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California Firm Reports Progress on Blood Tests to Detect Cancer

A California company says its experimental blood test was able to detect many types of cancer at an early stage and gave very few false alarms in a study that included people with and without the disease.

Many companies are trying to develop early detection “liquid biopsy” tests that capture bits of DNA that cancer cells shed into blood.

Grail’s new results are from 2,300 people. The test detected 55% of known cancers and gave false alarms for 1%. It also accurately suggested where the cancer may be about 90% of the time.

The company gave results in news release Friday and will report them Saturday at a conference in Chicago. They have not been published or reviewed by other scientists.

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Silicon Valley & Technology
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Study: Kids Who Play Violent Video Games May Be More Likely to Handle Guns

Children who either played or watched a video game that included gun violence were more likely afterward to handle a gun and pull the trigger, a new study finds.

More than 200 children were randomly assigned to play either a non-violent video game or a game with firearm violence. Soon after, more than 60% of kids who played the violent game touched a gun, compared to about 44% of those who played a non-violent game, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

The lessons from the new findings are that: “gun owners should secure their guns,” and “parents should protect their children from violent media, including video games,” said study coauthor Brad Bushman, a professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“Each day in the United States, nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot with a firearm, often as a result of a child finding one loaded and unsecured,” Bushman and his coauthor Justin Chang, a former graduate student at Ohio State, wrote.

“Among firearm-owning households with children, approximately 20% keep at least one firearm loaded and unsecured.”

Bushman and Chang recruited 242 kids, ages 8 to 12, to look at the impact of violent video games. The children were partnered up and then randomly assigned to one of three groups: a version of Minecraft that included violence with guns, a version that included violence with swords and a non-violent version. No matter which game a pair of children was assigned to, one would play the game and the other would watch.

After playing the games for 20 minutes, the children were moved to another room that contained toys for them to play with as well as two disabled guns with trigger counters that had been tucked away in a cabinet.

Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study.

Among the 76 children who played video games that included guns, 61.8% handled the weapon, as compared 56.8% of the 74 who played a game including sword violence and 44.3% of the 70 who played a non-violent game.

Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found.

How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched.

It was a median of “10.1 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with guns, 3.6 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with swords and 3.0 times if they played the version of Minecraft without weapons and monsters,” Bushman said in an email.

“The more important outcome, though, is pulling the trigger of a gun while pointing that gun at oneself or one’s partner [children were tested in pairs],” Bushman said. There, the median was 3.4 times for the game with gun violence, 1.5 times for the game with swords and 0.2 times for non-violent games.

The new study “is the most rigorous design that can be conducted,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

While “it’s important to recognize certain types of entertainment can be violent, when it comes to firearms, the solution is to store guns safely so that children can’t gain access,” Crifasi said. “That doesn’t mean children won’t engage in other violent play. But we can cut off guns as a source of potential harm.”

Dr. Shari Platt agreed that the best way to protect kids is proper gun storage.

“The study is interesting and I think they are touching on some very real fears parents have around graphically violent video games,” said Platt, chief of pediatric medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine. But in the end, “education and prevention are always the answers.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2EHXw4w and http://bit.ly/2EJslpC JAMA Network Open, online May 31, 2019.

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Arts & Entertainment
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Muslim Americans Run for Charity During Ramadan Fast

During the month of Ramada, millions of U.S. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This year, Ramadan has fallen in May. Already temperatures in Washington, D.C., have risen above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit.) Running while fasting on hot days can be challenging and ill-advised. Still about 70 fasting Muslims took part in a fundraising run to help raise $100,000 for children with special needs. VOA’s Niala Mohammad has more.

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Arts & Entertainment
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National Spelling Bee Crowns 8 Co-Champions

Eight contestants won the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night, the first eight-way tie in the 94-year history of the competition.

The six boys and two girls ages 12 to 14 and from six states, Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“We’re throwing the dictionary at you, and, so far, you are showing the dictionary who’s the boss,” the bee’s pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, told the remaining eight after 18 rounds of competition.

They were: Rishik Gandhasri (auslaut), Erin Howard (erysipelas), Abhijay Kodali (palama), Shruthika Padhy (aiguillette), Rohan Raja (odylic), Christopher Serrao (cernuous), Sohum Sukhatankar (pendeloque), and Saketh Sundar (bougainvillea).

The self-dubbed “octo-champs” spelled words that included aiguillette, bougainvillea, erysipelas, and pendeloque.

Each winner will receive $50,000 in cash and a trophy.

This year’s tournament at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland began with 562 contestants from across the United States, its territories and six other countries.

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Science & Health
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Chinese Scientists Find CO2 Better for Fracking than Water

Chinese scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide is more efficient to use in fracking than water.

Fracking is the controversial process in which water or other fluids are injected into underground rocks at high pressure to release oil and natural gas deposits. 

U.S. environmentalists have denounced the process because of the huge amounts of water needed, the contamination of underground water supplies, and small earthquakes it triggers.

In a new report in the journal Joule, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China University of Petroleum discovered that using CO2 instead of water resulted in as much as 20 times more oil.

​”These real-world results revealed that as compared to water fracturing, CO2 fracturing is an important and greener alternative,” especially in arid areas where the water has to be trucked in, the report says.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. 

The scientists say the CO2 used in fracking would stay underground and not be released into the atmosphere.

The scientists say further research is needed as well as the winning over of cooperation from the industry.

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Arts & Entertainment
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Claus von Bulow, Cleared in Attempted Murder of Wife, Dies

Danish-born socialite Claus von Bulow, who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife in two trials that drew intense international attention in the 1980s, has died. He was 92.

Von Bulow, who moved to London after he was cleared, died at his home there on Saturday, his son-in-law, Riccardo Pavoncelli, told The New York Times.

The tall, aristocratic von Bulow was charged with putting his wife, Martha “Sunny” von Bulow, into an irreversible coma to gain her fortune so he could live with his mistress, a raven-haired soap opera actress. He was convicted of attempted murder in 1982 at a trial in Newport, Rhode Island, that was widely followed with its high society overtones about possible attempted murder by insulin injection.

The conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted at his second trial in 1985.

The case split his family: Sunny von Bulow’s two children from her first marriage to an Austrian prince accused their stepfather of attempted murder, while the couple’s daughter maintained her father was innocent. That loyalty nearly cost her millions — she was for several years excluded from her wealthy grandmother’s will because of her belief in her father’s innocence.

The jury in the first case endorsed the prosecution claim that Sunny von Bulow’s coma was caused by insulin injections administered surreptitiously by her husband Claus, but the second jury did not reach the same conclusion.

Sunny von Bulow died in 2008, nearly 28 years after she became comatose.

Claus von Bulow, who was portrayed by Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons in a film about the attempted murder case, always maintained his innocence. He did not testify at his criminal trials, but did deny wrongdoing under oath in a civil case brought by his stepchildren.

He rarely spoke about the case, in part because an eventual financial settlement reached with his stepchildren required him to keep mum.

“If I give an interview, it will be a $5 million interview,” he told The Associated Press in 2012, referring to a fine he said he might face if he discussed the matter with the press.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who represented von Bulow and kept in touch with him for decades, said he scrupulously avoided the spotlight.

“He lived a good happy life following his acquittal, because he decided to remain in private. I advised him once we won the case to disappear from public view. He, unlike O.J. Simpson, accepted my advice,” Dershowitz said on Thursday.

Before the settlement agreement silenced him, von Bulow described the case as a disaster for all concerned. “This was a tragedy and it satisfied all of Aristotle’s definitions of tragedy,” he told members of the Harvard Law School during a 1986 talk. “Everyone is wounded, some fatally.”

When he was found not guilty at the second trial, von Bulow announced plans to permanently leave the United States for Europe. He also expressed an interest in staying out of the public eye.

“I want to be forgotten and live peacefully,” he said.

Dershowitz said he lived a “simple and humble life in a very small apartment,” enjoying the company of his daughter and grandchildren and attending the opera and theater.

The trial had shed light on the lives of the super-rich during an era when Ronald Reagan was president and TV shows such as “Dallas” and “Dynasty” were extremely popular.

The von Bulows had a grand Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City to go along with Clarendon Court, their oceanside mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, which had been the setting for the 1956 musical “High Society” starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Sunny Von Bulow — who in her youth resembled Kelly, according to many friends — was the source of the wealth. She was the heiress to a substantial fortune, with her mother’s net worth estimated at $100 million. In the trials she was portrayed as an unhappy woman, although some friends, including the writer Dominick Dunne, challenged this perception as inaccurate and unfair.

The prosecution said Claus von Bulow on two occasions injected his wife with insulin in an attempt to aggravate her hypoglycemia and kill her. They said he could not face the financial consequences of a divorce that would cut him off from her millions.

Prosecutors said he did not come to her aid after she was stricken, refusing to call a doctor, even though the family maid, Maria Schrallhammer, begged him to summon medical help. Her testimony about his cold-hearted behavior prompted the famous tabloid headline: “Maid: Claus was a Louse.”

At the first trial, actress Alexandra Isles, known for her role in “Dark Shadows,” gave damning testimony that she had told von Bulow she would end their love affair, if he did not leave Sunny. That helped convince the jury that von Bulow had a motive for trying to kill his wife.

The 1982 guilty verdict in the first trail was overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court two years later in a decision that helped establish the national reputation of Dershowitz, who managed the successful appeal. 

That led to a second trial, held in nearby Providence.

Dershowitz on Thursday recalled that the appeal he argued was the first time any appeal was covered on television. 

“It was the first really highly publicized case in the new age of widespread media coverage,” Dershowitz said. “It was a prelude in many ways to the O.J. Simpson case, but it was a decade earlier.”

Claus von Bulow used a different legal team that was better able to challenge the medical testimony linking Sunny’s coma to insulin injections, and the acquittal marked the end of von Bulow’s criminal exposure. That still left him vulnerable to a substantial civil case brought by his stepchildren, who believed he was directly responsible for their mother’s vegetative state. They sued him for $56 million in July 1985, just one month after his acquittal.

A settlement was reached two years later in which von Bulow agreed to drop all claims to his wife’s fortune, to divorce her, and to refrain from discussing the case or profiting from it.

The divorce meant that he would no longer be legally in charge of Sunny’s medical care — which gave his stepchildren some solace.

In exchange, his daughter Cosima — who had been excluded from her grandmother’s will because she sided with her father in the dispute — had her lucrative position in the will restored. Von Bulow said at the time that he was pleased with the result because he had been seeking financial parity for Cosima.

The next major development in the drama was the “Reversal of Fortune” film that saw Irons win an Academy Award for his devastating portrayal of von Bulow. Glenn Close played Sunny in the film, which portrayed appeals lawyer Dershowitz (author of the book it was based on) in a heroic light.

Dershowitz said von Bulow liked the book, but disliked the movie because it left as an open question whether he was guilty or innocent, while the book came down definitively on von Bulow’s side.

Von Bulow was born Claus Cecil Borberg in 1926 in Copenhagen. During World War II, after the Nazi occupation of Denmark, Claus was moved to England and was brought up by his mother and maternal grandfather, Frits Bulow, a former justice minister in Denmark.

Claus adopted the Bulow name and was said to have added the “von” when he was a young adult.

He graduated in law from Trinity College, Cambridge, and worked in the legal field for some years before he became a personal assistant to oil baron J. Paul Getty.

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Science & Health
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CDC: US Reports Most Measles Cases in 25 Years

Government health officials say there have been 971 cases of measles in the United States so far this year, the most cases since 1994, when there were 963 cases for the entire year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday if current outbreaks in and around New York City continue into the fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eliminated measles.

“That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health,” a CDC statement said.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and the CDC says one of the primary reasons is the availability and widespread use of a safe and effective vaccine.

Fighting anti-vaccine propaganda

The CDC, World Health Organization, and other experts are fighting propaganda from parents and anti-vaccine activists who refuse to inoculate their children, insisting the vaccine is dangerous.

“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism. The greater danger is the disease that vaccination prevents,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated.”

Before vaccine, 4 million cases

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine was considered perfected, the CDC says as many as 4 million Americans got the disease every year and up to 500 victims died.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

Along with the refusal of some people to vaccinate their children, the CDC says the current nationwide outbreak is linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with their own large outbreaks, including Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

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