

The broadsheet paper also praised the film's clear message that "the search for immortality epitomised by Lord Voldemort" was wrong. It even approved of the film's treatment of adolescent romance amid the halls and corridors of Hogwart's, saying that it achieved the "correct balance" and made the teenage stars more credible.

The favourable review is an apparent cahnge of heart from the Vatican's previous assessment of the best-selling series.

Last year an article in L'Osservatore Romano condemned the books for encouraging an interest in the occult among children.

The newspaper wrote: "Despite the values that we come across in the narration, at the base of this story, witchcraft is proposed as a positive ideal.

"The characterisation of common men who do not know magic as 'Muggles' who know nothing other than bad and wicked things is a truly diabolical attitude."

The newspaper called the teenage boy wizard "the wrong kind of hero", comparing the books unfavourably with two other British children's classics, the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The Vatican's attitude to the books has taken a harder line under the papacy of Benedict XVI in comparison with that of his predecessor John Paul II.

Two years before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, as he then was, wrote a letter to a German critic of the books calling the series "a subtle seduction, which has deeply unnoticed and direct effects in undermining the soul of Christianity before it can really grow properly".

Earlier this year an ultraconservative Austrian priest, the Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner, accused the Harry Potter novels of encouraging Satanism.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Macrovision - New Sony EPG edges closer with Rovi Liquid Debut

The company formerly known as Macrovision has said that it'll be changing its name and launching a new Media Guide that promises to revolutionise the way we choose what to watch on television in the future.

The 1st discussed back in March, the company has formally outlined planned of the once called Neon interface, chaning the name to Liquid along with the company name to Rovi.

Rovi plans to roll out its "Liquid" electronic programme guide to manufactures like Sony in the future allowing consumers the chance to connect to content found on the internet as well as digital content stored at home.

"The new media guide solution is comprised of 3 distinct, but integrated solutions: a Television Content Guide, a Broadband Content Guide and a Personal Content Guide," a spokesman for the company told Pocket-lint.

In what must be a big day for the company, it has also announced a deal with Blockbuster to integrate access to BLOCKBUSTER OnDemand content, a deal that could be tied with Samsung's announcement of a similar deal with Blockbuster earlier in the week, although that has not been confirmed by either company.

Rovi has said that it is also working with Roxio CinemaNow, Slacker radio and YouTube XL, a website that is optimized for watching YouTube videos on large displays.

The company plans to use metadata stored in every programme to store favourites and make recommendations for undiscovered content. The guide also stores user profiles, so each member of the household can retrieve a personalized guide each time he or she turns on the TV.

The Liquid guide is designed to be able to connect to social network applications, such as Flixster using data to pull in recommendations from friends and the cloud.

The Liquid guide is planned to be available for CE manufacturers in early 2010 according to Rovi, however earlier comments from the company to Pocket-lint in March suggest that Sony might be the 1st company to launch a TV set with the new interface.

Earlier in the year Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist (yes, that is his real job title) at Macrovision, told Pocket-lint that the company was working with Sony on implementing a new EPG system.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The 5 Bathroom Hazards to Know

Bathrooms should be places of practicality and relaxation, a place to start and end the day. But there are a number of ways in which one room can pose potential threats.

A new study published today in the journal Pediatrics, for example, finds children are falling prey to bathtub injuries at surprising rates.

Lead by Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the study found that more than 43,000 children younger than 18 are treated in an emergency room each year after a bathroom- or shower-related injury.

"That's 120 kids a day," Smith said. "It is a big problem."

Smith said the injuries occur suddenly, with children often slipping and falling, even under adult supervision, but that there are strategies for prevention that can reduce the number of injuries.

But slips and falls are only one of the ways researchers say items in a bathroom can be hazardous. Some of the threats are founded and others are on shakier ground. The following is a list examining potential bathroom threats.

Bathtub Slips and Falls

Even under parental or other adult supervision, children get injured in bathtubs at an alarming rate, Smith said.

"Supervising your child is not enough," said Smith, whose report showed that most injuries happen under adult supervision. "Slips and falls -- boom, they happen -- and there's nothing you can do once it starts to happen."

Smith said he conducted a study on similar data using admittance records from the emergency room of Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2005 and saw the number of bathtub-related injuries was unusually high, compared to other kinds of injuries.

"I thought, gosh, this is something we really did not expect," Smith said he thought at the time.

That study led him to conduct a more thorough analysis on national data.

The most common cause of injury was slipping and falling, which accounted for 81% of all the injuries, Smith found, and the face is often most injured. The highest-risk age group was children younger than Five.

"The reason we have not done well preventing injuries is we fundamentally don't think of this as a health problem," Smith said. "We know if we focus on the cause ... and think of this as a physical problem, we can resolve them. But the idea that they happen as accidents ... I really disagree with that."

For the time being, Smith said rubber bath mats and padding protruding objects could cut down on the number of injuries but recommended that manufacturers incorporate new design features, including slip-resistant surfaces, rounded edges and holding bars, into new bathrooms.

"You don't have to rely on the user to remember to put the mat down or step carefully each time they bathe because, then, the chances of effective prevention go down," Smith said. "If we design the problem out of existence, we have shown over and over in the field of injury prevention that we can dramatically decrease injury."

Shower Curtain Vapors

A shower curtain may be in order to preserve modesty in the bathroom. But could you be harming yourself at the same time?

An environmental group claimed in a study of vinyl shower curtains that some of them may release toxic chemicals into the air which could cause asthma, eye irritation or cancer.

"We've a clear-cut case that these products release elevated levels of harmful chemicals," said report co-author Michael Schade, PVC campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and noted that his team found 108 different volatile organic compounds, including phthalates, which can affect babies in the womb.

But some health experts are not convinced that the study holds water. Of particular concern was that the study only tested 5 shower curtains, of which only one -- not one brand of curtain -- was subjected to complete testing for its chemical composition, as well as those it released into the air.

"It is a great example of how quickly a sound bite can become dangerous and contagious," said ABC News medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard.

"The idea that people should be tossing out their shower curtains based on a study that more or less focuses on a single shower curtain is absurd. This is scare science at its best, or worst, depending on how you look at it."

Schade maintained that many of the compounds found in the curtains have been linked with developmental problems in children, cancer and other health effects. But he conceded that whether the chemical levels emitted by the curtains could be directly linked to health effects was difficult to determine.

"It is really hard to say that because there are currently no standards for indoor-air quality," Schade said.

Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said that unless a stronger link can be proven, consumers can probably put their minds at ease the next time they purchase a new shower curtain.

"In our busy lives, there are so many things that people should be or could be focused on to improve their health and safety," Vallese said. "Their shower curtains are not one of them.

"I think there are a lot of people out there sounding the false alarm," she said.

Chemicals in Shampoo:

A report released in March 2009 from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use highlighted the addition of the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane to many shampoos, both of which have been linked to cancer and a number of skin conditions.

"Companies can obviously do better, and we need to demand that they do better," said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use and co-author of the report, released Thursday. "Many companies are already making great products that don't have any of these chemicals [and] many companies in the natural products industry have reformulated to get rid of that problem. We also know many companies are using preservatives that don't use formaldehyde."

According to the authors, the report, called "No More Toxic Tub," is the first to document contamination of bath products with the chemicals.

But while chemicals such as formaldehyde, which are added to many consumer products to increase their shelf life, have been linked to diseases such as cancer -- formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats, although no similar tests have been done on humans -- there is no definitive correlation.

There is, however, evidence that formaldehyde can cause skin irritation, characterized by red, burning skin and even allergic reactions, characterized by red, itchy, and blistered skin.

"There are a lot of [ubiquitous] chemicals and ingredients in common household consumer goods that have materials in them that cause allergic reactions," said Dr. Matthew Avram, chief of the Dermatology Laser Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "The skin may have an allergic reaction to the chemicals or an irritant reaction."

Toxic Mold:

A steamy shower might feel good, but the moisture left behind can ravage a bathroom and create health problems for people with respiratory problems.

Dr. Hale Yarmohammadii, an allergy and asthma specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, said that mold can wreak havoc in 2 different ways.

"One is an allergic reaction, but not everyone gets this," she said. "And the other problem results from the toxins that mold secretes."

The kind of mold found in homes that can bring about asthma is called stachybotrys -- a black, sticky, slimy fungus. To grow indoors, it needs water, so it is often found around water pipes or in moist areas

People often get vague symptoms from mold exposure, Yarmohammadii said. They might get headaches or feel nauseous or have asthma symptoms.

"If you've mold in part of your house, you've mold spores everywhere," said Harriet Burge, a former professor at Harvard University and the University of Michigan who now serves as director of aerobiology for EMLab P&K, an indoor-air quality testing facility. "The general advice from the public health perspective is if there's mold in your home, remove it."

Dr. Maureen Lichtyeld, who chairs the department of environmental health sciences at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said people with asthma should not be exposed to the mold and that people who were cleaning mold needed proper protection, such as masks and gloves, and people with asthma, especially children, need to stay on their medications.

Lychtyeld said a chlorine solution, plus proper ventilation to keep surfaces dry, should be enough to prevent mold forming in small areas.

Toilet Germs:

Bathrooms are a haven for germs, but not in the way you may think. Toilets, for example, are a beacon of cleanliness because they are cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

But germs lurk in abundance in areas or on items that people neglect to clean or position far enough from potential microbes.

"You get a great spray out of the toilet when you flush it," said Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "This throws bacteria out of the toilet."

Fecal bacteria means the bacterium E. coli, which is found in fecal matter, among other things. Gerba's own research on bathroom microbes showed a spray coming out of toilets when they are flushed. That spray, which contains fecal bacteria, goes out but it is unclear how far it travels and where it might end up.

So, while it isn't clear whether the toothbrush in a bathroom will be contaminated with anything from a toilet, it may not be a bad idea to put the lid down and flush.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Johnson & Johnson Buys £610 million Elan stake

BOSTON (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to pay $1 billion (610 million pounds) for an 18.4% stake in Irish drugmaker Elan Corp , and will acquire a major stake in Elan's portfolio of experimental drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease.

The transaction, announced on Thursday, will, among other things, give Johnson & Johnson (J&J) a 25% interest in a closely watched Alzheimer's drug called bapineuzumab, which Elan is developing in a 50-50 partnership with Wyeth. Wyeth is being acquired by Pfizer .

The agreement caps a lengthy battle between Elan and some of its largest shareholders, who had called on Elan to shake up its board, streamline operations and tighten what they considered lax corporate governance.

Last month, the company agreed to nominate 2 dissidents to its board, including Jack Schuler, a shareholder who publicly called for the resignation of Elan's chief executive, Kelly Martin.

As a potential board member, Schuler declined to discuss the J&J transaction, but another of Elan's previous critics welcomed it.

"We are encouraged by this deal," said Matt Strobeck, partner at Westfield Capital Management Co, which holds 18.8 million Elan shares. "Now not only is the balance sheet strengthened but we believe the board has been dramatically improved."

Elan said it plans to use the new funds to cut its debt by 70% to about $400 million. Moody's Investors Service said it has placed Elan's ratings under review for a possible upgrade.

"The transaction is expected to have a very favourable impact on Elan's capital structure and liquidity profile," said Moody's Senior Vice President Michael Levesque.

On the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, Elan closed up 8.6% at $7.60 and J&J fell 1.9% to $55.98.

For New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J, the deal represents a leap into a therapeutic area in which it has only a limited presence.

J&J sells Reminyl, which is in the same class of medicines as Pfizer Inc's best-selling Aricept treatment for Alzheimer's disease. But the drugs, which block an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, only slightly improve cognition and for a very brief period.

Combined U.S. sales of all Alzheimer's drugs rose to $3.4 billion last year, according to market research firm IMS Health, but analysts believe revenue could explode if new medicines can appreciably slow damage to the brain and memory.

"J&J has a much better chance to make bapineuzumab successful than Elan because it has the resources to conduct trials and distribute it," said David Katz of asset manager Matrix Asset Advisors. "And from a patient perspective, to have J&J involved is a good thing."

But the bet on bapineuzumab is risky.

Some analysts have all but written the drug off after a mid-stage trial showed that while it helped some patients with a certain genetic profile, it raised the risk of potentially serious side effects in the brain.

For J&J, which sells an array of products ranging from Band-Aids to arthritis drug Remicade, the potential warrants the risk.

"The fact that this drug may have potential to delay disease progression, we believe is significant," said company spokesman Srikant Ramaswami.

Elan and Wyeth remain committed to the drug, which is Elan's most advanced product. But under the transaction with J&J, Elan will receive 25 percent of any profit instead of the 50% it would have received previously.

That is because J&J and Elan plan to form a new company, which will be 50.1% owned by J&J and 49.9% owned by Elan. J&J will contribute an initial $500 million to the venture. Elan will contribute its Alzheimer's immunotherapy program.

"Elan loses control of one of its babies but they have a stake in it once it gets to market so they will get their due returns for the work they have put in," said Ian Hunter, an analyst with Dublin-based Goodbody Stockbrokers.

Elan said the new entity will be governed by a seven-person board. The 5 members will come from J&J.

As many as 5 million Americans are believed to have Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurological condition associated with ageing.

The deal adds to Elan's complicated series of partnerships. Its main product is the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, which it markets together with U.S. biotechnology company Biogen Idec Inc .

Elan said it has no intention of selling any part of Tysabri. Naomi Aoki, a spokeswoman for Biogen, said J&J's entry will make no difference to its partnership with Elan.

J&J said the transaction would dilute its adjusted earnings in 2009 by between 2 and 3 cents a share.

Elan said it'll update its financial guidance on its next earnings call, but it expects to be profitable on a pretax basis by the end of 2010.


Related Content

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...