Browsing articles from "September, 2014"

Rouhani: Western Powers Have Helped Globalize Terrorism

Sep 25, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Rouhani: Western Powers Have Helped Globalize Terrorism

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that the world shouldn’t miss the opportunity to resolve the Iran nuclear issue and clear the way for greater cooperation.

To Predict Nobel Winners, Skip Vegas And Check The Fine Print

Sep 25, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on To Predict Nobel Winners, Skip Vegas And Check The Fine Print

Molecular biologist Randy Sheckman, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, acknowledges applause after receiving his prize during the ceremony in Stockholm last December.i
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Molecular biologist Randy Sheckman, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, acknowledges applause after receiving his prize during the ceremony in Stockholm last December.

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Molecular biologist Randy Sheckman, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, acknowledges applause after receiving his prize during the ceremony in Stockholm last December.

Molecular biologist Randy Sheckman, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, acknowledges applause after receiving his prize during the ceremony in Stockholm last December.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Some people like to bet on horses. Others wager on football games. And while there may not be any money in picking the next Nobel Prize winner, that’s no reason not to have a little fun trying.

On Monday Oct. 6, a scientist or two, or maybe even three, will get called from Sweden with good news about the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. Who will it be?

Some folks at Thomson Reuters have some ideas. They’ve essentially pored over the footnotes in scientific papers to figure out whose work has been referenced the most often in influential journals.

The analysis was a little bit more complicated than that. They crunched the numbers in databases of citations to figure out how many times possible winners got their papers cited. They also compared that number with how many times average scientists in the field got their papers cited.

The analysts, working in Thomson Reuters’ intellectual property and science unit, went beyond these numbers: They handicapped the work subjectively. They gave credit to research that overturned dogma or has already made a big difference in science or medicine. As you would expect, the Nobel committee often likes that type of research.

The analysts also considered whether a Nobel has been awarded in the last couple of years for work in the same general area. If so, it’s likely the prize committee would wait a while to recognize even worthy research.

Who are the scientists to watch?

A drum roll, please, for this year’s Citation Laureates, as Thomson Reuters calls them, for physiology or medicine. Consider it the research Daily Racing Form.

For fundamental discoveries concerning eukaryotic transcription and gene regulation:

James E. Darnell Jr., Rockefeller University, New York

Robert G. Roeder, Rockefeller University, New York

Robert Tjian, University of California, Berkeley, and president of the President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

“These are real giants of molecular biology,” says David Pendlebury, an analyst with Thomson Reuters. They helped unravel details about how and when cells turn on genes. That is, how cells know when to synthesize RNA using the DNA, so it can make proteins. “You scratch your head: Why didn’t these guys win already?” Pendelbury tells Shots.

For elucidating molecular mechanism of pain sensation:

David Julius, University of California, San Francisco

The work, begun in the 1990s, used capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot. “It’s fundamental science,” Pendlebury says, but researchers in academia and industry are already making use of the insights to come up with potential new therapies for pain, anxiety and depression.

For their discovery of large-scale copy number variation and its association with specific disease:

Charles Lee, Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, Farmington, Conn.

Stephen W. Scherer, The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto

Michael H. Wigler, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.

Each of us has about 20,000 genes on our chromosomes. But large stretches of our genome can get duplicated or even copied several times. The specific number of copies, at each location, can vary quite a bit from person to person.

“Most of the time [this variation] has no effect,” Pendlebury says. But Scherer and Wigler have been exploring the association between these genetic duplications and some diseases, such as autism, schizophrenia and even cancer. The work has helped overturn dogma that held individual genetic variation was relatively small.

Since Thomson Reuters began naming Citation Laureates in 2002, 35 of the 211, or 17 percent, have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. When it comes to picking the winners for any given year, it’s pretty tough. Pendlebury says the yearly calls have been exactly right five times.

“What we’re really doing is saying that our indicators tell us that this person is of Nobel class,” he says. “We would expect they’d be a strong contender.”

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 300 people nominated for each Nobel, he says, so there are always more people of prize caliber than actually win.

“These researchers deserve public recognition, and they don’t often get it,” Pendlebury says. The Citation Laureate is one way to do it.

Grand Jury Won’t Indict NASCAR’s Stewart In Driver’s Death

Sep 25, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Grand Jury Won’t Indict NASCAR’s Stewart In Driver’s Death

Tony Stewart prepares for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August. Stewart won't face charges in the Aug. 9 death of driver Kevin Ward Jr.i
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Tony Stewart prepares for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August. Stewart won’t face charges in the Aug. 9 death of driver Kevin Ward Jr.

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Tony Stewart prepares for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August. Stewart won't face charges in the Aug. 9 death of driver Kevin Ward Jr.

Tony Stewart prepares for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in August. Stewart won’t face charges in the Aug. 9 death of driver Kevin Ward Jr.

Derik Hamilton/AP

A grand jury in Ontario County, N.Y., where driver Tony Stewart struck and killed another driver who walked onto the track during a sprint car race last month, has found no cause for charges against Stewart.

County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said in a statement released Wednesday that in the hearings on the Aug. 9 death of Kevin Ward Jr., jurors heard testimony from about two dozen witnesses and reviewed photos and videos.

Ambulances converge Aug. 9 on the racetrack at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, where sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. was hit and killed by Tony Stewart.i
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Ambulances converge Aug. 9 on the racetrack at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, where sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. was hit and killed by Tony Stewart.

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Ambulances converge Aug. 9 on the racetrack at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, where sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. was hit and killed by Tony Stewart.

Ambulances converge Aug. 9 on the racetrack at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, where sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. was hit and killed by Tony Stewart.

Logan Messerly/AP

Ward, who appeared to be trying to confront Stewart about an earlier incident, stepped out onto the dirt track and was hit and dragged under Stewart’s car.

The Ward family said in a statement that they did not consider the matter closed.

“Our son got out of his car during caution when the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy. The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.”

Ambulances converge on the racetrack at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, where sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. was hit by Tony Stewart on Saturday.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Stewart said the accident and investigation was “the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever.”

“I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive. I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known. While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”

Tsarnaev Trial Will Stay In Boston, Start In January

Sep 25, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Tsarnaev Trial Will Stay In Boston, Start In January

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has been charged with 30 counts, including killing four people and using weapons of mass destruction.i
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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has been charged with 30 counts, including killing four people and using weapons of mass destruction.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has been charged with 30 counts, including killing four people and using weapons of mass destruction.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has been charged with 30 counts, including killing four people and using weapons of mass destruction.

Handout/Getty Images

A judge granted a two-month trial delay on Wednesday for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but denied a defense request to move his trial from Boston.

Judge George O’Toole ruled that the trial will begin Jan. 5 instead of Nov. 3, but said there’s no reason to assume in advance that a fair jury cannot be selected in Massachusetts.

Defense attorneys had asked that the trial be moved to Washington, D.C., citing extensive media coverage in Boston and evaluations of public sentiment by their experts. They also asked for a trial delay until at least September 2015, saying they have not had time to prepare for a November trial, and had been given less time than was granted in many other federal death penalty cases.

Tsarnaev, 21, has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors say he and his older brother placed two pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the marathon’s finish line. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police several days later.

MIT police officers stand at attention outside a federal courthouse where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to 30 counts today.  He is also accused in the death of MIT officer Sean Collier.

Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013, as he emerged from a boat stored in a Watertown, Mass., backyard. The red dot of a police sharpshooter's laser sight can be seen on his forehead.

“Although media coverage in this case has been extensive, at this stage the defendant has failed to show that it has so inflamed and pervasively prejudiced the pool that a fair and impartial jury cannot be empaneled in this District,” O’Toole wrote.

He also wrote that a short delay is warranted because of the large amount of evidence the defense has received from prosecutors. But he said, “An additional delay of ten months as requested by the defendant does not appear necessary.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed they would need to summon about 2,000 potential jurors, but they filed more than 100 pages of legal briefs arguing over moving the trial.

The judge agreed with prosecutors’ arguments the defense’s expert evaluations were flawed, and that eastern Massachusetts’ diverse population of over 5 million is sufficient to pick a jury.

The defense has cited the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, which was moved to Denver, saying the marathon bombing had an even broader emotional impact. O’Toole said a more pertinent example was the Supreme Court’s upholding of the decision not to move the 2006 trial of Enron fraud defendant Jeffrey Skilling from Houston, a similar large venue where feelings and publicity about that case were strong.

Boston has recently held several high-profile federal trials, including that of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, O’Toole noted. In each case, he said, jurors returned mixed verdicts indicating they had carefully evaluated trial evidence.

“It is doubtful whether a jury could be selected anywhere in the country whose members were wholly unaware of the Marathon bombings. The Constitution does not oblige them to be,” O’Toole said.

Caroline Rose On World Cafe

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Caroline Rose On World Cafe

Caroline Rose.i
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Caroline Rose.

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Caroline Rose.

Caroline Rose.

Courtesy of the artist

Caroline Rose.

Caroline Rose joins World Cafe from the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Rose, whose new album is titled I Will Not Be Afraid, escaped the drug problems of her small Northeast hometown via higher education. Now, a self-described “failed scholar and a modern-day hobo,” Rose — who lives out of her van — makes her living playing gritty folk, blues and country across the U.S.

Her journey has been filled with detours — work as a boat builder, farmer and grocery-store clerk — but as she said to NPR’s Scott Simon in an interview earlier this year, “It just all ended up coming back to this [music]. It always comes back to the things that you really love.”

Remembering Christopher Hogwood, An Evangelist For Early Music

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Remembering Christopher Hogwood, An Evangelist For Early Music

The late conductor, keyboard player and scholar Christopher Hogwood.i
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The late conductor, keyboard player and scholar Christopher Hogwood.

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The late conductor, keyboard player and scholar Christopher Hogwood.

The late conductor, keyboard player and scholar Christopher Hogwood.

Marco Borggreve/Courtesy of the artist

English conductor, keyboard player and musicologist Christopher Hogwood died today at age 73, following an unspecified illness that lasted several months. His death was confirmed by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, where he was conductor laureate. Hogwood, who was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1989, was a leading light in making pre-Baroque and Baroque music concert hall staples — and he helped transformed the way musicians of all stripes approached such scores.

Born Sept. 10, 1941 in Nottingham, England, Hogwood began his Cambridge University studies in 1960. Soon after graduating in 1964, he established himself as a real presence on the London music scene, as a keyboardist in the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra and as a founder of The Early Music Consort of London. In 1968, he began to study with the late Dutch keyboardist and musicologist Gustav Leonhardt, a pivotal figure in the resurgence of what was coming to be called “early music.”

Hogwood’s first experience in co-founding a group dedicated to pre-Baroque, Baroque and Classical-era music was an indicator of his burgeoning role as an evangelist for this music, particularly in England and the U.S. The idea, which became known as historically informed performance, was to shed the conventions of the 19th-century concert hall and play Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and others in a way that would have made sense to the musicians and audiences of their own times. This meant using the kinds of instruments used centuries ago, in smaller ensembles and with different tuning, and doing original research to hew as closely as possible to the spirit and intention of the composers’ original works.

The results were often bracing, even shocking. As critic John Rockwell wrote in a 1980 review of a recording of Handel’s Messiah led by Hogwood, the conductor and his colleagues infused new vitality into an evergreen: “The revelatory results are like no Messiah ever heard before in this century. The biting edge of the gut strings, the airy buoyancy of the total instrumental ensemble, the utter transparency of the choral singing, the sharply etched musical profile of every familiar member freed from any suggestion of a Romantic silky-rich vibrato — this is a Messiah that will no doubt elate Baroque purists and unsettle traditionalists. What cannot be disputed is the scholarly thoroughness of the conception and the sheer joyous brilliance of the execution, a performance that will surely stimulate anyone who hears it to reevaluate a masterpiece.”

Not only did the historically informed performance movement give birth to dozens of fine ensembles across Europe and North America, it also transformed how even many mainstream musicians approached such scores. Generations of musicians have become performer-scholars in the model of Hogwood and his elders, lightening up their touch, trimming their forces and speeding up or slowing down tempos to match the composers’ own markings.

In 1973, Hogwood founded the Academy of Ancient Music, which he also conducted, and with whom he made more than 200 recordings, including the first complete cycle of Mozart’s symphonies on period instruments. In 1986, Hogwood joined Boston’s venerable Handel and Haydn Society — one of America’s oldest continuously performing arts organizations — remaking it into a historically informed performance ensemble. Hogwood led Handel and Haydn until 2001, at which point he was named conductor laureate. He also served as music director and later principal guest conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among his many other posts in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Dire Predictions On Ebola’s Spread From Top Health Organizations

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Dire Predictions On Ebola’s Spread From Top Health Organizations

A World Health Organization worker trains nurses how to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone.i
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A World Health Organization worker trains nurses how to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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A World Health Organization worker trains nurses how to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A World Health Organization worker trains nurses how to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Michael Duff/AP

Two of the world’s top health organizations released predictions Tuesday warning how bad the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could get.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization agree that the epidemic is speeding up. But the CDC’s worst-case scenario is a jaw-dropper: If interventions don’t start working soon, as many as 1.4 million people could be infected by Jan. 20, the agency reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Health officials at the CDC in Atlanta don’t pull the fire alarm if there isn’t a fire. But 1.4 million cases by the end of January? Are they trying to scare us?

“Figures of that kind certainly have shock value,” says Christopher Dye, who directs strategy for WHO in Geneva.

WHO published its estimates for the epidemic in The New England Journal of Medicine. Its prediction is more conservative: more than 20,000 Ebola cases by early November. The agency didn’t extend the prediction beyond that month.

“These kinds of projections are not to say that this is what is going to happen,” Dye explains. “These projections say, ‘If there aren’t further measures put in place, these are the kinds of case numbers we’d expect to see.’ “

So what about the 1.4 million cases by late January? Unlike the WHO’s model, the CDC’s model includes compensation for the fact that many cases probably haven’t been reported. So the known cases right now — about 5,800 — is probably much lower than the actually number of people who have gotten Ebola since the epidemic began.

When this so-called underreporting isn’t included in the CDC’s models, the agency predicts about 550,000 cases by late January.

The CDC is modeling out that far into the future to show the enormous cost that comes with delaying aid to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, says the agency’s director, Dr. Tom Frieden.

“For each month of delay,” he says, “there is a big increase in the number of cases and it gets that much more difficult to control the epidemic.”

But he doesn’t think a doomsday scenario is likely. He’s confident that the most dire projections will not come to pass.

Both agencies agree on how to turn the tide of this epidemic: Get 70 percent of sick people into isolation and treatment centers. Right now, Dye says fewer than half the people who need treatment are getting it.

If all goes well, Dye expects the goal of 70 percent could be reached in several weeks.

But the data have revealed another problem: “Our great concern is this will be an epidemic that lasts for several years,” he says.

The epidemic has hit such a size — and become so widespread geographically — that Ebola could become a permanent presence in West Africa. If that happens, there would be a constant threat that Ebola could spread to other parts of the world.

As Syria Grabs Headlines, Congress Tends To Local Business

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on As Syria Grabs Headlines, Congress Tends To Local Business

The chamber of the House of Representatives empties following a joint meeting of Congress with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sept. 18.i
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The chamber of the House of Representatives empties following a joint meeting of Congress with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sept. 18.

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The chamber of the House of Representatives empties following a joint meeting of Congress with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sept. 18.

The chamber of the House of Representatives empties following a joint meeting of Congress with visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sept. 18.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The U.S. action against ISIS in Syria is dominating headlines around the globe. President Obama spoke about the mission Tuesday, saying it has bipartisan support from Congress and calling it necessary for the security of the country, and the world.

Members of Congress, meanwhile, are watching from afar — after approving the president’s plan to equip and train Syrian opposition fighters, lawmakers left Washington and returned to their districts ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm election.

For many members, the daily business of tending to their constituents (or their re-election campaigns) is no less pressing than the events unfolding on the world stage.

Here’s a sample of what members of Congress are up to — and tweeting about:

Even When Abortion Is Illegal, The Market May Sell Abortion Pills

Sep 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Even When Abortion Is Illegal, The Market May Sell Abortion Pills

In the markets of San Salvador, you can have your palm read, you can buy plumbing tools ... and you can purchase abortion pills.i
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In the markets of San Salvador, you can have your palm read, you can buy plumbing tools … and you can purchase abortion pills.

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In the markets of San Salvador, you can have your palm read, you can buy plumbing tools ... and you can purchase abortion pills.

In the markets of San Salvador, you can have your palm read, you can buy plumbing tools … and you can purchase abortion pills.

John Poole/NPR

In the central market in San Salvador, you can buy just about anything you want: Tomatoes by the wheelbarrow full. Fresh goat’s milk straight from the goat. Underwear. Plumbing supplies. Fruit. Hollywood’s latest blockbusters burned straight onto a DVD.

And in the back of the market, in a small stall lined with jars of dried herbs, roots and mushrooms, you can buy an abortion.

“I have all types of plants to treat all kinds of diseases,” the woman who runs the shop says through a translator. “For example, problems with your liver, your kidneys, stomach problems, nerves, for cancer — for everything.”

She says she also has a bitter tea that can take care of an unwanted pregnancy.

Christina Quintanilla looks out at the lake near her hometown of San Miguel in eastern El Salvador.

Abortion is completely banned in El Salvador and punishable with a prison term of anywhere from two to 50 years in prison. So this woman asks that we don’t use her name.

Her tea only works, she says, in the first six weeks of pregnancy. If a woman is seeking an abortion later than that, the herbalist arranges to get something far stronger from a local pharmacy: pills used to treat stomach ulcers that are sold generically as misoprostol.

“They come asking for help,” the woman says. “The majority of them are minors — young girls who say they were raped by their stepfathers or by people a lot older than they are.”

“Sometimes they are being threatened by their stepfathers that if they tell their moms, he’s going to kill them or kill the family,” she adds.

She says when a girl comes seeking an abortion, it’s because her life is in crisis. Often they are crying. They recount tragic tales, she says — tales of rape, abuse, betrayal or misguided love.

Some of the stories may be embellished but what’s clear is that these girls are desperate and willing to do almost anything to get out of their predicament.

The herbalist charges roughly $200 for a course of three pills that would cost less than $5 in a pharmacy in the U.S.

This illicit trade in misoprostol has cut the rate of maternal deaths in El Salvador significantly, says Sofia Villalta Delgado with the Salvadoran Ministry of Health. Before misoprostol, women were regularly turning up at hospitals with major complications from botched abortions.

“When we were students and when we first started in medicine, women were arriving at the hospital totally septic, with infection in their entire abdomen,” she says through a translator. “You had to take out the whole uterus.”

This has gone down significantly, she adds.

Demonstrators who are critical of the Catholic Church and favor abortion rights take part in a protest in Rio de Janeiro during Pope Francis' visit to Brazil on July 27. Abortion is illegal in Brazil with rare exceptions. Some lawmakers are attempting to make it even more restrictive.

Delgado says the Salvadoran Ministry of Health doesn’t endorse the use of misoprostol for abortion. After, all abortion is against the law in El Salvador. But as a public health official, she’s sees what she says is a public health benefit from the illicit use of this drug.

In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration approved misoprostol for abortions in the U.S., but only in conjunction with another drug called mifepristone. The combination has come to be known as the “abortion pill.” It’s also become the most common form of medication abortion in the U.S., Canada, China, India and much of Europe.

Misoprostol on its own isn’t as effective as the two-drug method. In a 2010 study of 400 women seeking early medical abortion, 76 percent of those given only misoprostol had a complete abortion. That’s compared to the 96.5 percent of women who were given both drugs.

But misoprostol has the advantage of being widely available even in places where abortion in a medical facility is not.

Still, any abortion is the killing of a child, according to Catholic Bishop Romeo Tovar Estorga from the western Salvadoran city of Santa Ana. “Abortion itself is evil for the mother and the child,” he says through a translator.

He denounces misoprostol as even worse than surgical abortions, saying that it facilitates the forces of evil.

Yet, globally, misoprostol has been a game changer, says Ann Leonard. She’s with the group Ipas, which advocates in favor of abortion access around the world.

“For many years, centuries women have used sticks and stones and caustic chemicals, all of which caused great damage,” she says.

And they’ve claimed the lives of tens of thousands of women. Ipas estimates that 47,000 women still die each year around the world from complications related to bungled, illicit abortions.

“With the advent of misoprostol women realized they could get the abortion that they felt they needed safely,” she says. “They can do it themselves, they can do it in the privacy of their homes, and they didn’t have to go to those drastic measures of sticks and bleach.”

It’s also made the legality of abortion becomes less of an issue. Even in El Salvador, forensic investigators who gather evidence against women in abortion cases say they can’t detect whether or not the woman used misoprostol to terminate her pregnancy.

This story is part of a series looking at the health implications of abortions in developing countries. The series will continue for the next two weeks.

More Women Skip Prenatal Tests After Learning About Risks

Sep 23, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on More Women Skip Prenatal Tests After Learning About Risks

Is it time for a test?i
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Is it time for a test?

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Is it time for a test?

Is it time for a test?

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For decades, OB-GYNs have offered prenatal tests to expectant moms to uncover potential issues, including Down syndrome, before they give birth. However, some tests, such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, carry health risks, including miscarriage. For some women, the risks can be greater than the potential benefits from information they would gain.

Evidence now suggests that women who are well-informed about the pros and cons are more likely to decline testing, even when the tests are free, indicating that the average mother-to-be might not have all the facts.

In a study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers worked with 710 women at medical centers around San Francisco. Half of them received standard care, including a focus on testing for women over 35. The others were offered a computerized guide to prenatal testing and presented with the choice of having prenatal tests free of charge.

The new test scans a mother's blood for bits of a fetus's DNA.

The guide, complete with bilingual narrator, talked through the information about the tests, including screenings such as blood tests and ultrasounds that don’t carry a physical risk. The guide also covered diagnostic tests like amniocentesis that do.

The guide was personalized for each woman, using her birthday and expected delivery day to say which tests were still available for that stage of pregnancy and what the risk of Down syndrome was (the risk increases with maternal age).

The guide also highlighted a choice that women frequently overlooked: opting out. “We already knew that a lot of women do not understand that the screening tests are optional,” says Miriam Kuppermann, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “We told them it was totally reasonable to have no testing at all,” she tells Shots. “It’s not a medical question, it’s really a values question.”

The guide pushed women to think about their values, asking whether they wanted to be tested, whether or not they would want screenings before the more invasive testing, and to figure out which tests in particular they were interested in. All the women in the study were quizzed on their knowledge of prenatal tests.

The researchers found that only 5.9 percent of women who used the guide underwent invasive testing while 12.3 percent of the normally treated group did. The group that got a personalized guide was also more likely to avoid testing altogether, knew more about the risks of invasive testing and had a better handle on their likelihood of carrying a fetus with Down syndrome.

Reproductive geneticist Debbie Driscoll, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, says that having women think about their values and beliefs is important before diving in. She tells Shots there’s variability across the country among women who choose prenatal screenings. Those differences, she says, are “probably not so surprising when you think about people’s political and religious beliefs.”

Kuppermann says prenatal testing can be a wonderful thing, particularly with advances in safer blood tests that can give definitive answers. However, she says the millions of women having babies each year in the U.S. need to understand what they’re signing up for. The women should make the decision, she says, not their doctors. “I’m not trying to get women to test, and I’m not trying to get women to not test,” says Kuppermann, “My goal is to have all women get the information they need.”

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