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Newly Discovered “Pre-Cancer” Gene Mutation May be Key to Identifying Cancer Risk

December 11, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

The first step in protecting cancer patients at risk

The first step in protecting cancer patients at risk

In a study soon to be released at the American Society of Hematology conference, two teams of Boston area international researchers have announced the discovery of a gene mutation that appears to be a predictor of leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases. The study was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers decoded the DNA of approximately 30,000 individuals to arrive at this discovery. Dr. Benjamin Ebert from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the study leaders, said that researchers hope that this discovery will lead to an effective screening test that will enable doctors to identify at risk individuals and initiate early prevention therapies.

Approximately 140,000 people a year in the US are diagnosed with blood cancer. While all cancers are caused by defective genes, not all defective genes are inherited. The gene mutation discovered by the research teams appears to build up over time. For example, in research subjects under the age of 40, the mutation was rarely found, but it was found in 10 percent of subjects over the age of 65 and in almost 20 percent of subjects over the age of 90. Read the rest of this entry →

Saving Babies: A Portable Incubator for Infants at Risk

November 26, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

The winner of the 2014 James Dyson Award, an international engineering design award, is James Roberts, a recent engineering graduate from England, who has developed an affordable, collapsible and easily transportable incubator that duplicates the protective shield given to newborns in a hospital. Roberts’ design—MOM—has a battery which lasts for 24-hours in cases of power outages, can be blown up manually and is heated by ceramic heating elements. The James Dyson Award is given to one outstanding innovation that will solve problems in the world, and for certain MOM will be a big factor in the fight to save preemies and other at-risk newborns throughout the world, especially in developing nations.

Baby sleeping in incubator

Now, there is hope for babies who are born at refugee camps

Premature births are one in ten globally and more than one million die annually from complications, primarily hypothermia. The World Health Organization states that at least 75% of premature babies’ lives could be saved if they had access to affordable treatments. For a preemie, the most important, life-saving treatment is warmth and constant monitoring. In the western world, all hospitals are equipped with incubators, providing immediate relief to preemies, as well as babies born with jaundice and other life-threatening conditions. However, in the developing world, and, as was the inspiration for Roberts, refugee camps, there is very little hope for a baby born at risk. These places do not have even the minimum of medical technology, much less something as advanced as an incubator. Refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, such as Turkey or Jordan, find that they must pay enormous sums to access such technologies, something none of them can afford. Read the rest of this entry →

Big Data: Helping to Sustain Sea Life for Generations to Come

November 17, 2014 in Change, Earth, Environment, Good News, Green, Internet, Nature, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Underwater scene. Coral reef, clean water, blue sunny skyThousands of commercial fisherman troll the ocean waters to find the tastiest and most interesting seafood for consumers around the world. At the same time, global fisheries work tirelessly to protect the sustainability of the seas. The sheer volume of fishing vessels spread out across the world has made the mission of fisheries and ocean protection agencies nearly impossible—until now.

Google, the giant of mapping, SkyTruth, a nonprofit organization that creates images from remote sensing and digital mapping, and Oceana, an international advocacy group working to protect ocean health formed an exciting new partnership to develop “Global Fishing Watch”. Global Fishing Watch is a big data platform that will utilize satellite data and for the first time provide to users an accurate overview of global fishing activities. A prototype was unveiled recently in Sydney, Australia at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress. The platform takes data points from the AIS (Automatic Identification System) network—GPS signals currently utilized by vessels to identify their location in order to avoid collision. After analyzing the AIS data to determine the type, direction and speed of the vessel, Global Fishing Watch will know if it is a fishing vessel and where it is active. All non-fishing vessels are weeded out from the analysis. Most of the world’s ocean waters have been over-fished, almost to the point of depletion. In fact, according to a 2014 UN Food and Agriculture report, more than 90% of the fisheries are depleted. For Global Fishing Watch partners, the opportunity to empower fisheries, advocacy groups and nations with an indisputable tool to protect ocean life was of paramount importance. According to John Amos, Founder and President of SkyTruth, “So much of what happens out on the high seas is invisible, and that has been a huge barrier to understanding and showing the world what’s at stake for the ocean. But now, satellite data is allowing us to make human interaction with the ocean more transparent than ever before.

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TogliattiAzot’s Measure of Success: Improved Quality of Life for Russia’s Disabled Children

November 6, 2014 in Business, Charity, Good News, Inspiration, Philanthropy, Social by Robin Cook

TogliattiAzot – a Russian Icon

TogliattiAzot program for adopting disabled children

Sergei Makhlai says that “the legacy of TogliattiAzot is to ensure that Russia’s disabled children grow up in loving homes where they have the chance to be integrated fully into society…”

TogliattiAzot, a Russian ammonia and carbamide production facility, headquartered on the Volga River in the Samara Region of Russia has for decades been an icon in the Russian and international corporate community, weathering the turbulence of economic and political upheavals to become one of the largest and strongest mineral fertilizer producers in the world. Its trend-setting does not stop there. TogliattiAzot prides itself in providing some of the best employee benefits in the corporate world, and has succeeded in building not only a successful business but also a corporate home for its family of employees, almost all of whom have been with the company since its inception. But, for TogliattiAzot Chairman and JSC, Sergei Makhlai, the most important mark that he wants to leave behind is the charitable work of TogliattiAzot and its employees.

Focusing on Children with Disabilities

Among the many charitable endeavors of TogliattiAzot is a special program that focuses on the needs of children with disabilities. According to Sergei Makhlai the most significant challenges for these children are: homes, safety, healthcare and enjoyment of life. In fact, he points out that approximately 30% of Russia’s disabled children are living in government institutions where their needs are neglected and their quality of life is deplorable. Therefore, TogliattiAzot has prioritized its charitable giving to improve the quality of life for these special children. Read the rest of this entry →

Now a walk to the Coca Cola vending machine will earn you not just a soft drink, but also a portal into cyberspace

October 29, 2014 in Africa, Change, Good News, Inspiration, Social by Robin Cook

Vintage_Coca-Cola_Vending_MachinesIn Umtata and Nelspruit, South Africa “share a Coke” Takes on Global Dimensions.

An innovative collaboration between Coca Cola South Africa and BT Global Services is bringing to the most remote and poor communities of Umtata and Nelspruit, South Africa, a first-time opportunity to finally join the internet revolution. The Coca Cola-BT partnership means that youth, educators, small business owners and even grandparents will finally be able to reach out and tap into the vast resources available on the internet today. Teachers will be able to access an immeasurable treasure trove of educational materials, as well as link with other educators in similar environments for the latest feedback on teaching innovations. Students will benefit from modern and current research materials that will expand and strengthen their educational achievement, small business owners will be able to market their services and products across the continent, maybe even the globe, and grandparents can connect with family members who have moved away, sharing photos and life’s journeys. For Coca Cola this collaboration is merely a furtherance of the company’s mission to improve educational opportunities and the standard of living in needy communities. The collaboration furthers BT Global’s mission of providing under-served communities access to technology that will improve their educational achievement, health and employment opportunities.

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High-Fives All Around — Five Year Old’s New Mechanical Hand Makes Him a Star

October 21, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

mechanical handFive year old Keith Harris was the most popular kid in his Houston elementary school last week when he showed up with his new space-age prosthetic hand. In yet another amazing development from 3-D printing, Keith, who was born with symbrachydactyly, was able to show off to his classmates the coolest hand in the school. Until now, Keith has had to deal with a deformity in his right hand setting him apart from his peers and greatly impacting his motor skills development. But all of this has changed, according to his mother. Keith is a new person, with self-confidence, joy and a new personality to go along with his new hand.

Symbrachydactyly is a very rare condition, affecting one in 32,000 births, and results in the fingers of the hand to be webbed, or some fingers to be extremely short or missing altogether. It usually impacts only one hand. The forearm is also shorter than normal. There are different theories as to what actually causes symbrachydactyly. In the womb, a baby’s hands are shaped liked a mitten. Then, fingers emerge and divide. But for the developing baby with symbrachydactyly, this does not happen due either to inadequate blood flow or problems with the tissue. The normal growth of finger bones does not happen. There is no evidence that the condition is genetic nor due to any external conditions of the pregnancy. Read the rest of this entry →

Vincent: A Miracle Baby, the First to be Born From an Implanted Womb

October 14, 2014 in Europe, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

A woman with a newborn baby after birtha

MRKH syndrome is emotionally devastating, since women face the prospects of not being able to deliver a baby

Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuester-Hauser Syndrome (MRKH) is a female congenital disorder that results in the absence of a womb, eliminating the ability to reproduce. Its name comes from the four researchers who discovered the disorder. The first sign of MRKH typically does not appear until a girl is 14-15 years of age, at the time when she normally would begin to menstruate. A trip to the doctor to ascertain why her menses is delayed results in ultrasound tests that reveal the condition. There are usually no outward signs. All aspects of the remaining reproductive organs are normal. The MRKH syndrome is present in approximately 1 in every 4,500 newborn girls, which in the United States translates to roughly 75,000 women. Its cause is unknown and there is no hard evidence that the condition is inherited. The syndrome is emotionally devastating, as a young girl faces the prospects of not being able to deliver a baby.

Until now, that is. For the first time in history, a woman with MRKH has become a biological mother. Through a miraculous series of events and stunning medical/technological developments, a Swedish woman with MRKH delivered a baby boy they have named Vincent. Vincent was born two months premature due to his mother developing pre-eclampsia, but other than his tiny size, he is normal and healthy.

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Good news for everyone waiting for the latest in cell phone technology

September 23, 2014 in Business, Good News, Internet, Technology by Meredith Ansell

AppleWatch

The new AppleWatch

Last week in Cupertino, California, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, bringing us all a little closer to the techno-sci-fi world that used to be the stuff of novels and super-spy movies.

The smart-watch is one of the most innovative communication devices on the market. It is perfect for those moments when you need to be hands-free. The Apple Watch, Apple’s first foray into this futuristic market, doubles as a fitness device, has extremely accurate timing to within 50 milliseconds, and is a beautifully designed personal internet/communication device, as described by Apple’s CEO, Tom Cook. The interface differs from the iPhone, in that it uses a “digital crown” for scrolling and zooming in on text. It features a touch-screen face and has been designed in two sizes: one for men and one for women. Of course, there is no room on the smartwatch for a keyboard, so you must speak into the Apple Watch, and what you say will be transcribed. I see visions of Mr. Smart now. Who knew that those all TV spy-shows would one day become the normality of our existence?

The new iPhone 6 is designed with a pixel-rich, 1334×750 resolution black and gold, 4.7-inch screen (or the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5 inch screen), featuring the next generation of retina displays—Retina HD. It has an A8, 64-bit processor and is running on the new iOS8 software. The iPhone 6 includes also an 8 megapixel camera, with cutting edge photography technology—Focus Pixels—which dramatically speeds up the process of autofocusing on your favorite subjects, and also takes out those blurs from your shaking hands.

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Marine scientists, Environmentalists and Lovers of the Sea are Ecstatic about the Return of the California Blue Whale

September 9, 2014 in Earth, Environment, Green, Nature by Robin Cook

Blue Whale tail

California Blue Whale has almost completely recovered from the harmful effects of previous fishing and hunting practices

The California Blue Whale weighs as much as 190 tons and grows to a length of 33 meters, making it the largest animal on earth. They live primarily along the California coast, but have been spotted as far north as the Gulf of Alaska and as far south as Costa Rica. They became an endangered species due to unregulated hunting practices in the early part of the century. 

Whaling nations, particularly Russia, freely hunted for whale in the Antarctic waters, killing approximately 346,000 of these beautiful animals before laws were implemented in 1966 to ban the practice. However the Soviets continued to hunt until 1971, cementing the impact on the blue whale population in the Antarctica which fell to 1% of their historical levels. The blue whales in the Pacific were somewhat less impacted, yet research reveals that between 1905 and 1971, at least 3,400 of these animals were killed. This also shows that their original population was much smaller than the Antarctic whales.

Aggressive educational and regulatory initiatives has enabled the blue whale populations to rebound, to roughly 97% of their historical levels, but to understand the true health of the California Blue Whale population took some creative doing. It was not so easy to separate out the two main groups: those that live near Russia/Japan and those that live near California. How to know which are which? Scientists turned to song. The two groups have their own song, and from the songs, scientists were able to draw the boundary between the two groups. Now, with access to previously closed records regarding whaling, and historic population numbers, researchers can say with confidence that the California Blue Whale has almost completely recovered from the harmful effects of previous fishing and hunting practices.  Read the rest of this entry →

Google continues its push to move Apple out of the Classroom

August 27, 2014 in Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Students using Google Class

The New Generation of Students

This school year teachers will have a new tool from Google—Google Classroom—which can be operated by any user who has a Google Apps for Education account.Introduced this spring as a new tool for classroom management, Google Classroom was tested in 45 countries around the world, by a total of more than 100,000 educators. Google’s developers sought to create a tool that would give teachers more time to spend educating students. Why, when there are certainly many other technology functions that Google could develop? Because Google’s developers, after spending a year interviewing educators, found that chief among time-absorbing tasks in the teacher’s day is managing the classroom, assigning, collecting and grading homework, and communicating with students. Among all the new education related technology apps available today, this was one area that had not been addressed. Google Classroom was developed to lighten the load for teachers to allow them to do what they do best—teach. The Classroom package includes: gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive.

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