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IBM Starts Human Health Research Project

ARMONK, N.Y., May 6 (UPI) — IBM announced the start Thursday of a multi-year research project designed to help individuals, governments and businesses better understand human health.

The project, named “Splash,” will outline what actions can be taken to improve human health by connecting and analyzing enormous collections of data from a wide variety of seemingly unrelated sources. The project will initially focus on childhood obesity.

Researchers said they will combine and analyze massive data sources that have never been integrated to simulate the cause-and-effect relationships between agriculture, transportation, city planning, eating, exercise habits, socio-economic status, family life and more. IBM said predicting real-world reactions that influence human health will provide fact-based recommendations of actions to take or avoid.

“We hope the results of this project will help individuals, governments and businesses actually understand exactly how the actions they take affect health — and then work together to make better decisions that make it easy to be healthy,” said Dr. Martin Sepulveda, the vice president of IBM’s Integrated Health Services.

Paul Maglio, an IBM research scientist, said the data and models exist, but need to be put together in a way that shows the wider connections and potential actions that can enhance individual and community health.

“We believe our expertise in service science, computational modeling, math and large-scale analytics can help answer these important questions,” Maglio said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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FDA Studies Safety of Food in Transport

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is issuing new guidelines for commercial food transporters to “maximize the safety” of food.

The FDA said the new guidance is designed to reduce the chances of physical, chemical, biological and other risks during the transportation of foods while the agency studies current food safety transportation regulations.

In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the federal agency says it’s requesting input on writing the new rules from all interested parties, including the food and transportation industries and consumer interest organizations. The new rules will govern sanitary practices by shippers, motor vehicle or rail carriers and others engaged in the transportation of food.

“Our aim is to look at every component of the system to assess hazards, and to take science-based action where appropriate to maximize the safety of our food from farms all the way to consumers’ tables,” said FDA Associate Commissioner for Food Protection Jeff Farrar. “Although contamination of food product during commercial transport is relatively infrequent, the potential harm can be widespread and serious.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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FDA Issues Shell Eggs Safety Rules

WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has issued guidance to help small egg producers comply with 2009 federal egg safety regulations.

The new rules are designed to prevent Salmonella Enteritidis from infecting shell eggs during production, transportation and storage.

The new egg safety rules require egg producers to have preventive measures in place during the production of shell eggs in poultry houses and require subsequent refrigeration during storage and transportation to prevent Salmonella Enteritidis. The FDA said the regulation is expected to prevent thousands of cases of foodborne illness and the approximately 30 deaths caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium that occur each year.

“The regulation affects all egg producers with 3,000 or more laying hens who do not sell all of their shell eggs directly to consumers,” the FDA said in a statement. “Producers with fewer than 3,000 laying hens are exempt from the requirements.

“Producers with 50,000 or more laying hens must be in compliance with the regulation by July 2010. Producers with at least 3,000, but fewer than 50,000 laying hens, must comply by July 2012.”

The new regulations are available at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/SmallBusinessesSmallEntityComplianceGuides/ucm207507.htm

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Study May Lead to New Car Safety Features

RALEIGH, N.C., April 13 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve created software that allows a computer to understand what a video camera is imaging and to make decisions related to the data.

North Carolina State University researchers said their computer program allows a car to stay in its lane without human control, opening the door to the development of new automobile safety features and military applications.

“We develop computer vision programs, which allow a computer to understand what a video camera is looking at — whether it is a stop sign or a pedestrian. For example, this particular program is designed to allow a computer to keep a car within a lane on a highway, because we plan to use the program to drive a car,” said Professor Wesley Snyder, the study’s co-author. “Although there are some vision systems out there already that can do lane finding, our program maintains an awareness of multiple lanes and traffic in those lanes.”

The program the researchers wrote uses algorithms to sort visual data and make decisions related to finding the lanes of a road, detecting how those lanes change as a car is moving and controlling the car to stay in the correct lane.

“This research has many potential uses,” Snyder said, “such as the development of military applications related to surveillance, reconnaissance and transportation of materials.”

The study that included Rachana Gupta and Shepherd Pitts is to be presented in Anchorage, Alaska, May 4-6 during the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

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Grandparents Key for Autistic Children

BALTIMORE, April 8 (UPI) — About one-third of U.S. grandparents of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders say they were first to raise concerns, a survey indicates.

The Interactive Autism Network, an online autism research project, collected information from more than 2,600 grandparents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The survey found about 11 percent reported living in the same household as their grandchild with Autism Spectrum Disorders and another 46 percent live within 24 miles.

“It became clear that grandparents — a population largely overlooked by policymakers and researchers — had valuable insights to share when they came to us asking how they could participate in the IAN Project,” Dr. Paul Law, director of the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, says in a statement. “Grandparents often play a major part in their grandchild’s life and experience their own stresses and triumphs in these families.”

The survey also indicates that:

– About 90 percent said their grandchild’s situation brought them closer to their children.

– Approximately 15 percent of grandparents had two or more grandchildren on the spectrum.

– 71 percent said they played some role in treatment decisions and more than 15 percent were providing transportation at least once a week.

More information is at: www.ianproject.org.

No survey details were provided.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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NASA Revises Field Center Work Assignments

WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) — NASA officials say they have issued revised work assignments for the space agency’s 10 centers in support of the president’s 2011 budget request.

Space agency Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said the new programs, pending congressional approval, create new offices that include activities in exploration technology and development, heavy lift rockets and rocket propulsion technology, exploration precursor robotic missions, human research and commercial spaceflight opportunities.

“In addition, the new budget has increases for NASA’s science and aeronautics directorates that will improve the agency’s Earth observation capabilities and help create a next generation air transportation system that is safe, efficient and friendlier to the environment,” officials said in a statement.

“The work assignments expand on the strengths of NASA’s 10 centers, while allowing the agency to safely fly out the space shuttle manifest and establish a firm foothold in space by extending the International Space Station, likely to 2020 or beyond.”

Bolden said the work assignments represent a bold new approach to exploring space that will enable NASA to get beyond low-Earth orbit and create robust near-Earth space flight capabilities.

More information on the NASA work assignments is available at http://www.nasa.gov/budget.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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NASA Extends Russian Space Agency Contract

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) — NASA says it has signed a $335 million contract extension-modification with the Russian Federal Space Agency for various International Space Station services.

The contract covers comprehensive Soyuz support for crew transportation, rescue, training, launch and landing of long-duration missions for six station crew members during 2013 and 2014.

“In this contract modification, space station crew members will launch on four Soyuz vehicles in 2013 and return on two vehicles in 2013 and two in 2014,” NASA said. “The Soyuz flights will carry limited cargo associated with crew transportation to and from the station, and disposal of trash. The cargo allowed per person is approximately 110 pounds (50 kilograms) launched to the station, approximately 37 pounds (17 kilograms) returned to Earth, and trash disposal of approximately 66 pounds (30 kilograms).”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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H1N1 Prevention Lessons May Become Habits

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., April 6 (UPI) — Lessons learned to help prevent the spread of H1N1 — like sneezing into an elbow — may become habits, a U.S. survey indicates.

A national survey of more than U.S. 1,000 adult men and women, by Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., the maker of Zicam, indicates 95 percent say they took proactive steps to combat cold and flu, while 5 percent say they did nothing or would “wait it out.” Eighty percent say they sneeze and cough into their elbow, the survey found.

Sixty-two percent of survey participants report getting a cold at least once a year.

To prevent cold and flu, 85 percent say they do frequent hand washings; 46 percent say they avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; 34 percent say they use liberal amounts of anti-bacterial gel and 26 percent say they frequently sterilize commonly used items in the home and office.

Fifty percent of the respondents say they felt they were most susceptible to catching a cold at work; 43 percent say at a shopping mall, theater or public venue; 42 percent from kids; and 31 percent say on a plane, train or other public transportation.

The online survey was conducted in February with a random sample of 1,017 men and women selected to closely match U.S. population demographics.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Spring Snowstorm Hits Denver Area

DENVER, March 24 (UPI) — Denver commuters struggled with snow, slush and rain Wednesday morning as a spring snowstorm moved out of the area.

The storm, which hit Colorado Tuesday, stranded thousands of travelers, The Denver Post reported.

About 5,000 people spent the night at Denver International Airport because of canceled flights, many of them sleeping on cots provided by the airport. More delays and long lines were expected Wednesday afternoon.

Schools were closed Wednesday in Denver and many surrounding districts. Traffic on roads in the Denver area was light and light rail and buses uncrowded, said Scott Reed, a spokesman for the regional transportation agency.

The National Weather Service up to 16 inches of snow could fall. Late March is usually the time with heaviest snowfalls in Colorado.

Hundreds of miles to the east near Buffalo, N.Y., nearly invisible black ice on the roads was blamed for hundreds of crashes.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported, The Buffalo News said. But several area highways were closed either because of dangerous conditions or multi-vehicle pileups.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Strong Quake, More Aftershocks Rock Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 11 (UPI) — A 7.2-magnitude earthquake and two strong aftershocks rumbled Thursday near Libertador O’Higgins, Chile, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake and aftershocks struck the administrative division just as Chile prepared to inaugurate Sebastian Pinera as president, CNN reported.

The quake’s epicenter was about 83 miles north of Talca, 85 miles south of Valparaiso and 92 miles southwest of Santiago, Chile’s capital, USGS said, and about 22 miles deep.

Aftershocks registering magnitudes of 6 and 6.9 were felt within an hour of the earthquake.

“A destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Carmen Fernandez, head of Chile’s emergency management agency, resigned after being criticized for the way the agency reacted to the massive earthquake last month. Fernandez told President Michelle Bachelet of her decision in a letter Wednesday, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported Thursday.

Lack of coordination between the agency and the Chilean navy led to a failure to warn of the risk of tsunami after the magnitude-8.8 earthquake Feb. 27. The emergency agency also was criticized for taking so long to organize and send aid to the quake victims.

Nearly 500 people are confirmed dead, officials said. Another 2 million people were injured or displaced by the earthquake.

Fernandez was not a political appointee, the newspaper said. President-elect Pinera said hours after the earthquake he intended to ask her to work in his administration.

The Chilean Education Ministry reported Wednesday the earthquake caused about $1.6 billion in damage to public schools. Preliminary estimates for repairing or replacing public hospitals, roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure destroyed or damaged in the earthquake were set at more than $5 billion.

Swiss Reinsurance Co. said the earthquake would cost insurance companies between $4 billion and $7 billion, the Herald Tribune reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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