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Call for Decade of Vaccines

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bill and Melinda Gates announced that their foundation will commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world's poorest countries. The Gateses said that increased investment in vaccines by governments and the private sector could help developing countries dramatically reduce child mortality by the end of the decade, and they called for others to help fill critical financing gaps in both research funding and childhood immunization programs. Bill and Melinda Gates made their announcement at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting, where they were joined by Julian Lob-Levyt, CEO of the GAVI Alliance.


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Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Time Stamp: 2/1/2010 at 3:52:00 PM UTC

Citi Mortgage releases personal information to strangers

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oklahoma City - Ms. Fourkiller thought this was the perfect time to refinance her home from a twenty year loan to ten with interest rates dropping, yet this is when the nightmare began.

After being approved and an eagerly collected loan application from Citi, she was informed a "Welcome Package" would be sent by UPS.

Within a couple day the package arrived correctly addressed to Ms Fourkiller, yet what was inside was someone else personal information, tax records, bank account numbers, employment records, phone numbers, everything one would need to steal ones identity.

Ms. Fourkiller promptly contacted Citi about this incident to only get hung up on twice, because they could not understand her frustration. She finally got into contact with Adam Smith, who originally processed the application. She was clearly told by Mr. Smith, “Ms Fourkiller that is impossible that this could happen.”

After several minutes of convincing him such did happen, he informed her that a supervisor would get in touch with her. “He never did say what to do with the information I received,” said Ms Fourkiller.

Ms. Fourkiller took it upon herself to contact the individual who's information she had to let them know their information is in her hands and safe.

She called the couple's home, and find out they were on vacation, but fortunately a relative was watching the home and forwarded the information on. Within moments a call was received from the homeowner. Ms Fourkiller assured all was safe and that she would mail the “Welcome Package” to them. She also asked if they would mind having the relative check to see if they had received her information. Well they did receive a package, but it belonged to someone in New York.

After patiently waiting several days, she received a phone call from Jason Wooley, a supervisor from Citi. He was very apologetic, about the situation. Ms Fourkiller informed him that she was not going through with the mortgage till Citi guaranteed they would protect her credit and name if an incident arose. Mr. Wooley said he would have another department contact her on how they will handle credit protection.

Two more days and no contact... “I was and still am very emotionally upset, to the point it is effecting my everyday routines. I'm just 29 and have almost an 800 credit rating. That is something I am proud of, especially being a blue collar worker.” said Ms. Fourkiller.

Ms Fourkiller contacted Mr. Smith again, since Mr. Wooley didn't give her his direct line. Mr. Wooley called and informed Ms. Fourkiller that if she purchased Identity Theft protection that Citi would reimburse her, and so she enrolled in LifeLock.

“I didn't want anything from them but a promise they would protect me. I really didn't think I was asking that much. No one is going to guarantee what may have already happened.” said Ms Fourkiller.

“What really started to bother me was the way they sent the information in the first place. They sent it requiring no signature, with notation for UPS to just leave on doorstep. This is ones life, the total lack of trying to protect their customers is a total disgrace in their service.”

The next day Ms. Fourkiller received an automated call from Citi stating that they have received her faxed application. She had faxed nothing to them. She asked her partner of the last ten years to please contact Mr. Wooley about this. Mr Wooley's voice mail say do not leave a message if you have e-mail abilities, and gives an e-mail address. Ms. Kennedy, her partner sends an e-mail stating nothing more then what happened and please contact Ms. Fourkiller.

Mr. Wooley contacted her several hours later and stated that he could not give information to Ms. Kennedy. “For crying out loud she did not ask for any, it just stated to contact me” said Ms Foukiller. The conversation ended with Mr. Wooley trying to give her a number to customer service, she hung up on him. “They have no customer service.” she said.

Today she received another automated call from Citi, stating they have received her loan application.

I asked her why she had a mortgage with them in the first place, and was informed that her original mortgage was with another company that Citi bought out.

“I will take my 500.00 dollar loss on the loan application, but would not even consider a mortgage with them at this time, they should send it back, and I will make them liable for anything that comes from this issue. We are presently looking for a good attorney to handle this.

Source: Scientific Frontline
Time Stamp: 3/28/2009 at 5:47:26 PM UTC

Pfizer to Acquire Wyeth

Monday, January 26, 2009

Creating the World's Premier Biopharmaceutical Company

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Wyeth (NYSE: WYE) on January 26 announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Pfizer will acquire Wyeth in a cash-and-stock transaction currently valued at $50.19 per share, or a total of approximately $68 billion. The Boards of Directors of both companies have approved the combination.


Source: Pfizer
Time Stamp: 1/26/2009 at 10:49:12 PM UTC

Star Count Goes Global

Friday, October 17, 2008

Light pollution to be mapped by thousands of citizen scientists this month

Schoolchildren, families and citizen scientists around the world will gaze skyward after dark from Oct. 20 to Nov.3, 2008, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet.

The Great World Wide Star Count, now in its second year, helps scientists map light pollution globally while educating participants about the stars.

The event, which is open to everyone who wants to participate, is organized by the Windows to the Universe project at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colo., in conjunction with planetariums and scientific societies across the country and abroad.

Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"By searching for the same constellations in their respective hemispheres, participants in the Great World Wide Star Count will be able to compare their observations with what others see, giving them a sense of how star visibility varies from place to place," said Cliff Jacobs, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences.

The observers will also learn more about the economic and geographic factors that control light pollution in their communities and around the world.

"The star count brings families together to enjoy the night sky and become involved in science," says Dennis Ward of UCAR's Office of Education and Outreach. "It also raises awareness about the impact of artificial lighting on our ability to see the stars."

The 2007 star count drew 6,624 observations taken in all seven continents, and organizers expect the number of participants to double this year.

UCAR used last year's observations to generate maps of star visibility around the world.

Next year, the star count will be part of a "cornerstone project" of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote interest in astronomy.

Participants in the Northern Hemisphere will look for the constellation Cygnus, while those in the Southern Hemisphere will look for the constellation Sagittarius.

They will then match their observations with charts downloaded from the Great World Wide Star Count Web site. The site also contains instructions for finding the constellations, and other event details.

Participants may make observations outside their homes or go to less-developed areas where more stars are visible.

Those in overcast areas who cannot see stars will be able to input data about cloud conditions instead. Bright outdoor lighting at night is a growing problem for astronomical observing programs around the world.

"Last year's results showed a strong correlation between dense development, where there is a lot of light, and a lack of star visibility," Ward says. "Without even being aware of it, many of us have lost the ability to see many stars at night. Part of our goal is getting people to look up and regain an appreciation of the night sky."

To Participate Visit:
Image Caption 1: Participants in the Great Worldwide Star Count will help discover how light pollution is obscuring constellations in the night sky.
Image Caption 2: Star-watchers in the Northern Hemisphere will track the constellation Cygnus.
Image Credits: NCAR/UCAR
Source: NSF
Time Stamp: 10/17/2008 at 2:50:12 AM UTC

NIH’s National Children’s Study Enters Next Phase

Friday, October 3, 2008

Increase In Number of Centers Recruiting Volunteers, Collecting Data

The National Institutes of Health announced today that its comprehensive study to examine the effect of genes and the environment on children’s health had entered the next phase of operations. At a briefing on the latest developments in the National Children’s Study, NIH officials named the study centers funded for 2008.

The study centers are the research institutions that will recruit volunteers for the study. Study centers will recruit from study locations — counties and other geographic demarcations preselected by study scientists to be representative of the United States.

The large size of the study requires that it be carried out in stages. Today, NIH officials named the 27 study centers that will be funded in 2008, which will manage 39 locations. That brings the total of new and existing study centers to 36, covering a total of 72 study locations.

When it is fully operational, the study is expected to have approximately 40 study centers recruiting volunteers from the planned 105 study locations throughout the United States.

The National Children’s Study will follow a representative national sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. The study will investigate factors influencing the development of such conditions as autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

"The advantage of a long term study of development is that it will yield important health information at virtually every phase of the life cycle," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health. "Eventually, it will provide greater understanding of adult disorders. In the immediate future, however, we expect it to provide insight into the disorders of birth and infancy."

At the briefing, NIH officials briefly recounted the history of the study. Authorized by Congress in the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the National Children’s Study is being conducted by a consortium of federal agencies. This includes two NIH institutes, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2004, study researchers announced the105 locations throughout the United States from which study participants ultimately will be recruited by the study centers. In 2005, the NIH awarded contracts for seven initial, or Vanguard, Centers, followed by 17 additional centers in 2007.

The study centers will recruit participants, collect genetic, biological, and environmental samples, and compile statistical information for study analyses on the relationships between health, genetics, and the environment. The centers consist of universities, hospitals, health departments, and private companies or represent collaborations between these kinds of organizations. (A table of the 2008 study centers and locations appears below.)

"The National Children’s Study will encompass a nationally representative sample, designed to be a composite of the U.S. population, " said NICHD Director Duane Alexander, M.D. "It will include children throughout the United States, from rural, urban, and suburban areas, from all income and educational levels, and from all racial groups."

Funding for the National Children’s Study is provided each year by Congress. If funding is received as anticipated, and if the necessary technical approvals are obtained, the National Children’s Study is expected to begin initial recruitment at two of the Vanguard Centers in January 2009. This initial recruitment will focus on pilot testing for the study—early phase testing of recruitment procedures and sampling methods—before the full study begins. In April of 2009, the remaining Vanguard Centers will join in enrollment for the pilot phase of the study. After the pilot testing, the first wave of recruitment will begin in the summer of 2010.

Although the study can be expected to provide information throughout its duration, information on disorders and conditions of early life are expected within the next few years. Because the study will enroll pregnant women and, in some cases, women who are not yet pregnant, study scientists hope to identify a range of early life factors that influence later development.

"With more than 100,000 participants, we believe the National Children’s Study will be the largest study of pregnant women ever conducted in the United States, " said National Children’s Study Director Peter Scheidt, M.D., M.P.H. "We expect the study to yield information on a variety of pregnancy and birth-associated conditions."

In particular, Dr. Scheidt added, the National Children’s Study could be expected to provide information on the potential contributors to preterm birth. More than 500,000 preterm infants are born each year in the United States. Infants born prematurely are at risk for early death and a variety of health problems, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and learning disabilities. Health care costs for preterm infants total $26 billion per year.

"We expect that what we learn from the National Children’s Study will provide new information that we can use to begin solving the problem of preterm birth, " Dr. Scheidt said. “We are hopeful that we will have this information in just a few years."

Additional information about the National Children’s Study is available from
A chart of the 27 study centers funded for 2008 and their corresponding locations appears at the following link:
Source: NIH
Time Stamp: 10/3/2008 at 4:32:50 PM UTC

NASA Selects Carnegie for Astrobiology Institute

Friday, October 3, 2008

NASA announced today that the Carnegie Institution is one of ten teams selected for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) to conduct multidisciplinary research to study the origin and distribution of life in the universe. Carnegie’s George Cody of the Geophysical Laboratory (GL) is the principal investigator for the Carnegie team’s NAI efforts over the next 5 years. Sixteen co-investigators at both the GL and its neighboring Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, as well as additional co-investigators at several partner institutions, will lead various aspects of the research.

The NAI is a partnership between NASA and its NAI teams located in different academic institutions, research laboratories, and NASA centers effectively forming a virtual institute. The research integrates multidisciplinary studies and education in astrobiology--the scientific study of life in the universe including its origin, evolution, and distribution. Some 700 researchers are involved. The first teams were established in 1998 with Carnegie as a founding member.

Carnegie has made huge progress studying how organic compounds can evolve from prebiotic molecules eventually to synthesize into forms that are basics for life,” said Cody. “Our program is integrating bottom-up and top-down studies to investigate processes related to chemical and physical evolution in prebiotic environments, such as the interstellar medium, circumstellar disks, extrasolar planetary systems, other Solar System objects, and the primitive Earth. This research is central to answering the questions that NAI is asking about life’s origins.”

In addition to studies looking at the steps life took to move from the chemical to biological worlds, Carnegie researchers will perform fieldwork and experiments to understand the nature of microbial life at extreme conditions and characterize organic matter in ancient fossils. Both efforts are central to developing technologies for life detection on other worlds. Carnegie will also continue to serve as a resource center for all members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

The Carnegie team has been a major contributor to the research and other work of the NAI since the institute's inception a decade ago,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NAI based at NASA's Ames Research Center. “We look forward to drawing on the experience, knowledge, and commitment of the Carnegie team under George Cody as we move into the NAI's second decade.”

Russell Hemley, director of the Geophysical Laboratory remarked: “The new award will allow GL and DTM to continue to pursue a broad range of problems that constitute modern astrobiology. We are very pleased that NAI has recognized the unique multidisciplinary environment here at Carnegie in its selection of teams in the latest competition.”

Source: Carnegie Institution of Washington
Time Stamp: 10/3/2008 at 10:30:11 AM UTC
The Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

Celebrate Spitzer's 5th Anniversary at Griffith Observatory!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory will host an event on August 22-24, 2008 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The Spitzer mission has shown us incredible new views of the universe in infrared light, which can be thought of as "night vision" or "heat" light. Spitzer's accomplishments include imaging the farthest galaxy yet seen, multiple breakthroughs in our understanding of the lives of stars and the first detection of light coming from planets orbiting other stars.

Highlights of the weekend-long event will include an unveiling of a brand new image from Spitzer on Friday afternoon and the outdoor display of a 140-foot-long Spitzer image of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Caltech and JPL Astronomers will be on-hand all three days to answer questions about Spitzer and infrared astronomy, as well as present a series of public lectures in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater.

Schedule of Events

Friday, August 22nd

12:30 PM Image Display Image Unveiling

12:30 PM Public Talk"Massive Star Formation in W5" - Dr. Lori Allen & Xavier Koenig Harvard / Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

7:00 PM Public Lecture"Seeing the Hidden Universe: Infrared Astronomy with Spitzer" - Dr. Robert Hurt Spitzer Science Center

Saturday, August 23rd

Daylight Hours Image Display Outdoor display of 140' Milky Way Survey Image

1:00 PM Public Talk"Stellar Generations: Viewing Star Birth with Spitzer" - Dr. Lori Allen Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

4:00 PM Public Talk"Many Worlds: Finding New Planetary Systems With Spitzer" - Dr. Michelle Thaller Spitzer Science Center

7:00 PM Public Talk"In the Heat of the Night: Using Infrared Telescopes to Explore the Invisible Universe" - Dr. Michelle Thaller Spitzer Science Center

Sunday, August 24th

Daylight Hours Image Display Outdoor display of 140' Milky Way Survey Image

1:00 PM Public Talk"My Milky Way: a Personal Tour of Our Own Galaxy, Revealed in the Infrared" - The Spitzer MIPS/GAL Science Team Spitzer Science Center

4:00 PM Public Talk"Seeing the Hidden Universe: Infrared Astronomy with Spitzer" - Dr. Robert Hurt Spitzer Science Center

7:00 PM Public Talk"Seeing the Hidden Universe: Infrared Astronomy with Spitzer" - Dr. Robert Hurt Spitzer Science Center

Image Caption: Full size poster "Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of Spitzer's Launch" held at Griffith Observatory.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)
Source: NASA / Spitzer
Time Stamp: 8/20/2008 at 1:05:36 AM UTC

The Mighty MitoCarta

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Online Mitochondrial Atlas Leads to Cause of Inherited Disease

Mitochondria are busy organelles. They participate in so many cellular tasks that trouble can ensue when they stop working, including neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, and organ failure, among other problems. Now, HHMI-supported scientists have created MitoCarta, an online atlas of more than 1,000 proteins that healthy mitochondria use to keep cells running smoothly—a tool that should help researchers understand what happens when things go wrong.

To demonstrate the power of MitoCarta, its creators have used the resource to identify a genetic mutation responsible for complex I deficiency, a rare, lethal metabolic disorder in infants. Their work is reported in the July 11, 2008, issue of the journal Cell.

To really understand a system, you have to begin by identifying its individual components. Eventually we want to know how all the components get assembled in healthy cells and how these processes go awry in disease.”
Vamsi Mootha

To really understand a system, you have to begin by identifying its individual components,” says Vamsi Mootha, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and recipient of a HHMI Early Career Physician Scientist award. “Eventually we want to know how all the components get assembled in healthy cells and how these processes go awry in disease.”

Mootha led a team from MGH, Harvard Medical School, and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard to create the MitoCarta.

Mitochondria are best known for their role as the center of energy metabolism. The organelles also integrate numerous other biochemical pathways and contribute to cellular balance, differentiation, and programmed cell death.

Given the many vital and complex functions of mitochondria, it is little wonder that their failure can trigger a range of diseases. The 50 known mitochondrial diseases combined affect a total of about two million Americans. Researchers suspect that breakdowns in mitochondria's function may be behind an even higher number of common conditions, from Alzheimer's disease to some forms of cancer and heart disease.

That is why biologists want to identify the proteins that make up mitochondria and understand their roles in health and disease. These proteins come from two sets of genes: Mitochondria carry their own small set of 13 genes, which are inherited only from the mother, and approximately 1,500 mitochondrial proteins come from genes in a cell's nucleus.

As a medical student, Mootha trained in mitochondrial physiology as an HHMI-NIH Research Scholar. Later, after completing his clinical training, he pursued postdoctoral training in genomics as an HHMI Physician Postdoctoral Fellow, which was when he began his quest to build a protein atlas for mitochondria.

Since launching his own laboratory at MGH in 2004, Mootha has specialized in studying rare mitochondrial diseases. He used two well established but laborious and often inaccurate protein analysis tools—mass spectrometry and green fluorescent protein tagging and microscopy—to identify new mitochondrial proteins systematically. Using his background in mathematics and computer science, Mootha integrated the vast amount of data generated from these approaches to construct the MitoCarta database of 1,098 proteins and their expression across 14 organs.

Of those proteins, scientists had pinpointed functions for less than 800. To learn more about what they do, Mootha developed methods to compare mitochondrial proteins for 500 different species whose genomes have been sequenced. That allowed him to trace the evolutionary history of specific proteins and predict their role in human mitochondria. They could also help identify unknown mutations leading to mitochondrial disorders.

To prove the system worked, Mootha and the team focused on a large assembly of proteins that mitochondria use to produce energy, called complex I (CI). Problems in the CI system, which is part of the electron transport system inside the cell, are the most common cause of a group of rare diseases, generally fatal in infancy, but they have also been implicated in Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other more common conditions. Previous studies have shown that half of patients with CI deficiencies lack mutations in a known CI gene, which suggests that other genes are involved, Mootha says.

Comparing the genomes of organisms from yeast to mammals, Mootha and his team searched for the 45 proteins known to make up CI. They then compared that expression pattern to other proteins in the MitoCarta to find similar patterns. They identified 19 proteins not previously known to be part of the CI system. After turning off those genes using small interfering RNA, the team found four genes that were important to CI activity within mitochondria. Using genetic samples from families with CI deficiency disorders, Mootha's lab identified the chromosomal location for a new CI defect and a single gene, C8orf38, as the culprit for the rare defect.

Mootha's lab is now using MitoCarta to seek out genes responsible for other CI disorders. “Already, we're identifying the culprits behind devastating rare CI deficiencies, but we're also excited about pursuing studies of more common diseases like Parkinson's and type 2 diabetes,” Mootha says. “We hope other groups will make use of the MitoCarta as well.”

 MitoCarta is freely available at
Source: HHMI
Time Stamp: 7/10/2008 at 4:32:40 PM UTC

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