Wednesday, April 29, 2009

6 probable swine flu cases - WA health officials

Health officials have reported six probable cases of swine flu in Washington state.

Three of the cases are in King County, which includes Seattle, two are in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle, and one is in Spokane County in northeast Washington.

Officials told a Wednesday night news conference that samples have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for formal confirmation.

Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health-Seattle & King County, said he expects the region will see more infections of the swine flu H1N1 virus, which has been confirmed or suspected in dozens of patients in at least a dozen other states and several foreign countries.

The King County cases involve an 11-year-old Seattle boy, who officials say was hospitalized and is improving; a 27-year-old Seattle man; and a 33-year-old Seattle woman who is a physician, and whose husband and two children have also shown symptoms. They were not hospitalized and are improving.

The Snohomish County cases are a 6-year-old boy and a 34-year-old woman. Additional details on them were not immediately available.

The Spokane case involves a man in his 40s who recently traveled to California, the Spokesman-Review reported.

The Seattle boy attends Madrona Elementary School, but did not go to class at the time he showed symptoms, and officials said no school sessions have been canceled.

Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Snohomish County Health District health officer, told the news conference there was no evidence schools in his county were affected.

"Health experts in our state are monitoring the situation and have a well-practiced plan in place," Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement.

State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky urged people to follow basic precautions to prevent spread of the disease.

"We need the people of our state to help prevent the spread of germs by covering their coughs and staying home if they're sick," she said. Health experts also recommend frequent hand washing.

The state Health Department said in a news release that there is no vaccine to prevent swine flu, but the state expects to receive a precautionary supply of antiviral medication - enough to treat about 230,000 people - in the next several days from the federal government.

The outbreak has hit about a dozen states amid confirmation of the first U.S. death - a Mexican toddler who visited Texas with his family - and the confinement of dozens of Marines after one came down with the disease in California.

The Washington cases were discovered from among about 70 samples that have been sent so far to the state testing lab in Shoreline. Testing continues on dozens of those samples sent in since last weekend by hospitals, clinics and doctors.

Symptoms of the swine flu are typical of other flu strains, including fever, coughing, joint aches, headache, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea.

Health officials say the disease, despite its name, is spread from human to human - not from pigs to humans - and that it is not spread by eating properly cooked pork products.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said the city would activate its Emergency Operations Center at its first level to coordinate procedures and communications that might be needed in response to the flu cases.

Thanks to previous federal grants for pandemic preparedness, state health officials have TV public service advertisements ready, they've written up plans and practiced exercises on how to receive and distribute medication to combat the flu, and there's flu information available online, state Health Department spokesman Tim Church said.

Local health officials meet daily by phone with the state Health Department and everyone is working on getting information out to the public, Church said.

"We have a plan in place. We've practiced it. Everybody knows their roles," he said. "Four to five years ago, we wouldn't have had that in place."

Church said the overall flu season, which typically peaks in February, is tailing off. He said there have not been an abnormal number of flu cases for this time of year in the state.

The department estimates the flu situation by checking with a few schools and nursing homes.

The University of Washington has a small number of students in Mexico, about eight or nine, but the university is not advising them to come home, UW spokesman Bob Roseth said.


Microsoft debuts Vine for Emergency Social Networking

Microsoft on Monday debuted the beta version of Vine, a new social networking service that works somewhat like Twitter but is aimed specifically at keeping friends and family up to date in an emergency.

A beta version of the Vine service was released in Seattle, according to The Seattle Times.

Vine appears as a dashboard on a PC screen that shows the local community the status of the user's contacts. It can be used to send alerts or reports and communicate with the user's network via PC or mobile devices, the newspaper said.

Microsoft provided details of the services and a screen shot that can be found by clicking here.

As with Twitter or Facebook, Vine can be used to instantly send messages to and keep in touch with a user's specific network of contacts.

However, Microsoft intends that the service be used when people need to keep in touch and informed during times of need.

It has a map on the screen that includes information about specific locations, including articles culled from 20,000 local and national news sources as well as public safety announcements from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Microsoft said.

It also includes information associated with people who are part of the user's Vine network, and alerts users when their contacts post a report or update their Facebook status.

Vine also allows sending and receiving of alerts to groups of people such as neighbors, friends and others who might need to be contacted in an emergency. Microsoft said the alerts can be sent as e-mail, text messages or other formats including via social networking applications such as Twitter or Facebook.

Microsoft said the beta version of the Vine service is slated to be available to a limited number of users in May.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Stocks Drop on Swine Flu, Economy Concern; Yen Gain, Treasuries

April 27 - Stocks declined around the world, Treasuries gained and the yen strengthened as the swine flu outbreak spread and Lawrence Summers said the U.S. economy will keep shrinking.

Air France - KLM Group, Europe's largest airline, Autogrill SpA, the world's biggest manager of airport restaurants, and Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA dropped at least 3 percent after swine flu spread beyond Mexico and the U.S. government declared a public health emergency. Drugmakers Roche Holding AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc advanced more than 2 percent as authorities seek a broader range of medicines to protect against a pandemic.

The MSCI World Index dropped for the first time in five days, slipping 0.5 percent at 10:07 a.m. in London. The gauge of 23 developed countries has rebound 27 percent since March 9 as companies from American Express Co. and Ford Motor Co. to Italy's Eni SpA posted earnings that beat analysts' estimates.

The outbreak of swine flu "is clearly something that is undermining the market in the short term but I am not sure it's going to de-rail the fact that the markets have their sights on a recovery ahead," said Mike Lenhoff, who helps oversee about $36 billion as chief strategist at Brewin Dolphin Securities Ltd. in London. "It could be just an excuse for some consolidation today."

Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index fell 1.2 percent, led by travel and leisure companies, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.3 percent, reversing an earlier advance of 1.4 percent.

'Sharp Declines'

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 1.7 percent. The U.S. economy will experience "sharp declines in employment for quite some time this year," Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

The yen rose against the dollar and Treasuries advanced as investors sought havens from a prolonged recession. The yen strengthened to 96.74 per dollar in London from 97.17 last week in New York. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell six basis points to 2.93 percent, according to BG Cantor Market Data.

The Mexican peso declined 2 percent to 13.61 per dollar after more than 80 people died of swine flu in the nation. BBVA, which owns Mexico’s biggest bank, slid 3.2 percent to 7.81 euros. Sol Melia SA, which operates resorts in Mexico, slumped 9.7 percent to 3.80 euros.

Air France fell 8.2 percent to 8.24 euros. Four people in the country suspected of having swine flu have tested negative for the virus, an official at the French Health Ministry said today. Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA, Spain's biggest airline, lost 6.6 percent to 1.42 euros in Madrid trading while Autogrill declined 4.7 percent to 5.76 euros in Milan.

Medicine Stockpiles

A growing number of swine flu cases led the U.S. government to release stockpiles of medicine. Japan, Malaysia and Singapore said they are screening passengers at checkpoints for fever, while Hong Kong raised its swine-flu response level.

Roche, which said it has an ample supply of the Tamiflu treatment that can reduce the symptoms of swine flu, added 3.8 percent to 144.9 Swiss francs. Glaxo, which said it is producing its Relenza flu treatment at “full capacity,” added 2.4 percent to 1,030.5 pence.

ArcelorMittal declined 4.1 percent to 19.78 euros after the Financial Times said the world's biggest steelmaker may have to reduce its steel capacity on a long-term basis by as much as 10 percent. The newspaper citied Peter Fish, managing director of steel analysts Meps.

Merck, Aviva

Merck KGaA added 2.2 percent to 67.84 euros even after the company posted a 76 percent drop in first-quarter profit to 56.7 million euros ($74.7 million) as the global recession damped demand for liquid crystals used in flat-panel televisions and monitors.

Aviva Plc climbed 4.6 percent to 285.75 pence. The U.K.'s biggest insurer said its capital surplus increased to 2.5 billion pounds ($3.6 billion) at the end of the first quarter from 2 billion pounds three months earlier.

The insurer's first-quarter revenue from its life and pensions business rose to 9.6 billion pounds from 8.6 billion pounds a year earlier, while sales in North America increased 84 percent.

Siemens AG fell 2.8 percent to 47.91 euros after the Financial Times reported Europe's largest engineering company is planning to lower a profit forecast this week as a deeper-than-expected recession hurts its earnings plans. The newspaper did not say where it got the information.


First Google Android Netbook to cost $250

The first Netbook running Google's Android operating system is expected to be available in the next three months and cost about $250, according to a Computerworld report.

The Alpha 680, as the laptop is known as, is going through final testing at Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies, Skytone co-founder Nixon White told the site.

The Netbook uses a 533MHz ARM 11 CPU and sports a 7-inch LCD screen, keyboard, touchpad, and built-in Wi-Fi, according to the report. However, the Alpha 680's 2-cell battery will last only two to four hours while surfing the Internet, much lower than the expected 12 hours.

Android is a Linux-based operating system originally designed for cell phones, but now experts are predicting that the open-source operating system could be used on other devices, such as the emerging low-cost laptops known as Netbooks. In fact, market research firm Ovum recently predicted that Android-powered Netbooks will emerge in 2009, as manufacturers attempt to drive the price of Netbooks to around $200 or less.

Hewlett-Packard is also reportedly considering using Android on its low-cost Netbooks, though an executive declined to say for certain whether HP plans to sell Android devices. Asustek Computer has already said it is considering using Android, and Dell is also considering the software for its upcoming smartphone.

Linux-based software such as Android is attractive because it is free, while Microsoft charges a hefty licensing fee for the Windows operating system. In order to hit super low price points, manufacturers need to cut costs wherever they can and that means ditching Microsoft's Windows software.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming Cruise Car to Showcase Solar Vehicles on Earth Day

Cruise Car debuted back in 2007 with a couple of solar-powered golf carts and conversion kits meant for existing ones. Since then, the company has developed a full line of solar-powered electric vehicles that can carry passengers between 2 and 14 in number. Cruise Car vehicles are known to have a max speed of 35 mph and, just like gas-powered golf carts, are encouraged for use in campuses, villages, municipalities, military bases, parks, resorts and the like. In spite of that, the company claims its vehicles are eligible to be street-legal in almost every state in the US.

There are currently 50 models to choose from to be demonstrated and showcased by Cruise Cars in Capitol Hill, Washington DC on Earth Day this year. You can get a glimpse of the Cruise Car electric hybrid vehicles from 10 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon on April 22. "What could be better than Earth Day to show people just how much we benefit from the sun," company spokersperson Greg Hyde says. Besides the solar-powered golf carts and conversion kits though, Cruise Car's parent company Eco-Trans Alliance also offers solar charging stations, solar cart barns, and prefab solar parking garages among other products and services that aim to reduce energy consumption.


Friday, April 17, 2009

MDH released 326 new HIV/AIDS cases in 2008

Reported new cases of HIV infection in Minnesota reached 326 in 2008 compared to 325 new cases in 2007 and 318 cases in 2006, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), "HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report – 2008."

A total of 8,819 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported, including 2,976 people who have died, since MDH began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985. An estimated 6,220 people are currently living with HIV in Minnesota. On average, MDH received a new reported HIV case every 27 hours in 2008.

"The annual number of cases appears to be inching upward," said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV Section at MDH. "We have averaged about 300 cases per year starting in 2001 until recently when we saw about 320 cases being reported each year for the last 3 years."

Health officials noted the increases seen among males, ages 13 to 24, where cases have more than doubled since 2001. There were only 18 new cases reported in 2001 compared with 42 cases in this age group in 2008.

MDH data show that of the 326 new HIV infections reported in 2008, 238 were male and 88 were female. While cases among males decreased by four percent overall, cases among white males and among men who have sex with men both increased by 13 percent.

Cases among women represented 33 percent of the total cases reported in 2008. Although the number of cases remained stable among women of color, they still represented 69 percent of all new cases among women. The data also indicated higher rates of infection among certain ethnic and racial groups.

Infection rates are higher among communities of color when compared to whites. About 38 percent of all new cases reported in 2008 were among men of color. Statewide rates for African Americans and Latinos are nearly 10 and five times greater, respectively, than whites. Rates for African communities are over 24 times greater than for whites.

"Socioeconomic status appears to be the most important factor in communities and neighborhoods where higher rates of HIV infection are seen," Carr said. "Limited incomes can mean lack of insurance, limited access to health care, poor housing situations, homelessness, social stigma, risks associated with incarceration, and marginalized social status."

MDH data show that about 31 percent of persons diagnosed in 2008 were considered "late testers" which means that they already had AIDS when they were initially tested for HIV or were diagnosed with AIDS less than one year after the initial diagnosis. An AIDS diagnosis usually occurs after being infected with HIV for five to ten years. Latinos had the highest percentage of "late testers" compared to all other population groups at 43 percent. This may be due to cultural and language barriers.

To help find undiagnosed HIV infections, guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call for health providers to routinely provide HIV testing during general health screenings and exams.

"Getting tested and getting into care if you are positive is of utmost importance," said Carr. "The new treatments and combination therapies have added years of life to those who are HIV positive. Being in care also allows those who are infected to learn how to prevent transmission to others."

Health officials point out that routine HIV testing of pregnant women has dramatically reduced the rate of transmission from infected mothers to their infants – from 25 percent to less than two percent once they received care during their pregnancies.

There is no cure or vaccine for HIV, but health officials emphasize that the spread of HIV infection remains highly preventable. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in reducing HIV transmission. The spread of HIV can also be prevented by avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs.

To help curb the epidemic in Minnesota, the STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 22 programs through 16 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races. The Office of Minority and Multicultural Health (OMMH) at MDH provides funding to eight community-based organizations to help them educate and teach skills that impact individuals, organizations, and communities in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

At the national level, a new public awareness campaign has been launched, "Act against AIDS," to encourage testing, reduce risky behaviors and provide awareness on the impact HIV/AIDS has had in the U.S. Downloadable resources and information are available on the campaign's web site: Nine And A Half Minutes.

The complete HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report – 2008 can be found on the MDH Web site at

Information about HIV is available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437, 1-800-248-2437. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites.


Free download Street Fighter IV Championship Mode

Make the grade this April 24th with Championship Mode's tournament matches

In case Street Fighter IV's multiplayer isn't already honing your competitive edge, you'll be pleased to know that the new Championship Mode update for the brawler remains on track for an April 24th release online. Championship Mode brings tournament matches to SFIV, allowing players to earn Grade Points (GP) and Championship Points (CP) to rank in 5 different grades of tournaments covering all skill levels. The grading system for matches will work as follows:

  • SG Championship (SUPER GRADE): 5 rounds long. The highest grade championship in which only top players can participate.
  • G1 Championship (GRADE 1):5 rounds long, for advanced players
  • G2 Championship (GRADE 2): 4 rounds long, for intermediate players
  • G3 Championship (GRADE 3) 3 rounds long, for beginners
  • FREE Championship (Free Grade): 4 rounds long, open to anyone regardless of their level.
The more GP you earn by winning tournament matches, the more exclusive tournaments you can enter. This in turn gives you a shot at earning even more CP, which are essentially the "Gamerscores" for SFIV players. According to Capcom, players don't typically lose GP even during first-round losses except at the highest levels of tourney play, as the system was designed to reward participation first and foremost.

Championship Mode even saves replays of matches, which the top 5000 CP leaders can upload for sharing. There are exclusive replay features for each console platform:

  • On PS3, viewers can watch your replay and vote in real time according to characteristics like "beautiful" or "funny." For the nerds, you can vote once every 30 frames (that’s 2x a second!), although there is a cap to avoid total vote spamming. Replays will be ranked according to the user-submitted reviews, making it easy to find the flavor of replays you want to see.
  • On X360, you can’t vote on the matches, but you can watch and then save a number of your favorites. While watching your saved matches, you’ll also have the option to turn on input commands (just like the Training Mode option), so you can see the gritty details of exactly what button and joystick inputs the top players are using to win.

Street Fighter IV's Championship Mode will remain a free download for both PS3 and Xbox 360 owners of the game, which is certainly the good news Capcom needs after all the stink which surrounded Resident Evil 5's controversial Versus mode DLC.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

T-Mobile plans to use Google Android OS for Home Devices

T-Mobile is set to launch two new devices running on the Google Android platform early next year. The wireless carrier will introduce a home phone and a tablet computer, both powered by Google's mobile operating system.

Confidential documents cited by The New York Times suggest that alongside its current offering of Google Android devices (T-Mobile G1 and soon the G2), T-Mobile will venture into unchartered waters with a home phone and a small form factor tablet computer, also powered by Google's mobile OS.

The home phone from T-Mobile is said to plug into a docking station and also come with another device used to synchronize data while it recharges the battery. The tablet computer will feature a seven-inch touchscreen and won't have any physical keyboard.

T-Mobile was the first wireless carrier in the world to launch a Google Android phone -- the T-Mobile G1. Despite starting off slowly, Android gained user traction and more mobile phone manufacturers committed to building devices using it. The wireless carrier will launch the T-Mobile G2, its second iteration of the Google phone later on this year.

After delaying its Android offering, Samsung is also set to launch several new Google devices, the first one reportedly coming out in June. Motorola is building an Android phone as well, with an expected launch date sometime in October.

For more information visit here

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Baby Formula

When a parent puts a bottle of baby formula to a child's lips, the parent might not know exactly what ingredients are in that thick, nutritionally packed mix. But rocket fuel? That's not an ingredient many expect to find.

A study by government researchers released Thursday tested 15 different brands of formula and found a chemical -- also found in rocket fuel -- contaminating every single one.

While the levels of the chemical, perchlorate, have been deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, some worry public health is at risk.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the formula for the presence of perchlorate, a chemical used as the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel. It's a worry because perchlorate can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones by inhibiting the absorption of iodine.

The CDC study found cow's milk-based formula contained more perchlorate than that made with soy or other ingredients.

The two brands with the highest levels -- more than double that of the other milk-based products -- command 87 percent of the market share for infant formula.
The report does not specify the brand names of any formula tested.

Perchlorate has been found in the water supplies of 35 states and has been detected in everything from vegetables to milk. In the case of dairy, the rocket fuel in the water flows into grass, which is eaten by cows, and is then passed along into milk.
The perchlorate was found in levels within a range that's been deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

CDC researchers write that "this is reasssuring at first glance," but add that it could be problematic because drinking water in 26 states has high perchlorate levels. So, mixing contaminated powdered milk with contaminated water in those places could result in a dangerous exposure.

"The widespread penetrance of these products, and the potential for utilization of water for reconstitution that has even minimal concentrations of perchlorate," the researchers write, "suggest that a significant number of infants consuming bovine milk-based [powdered infant formula] with lactose, will have perchlorate doses in excess of the [recommended limit]."

for more information visit here