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Congolese Ebola victim may have entered Rwanda and Uganda: WHO

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 02:58

A fishmonger who died this week of Ebola may have carried the virus from Congo into Rwanda as well as Uganda, the World Health Organization said, as health workers struggled to track down people she could have infected. The woman was one of almost 1,700 victims of the current 11- month outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which the WHO upgraded to an international health emergency on Wednesday and which has so far been effectively confined to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Three people died in Uganda last month.

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Why the Apollo 11 moon landing conspiracy theories have endured despite being debunked numerous times

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 02:03

Or you could believe that the moon landing was all a stunt pulled off by famous director Stanley Kubrick, who created technology that helped it look like man was pioneering space, according to some conspiracy theorists, who said it was really filmed in Area 51 in Nevada. The fact that there were no stars in the background of pictures of the moon landing supports theories, in the minds of some, that it never really happened. Despite all scientific evidence debunking the aforementioned suggestions, various conspiracy theories about the moon landing have lingered for five decades, even before the dark underbelly of the internet became home to so many similarly false ideas.

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Teen with cancer to wed high school sweetheart: 'We wanted to spend as much time together as we could'

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:58

A Pennsylvania teen won't let a rare form of bone cancer stop him from saying "I do" to his high school sweetheart. Brady Hunker says he was "instantly drawn" to Mollie Landman the moment he saw her in seventh grade at their school in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. "Even before Brady's diagnosis, we were always seen as a very different couple because we were always seen as very big Christians and put God first," said Landman, whose father is a pastor.

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One giant leap for womankind: Former NASA engineer reflects on her historic Apollo 11 role

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:56

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the NASA space mission that led to the first men walking on the moon. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins made the historic journey in 1969, with Armstrong becoming the first to set foot on the moon and speaking the now-famous words, "That's one small step for man. Thanks to Judy Sullivan, the first female engineer in NASA's Spacecraft Operations, it was also a big leap for womankind.

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SoftBank's Son Shines a Spotlight on His Vision Fund Proteges

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:46

(Bloomberg) -- Masayoshi Son likes to sketch out a grand vision for the future of artificial intelligence to justify his seemingly scattershot approach to investing. On Thursday, he let his proteges and startups speak for themselves.SoftBank Group Corp.’s $100 billion Vision Fund has 82 companies in its portfolio who delve into areas from satellites and autonomous driving to chips and cancer detection. The founders of Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab, indoor farming startup Plenty, Indian hotel chain OYO Rooms and payments service Paytm took the stage at an annual SoftBank conference to explain how AI helps them stay on top in their respective fields.Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo’s 25-year-old founder, said the company is using data to evaluate properties in under five days, a process that might take traditional hotels months. That allows the startup to add about 90,000 new rooms every 90 days, for a total of 1.1 million. Oyo also uses algorithms to predict what kind of interior design can boost demand -- pictures of Marilyn Monroe help, apparently -- and to adjust prices more than 43,000 times a minute.Grab’s Anthony Tan said the company captures 40 terabytes of data daily through its “superapp,” which has been downloaded 155 million times by customers who use it to call a ride, order lunch and pay for purchases. Crunching those numbers allows Grab to make sure a car can be hailed within three minutes and offer food recommendations. The data can also help reduce congestion in Southeast Asia’s crowded cities, reduce food wastage and improve access to credit.Each of Paytm’s 700 billion mobile payment transactions runs a gauntlet of more than 1,000 checks in a thousandth of a second, to root out fraud, founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said at the event. The rules can be as simple as comparing the phone’s location to that of a merchant receiving payment, and declining those that don’t match. The data could also be used by sellers to determine in real time whether to extend a particular customer credit.Finally, Plenty says its high-tech approach to growing crops indoors results in plants that yield more without pesticides, use a fraction of water of their counterparts in the field and taste better, to boot. Founder Matt Barnard said the company used AI to developed 6.4 billion produce recipes that allow farmers to adapt production within days to take advantage of a sudden shortage of kale or iceberg lettuce.SoftBank’s Vision Fund poured $3 billion into Grab and took part in a $1 billion round for Oyo last year. In 2017, it led a $200 million investment in Plenty. Last year’s event included presentations from machine learning platform Pettum Inc., Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, ZhongAn Insurance and General Motors Co.’s self-driving unit, Cruise.“The crystal ball that tells the future doesn’t exist, but something close to that is being created now,” Son said at SoftBank World in Tokyo. “The AI revolution can make people happier. That’s the opportunity in front of us.”To contact the reporter on this story: Pavel Alpeyev in Tokyo at palpeyev@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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India reschedules launch of its moon mission for Monday

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:38

India's space agency said it will launch a spacecraft to the south pole of the moon on Monday after an aborted effort this week. It said Thursday that an expert committee identified the root cause of the previous technical snag and all corrective actions were now implemented. The mission was called off less than an hour before liftoff of the 640-ton, 14-story rocket launcher on Monday.

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New space station ventures could boost manufacturing, medicine — and marketing

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 00:58

RENTON, Wash. — NASA's plan to expand commercial ventures on the International Space Station is attracting lots of interest — and not just from would-be space tourists, according to the agency official who's keeping track of the proposals. One of the ideas that's most intriguing to Doug Comstock, a NASA deputy chief financial officer who serves as the liaison for commercial activities in low Earth orbit, has to do with growing artificial retinas in zero gravity. "This process just doesn't work in a gravity field," Comstock told GeekWire here today at the Space Frontier Foundation's annual NewSpace conference. Connecticut-based LambdaVision… Read More

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Buzz Aldrin has landed -- for the Apollo 11 anniversary

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 23:40

The suspense had been building for 24 hours: would Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, show up Wednesday night in Huntsville, Alabama -- nicknamed "Rocket City" for the nearby NASA space flight center? Aldrin declined to join him at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the two were supposed to appear together on NASA TV to mark the 50th anniversary of their mission (Neil Armstrong died in 2012).

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Hawaii expands power to block telescope protesters

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 23:02

Thousands of protesters have joined a swelling effort to stop construction of a telescope they have long tried to keep off a mountain considered sacred to some Native Hawaiians, but state officials doubled down Wednesday on their commitment to ensure the project will be completed. After a day of growing crowds and arrests of elderly demonstrators, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation giving law enforcement more options to end the blockade. The state hadn't decided whether to remove protesters from the mountain, but the proclamation makes that an option, Ige said.

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'The Dish' still beaming signals from Australia 50 years after moon walk

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 20:44

It's known as "The Dish" and it soars above a nondescript paddock in rural Australia. Without it, hundreds of millions of people would never have seen all of the generation-defining footage of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon 50 years ago. Back on Earth, it started out as just another day at work for David Cooke, the senior receiver engineer on the radio telescope at the Parkes Observatory in southeast New South Wales state, about 360 km (225 miles) west of Sydney.

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TSMC Counts on New iPhones for Revival After Trade War Hit

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 19:29

(Bloomberg) -- All eyes will be on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s outlook after the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer suffered its worst sales drop in nearly eight years.Analysts expect the company’s third-quarter estimates -- due today after the close of trading -- to point to a revival after it took a hit from slowing demand amid U.S.-China trade tensions. At stake is the stock’s $35 billion rebound in market value since a January low.Apple Inc.’s ramp up of iPhone manufacturing and a new product cycle from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. are seen by Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts to lift sales, which would also be boosted if President Donald Trump loosens trade restrictions on key customer Huawei Technologies Co.TSMC’s Sales May Swing Back to Growth on Huawei Orders: ReactAnalysts have forecast sales in the period to grow 15% from a quarter earlier, according to the average of 22 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company’s shares are up 12% this year, despite being whipsawed as the trade war escalated. They edged 0.6% higher Thursday morning.“The company’s second-half outlook looks to be improving, and third-quarter guidance will probably be strong given that some of the lingering uncertainty has started to fade,” said John Tsai, portfolio manager at Eastspring Investments Ltd. in Singapore. The trade spat between Japan and South Korea may also help TSMC, as Samsung Electronics Co. customers such as Qualcomm Inc. may seek to diversify, he added.TSMC saw sales drop 4.5% year-on-year in the first half, its worst performance since 2011. The company was grappling with the impact of a slowing global smartphone market and efforts by its biggest customer Apple to move beyond hardware. Then the trade war escalated into the U.S. blacklisting Huawei, TSMC’s second-largest customer.Yet its leading position in advanced technology, especially in 5G and artificial intelligence, helped it secure revenue. Chip orders for crypto mining are also expected to help TSMC’s third-quarter sales, according to Morgan Stanley, which recently lifted its target price on the stock by 9%.TSMC investors will also receive a NT$207 billion ($6.7 billion) dividend payout Thursday, according to stock exchange and company statements. The company is aiming for a dividend per share of at least NT$10 to lure value investors, something Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts Robin Cheng and Mike Yang see as possible in 2020. They argue that rising free cash flow justifies a re-rating of the stock.Here are some highlights of 3Q 2019 estimates:Gross margin: 48.3% (19 estimates)Revenue: NT$276.6b (22 estimates)Net income (GAAP): NT$96.04b (20 estimates)Operating profit: NT$103.5b (15 estimates)Timing: release after market July 18(Updates prices.)To contact the reporters on this story: Cindy Wang in Taipei at;Debby Wu in Taipei at dwu278@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sofia Horta e Costa at, David Watkins, Philip GlamannFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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First US murder conviction overturned using DNA, family tree evidence

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 18:46

An American man was exonerated Wednesday for a decades-old murder he did not commit, using evidence based on DNA and a genetic family tree, the first such result using a revolutionary investigative technique. Christopher Tapp, 43, had served 20 of his 30-year sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge. On Wednesday, a court in the state of Idaho completely overturned his conviction based on evidence found with "genetic genealogy" -- the technique used to identify the suspected "Golden State Killer" by making DNA matches with his distant relatives.

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Netflix Plunges After Biggest Stumble Since DVD-by-Mail Era

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 18:20

(Bloomberg) -- Netflix Inc. shocked investors by reporting a drop in U.S. customers and much slower growth overseas, raising fears that the streaming giant is losing momentum just as competitors prepare to pounce.The shares plunged as much as 13% to $314 in late trading after Netflix reported the loss of 130,000 customers in the U.S. -- the result of higher prices and a weak slate of TV shows. It signed up 2.8 million subscribers internationally in the period, roughly half what the company predicted.“Netflix has a difficult road ahead, with looming competition and the removal of popular content,” said EMarketer Inc. analyst Eric Haggstrom. But a stronger lineup of new shows in the current quarter could help attract former subscribers, he said.The quarter represents the biggest black eye for Netflix since 2011, when the company split its DVD-by-mail business from its streaming business. That move raised prices for its customers, and resulted in the loss of more than 800,000 subscribers in the U.S. The company had planned to call the DVD service Qwikster, but it backpedaled on the plan after investors and customers scoffed at the idea.Netflix said the miss is a one-time blip rather than a long-term problem. The second quarter has typically been its weakest time of year: The company missed its forecast during the period in three of the past four years.Netflix looks to add 7 million subscribers in the current quarter, thanks in part to the return of top shows “Stranger Things” and “Orange Is the New Black.”“Our position is excellent,” Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said during a videoconference call Wednesday. “We’re building amazing capacity for content. Our product has never been in better shape.”Heavy SpendingFor now, the second-quarter shortfall is renewing investor concern about the company’s heavy program spending and low profitability. Netflix shelled out more than $3 billion on programming in the quarter and another $600 million to market its shows. The company spent $594 million more than it took in and will need to raise money to fund programming.Investors had been forgiving about the spending and the debt -- so long as customers grew at record rates. But the loss of subscribers in the U.S. was the first since the Qwikster debacle, and it suggests Netflix may be running into price resistance or the limits of the addressable domestic market. The company has forecast it can reach as much as 90 million customers in the U.S., compared with 60.1 million currently.Overseas SlowdownInternational results flagged too, with the company missing its own forecast of 4.7 million new subscribers. Europe, Latin America and Asia have been the primary drivers of Netflix’s customer acquisition in recent years, and growth must be sustained if the company is to justify its high valuation.Netflix is introducing a cheaper, mobile-only package in India to attract customers in a big market with price-sensitive customers.Analysts expect the company to have a blockbuster second half because of a heavy release schedule that includes a new season of “The Crown” and movies by directors Martin Scorsese and Michael Bay. Even after the slowdown last quarter, Netflix still thinks it can have its best year of customer growth in 2019.But competition is coming. Walt Disney Co. and Apple Inc. plan to introduce streaming services this year, while offerings from Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. arrive in 2020. Those services may not steal users from Netflix, but they will make future growth harder, according to Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.Just a Preview?“We saw a preview of next year with this quarter,” Pachter said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Next year, they’ll have a couple quarters where they’ll lose subscribers.”Another challenge: Competitors are taking back rights to programs that have been popular on Netflix, including “Friends” and “The Office,” to use for their own services. That will force Netflix to rely even more on its original productions.Those efforts have largely been successful. Its shows just earned 117 nominations for the 2019 Emmy awards. But reruns of old shows still constitute the majority of viewing.The slowdown in users overshadowed the company’s quarterly financial results. Earnings for the second quarter fell to 60 cents a share, but beat analysts’ estimates of 56 cents. Sales grew 26% to $4.92 billion, compared with projections of $4.93 billion.The stock had been up 35% for the year at the close of regular trading, nearly double the gain of the S&P 500. The decline spread to related stocks such as Roku Inc., which makes set-top boxes that deliver the streaming service. Its shares fell as much as 3.6% after hours.(Updates with CEO’s comment in seventh paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles at lshaw31@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at, Rob GolumFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Trump Expressed Concern About Pentagon Cloud-Computing Contract

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 18:14

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump recently demanded more information about how the Pentagon crafted a massive cloud-computing contract it’s poised to award to Inc. or Microsoft Corp., in order to decide whether he should intervene.The Defense Department is set to give the contract, worth as much as $10 billion over ten years, to one of the two companies next month. Amazon, whose cloud-computing technology leads the market, is seen as the favorite.But Trump recently was made aware of letters Republican members of Congress have written to the White House and military leaders complaining that the contract’s terms froze some companies -- including Oracle Corp. -- out of the competition, according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump expressed frustration he wasn’t aware of the concerns and asked aides to show him the correspondence, the people said.Trump said he’s interested in looking into the circumstances of the bid but didn’t indicate he’ll try to block the contract from being awarded to one of the two finalists, they said.Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who recently wrote to the Pentagon to express concerns about the contract, said in an interview that he discussed it with the president aboard Air Force One last week.“He wanted to understand what the issues were, what our concerns were,” Johnson said in an interview.Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, sent a letter to National Security Adviser John Bolton on Thursday asking him to delay the contract award, saying the bid “suffers from a lack of competition.” Trump and Rubio spoke about the contract by phone the next day, a Rubio spokesman said.A person familiar with the call said that it sounded as if Trump was thinking about canceling the contract.All of the people asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive procurement issue. Spokesmen for the White House and Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.While Trump has leaned on defense contractors to reduce costs on contracts they already hold -- and even to paint new Air Force One planes in his choice of colors -- it may be unprecedented for a president to intervene in a defense contract competition while it’s underway.The cloud-computing program, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI, has been contentious. Legacy tech companies including Oracle and International Business Machines Corp. waged a fierce lobbying and legal campaign against the Pentagon’s plan to award the contract to a single company.“Nothing good can come from President Trump becoming personally involved in an individual procurement, particularly one of this complexity,” said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University. “Historically, the system has operated best with limited -- to no -- high-level political involvement.”Oracle lost a legal challenge last week contesting the terms of the bid and alleging the Pentagon had crafted unfair requirements and that there were conflicts of interest involving Amazon. Republican lawmakers have taken up Oracle’s cause, pressuring the White House to intervene in the Pentagon project.Oracle at one point coordinated with at least seven other companies including Microsoft and SAP America to try to block Amazon from winning the entire contract, Bloomberg News has reported. Amazon has already won a contract with the Central Intelligence Agency.Oracle declined to comment for the story.For More: Inside the Nasty Battle to Stymie Amazon’s Pentagon Cloud BidIn April 2018, Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz dined with Trump at the White House and complained that it seemed designed for Amazon to win, Bloomberg has reported. The final requirements for the contract were released in July of that year.The White House raised concerns about the contract with senior Pentagon leaders while they were still drafting the final requirements for the deal, according to a person familiar with the matter.(Updates with expert comment in 12th paragraph. The spelling of Oracle CEO Safra Catz’s name was corrected in a previous version of the story.)To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at;Naomi Nix in Washington at;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at, Sara FordenFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Tennessee governor tours flooded crops, promises support

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:48

Gov. Bill Lee took an aerial tour of flooded fields in western Tennessee on Wednesday, promising support to distressed farmers who warn they haven't seen such conditions in nearly a century. According to farmers, tough decisions must be made in the next two weeks about whether soybeans, corn and other crops can be planted in order to be viable before the first frost. "I had to see it for myself," Lee told The Associated Press from the helicopter.

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Microsoft Data Shows Hackers Still Targeting U.S. Elections

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:17

(Bloomberg) -- State-backed hackers have attempted to infiltrate targets related to U.S. elections more than 700 times in the past year, furthering concerns about potential meddling in upcoming races, according to a blog posted Wednesday by Microsoft Corp.The hackers responsible are mostly from Russia and North Korea, said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security & trust, in an interview.The company has counted nearly 10,000 hacks globally stemming from state-sponsored attacks in the past year. Of those, 781 have been to democracy-focused organizations, particularly non-governmental organizations and think tanks, and nearly all of those attacks, 95 %, are against U.S.-based organizations.“We have uncovered attacks specifically targeting organizations that are fundamental to democracy,” Burt wrote. “Democracy-focused organizations in the United States should be particularly concerned.”The attacks on democratic institutions are a likely precursor to hacking attempts on campaigns and election systems ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, according to the blog. However, the North Korea-based hackers may be conducting espionage on issues of special interest like nuclear disarmament, rather than seeking to hack elections, Burt said in the interview.While many of the attacks on Microsoft customers weren’t related to elections, the company’s data “demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics and achieve other objectives," Burt wrote.The post comes as presidential campaigns heat up amid concerns that the 2020 election will face some of the same meddling, or worse, that occurred in the last election, when Russia waged a hacking and social media effort to help Donald Trump’s campaign.Election WarningsThe Trump administration has issued warnings that Russia, Iran and China are seeking to manipulate public opinion ahead of the 2020 election. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned early this year that adversaries probably view 2020 as an “opportunity to advance their interests” and may seek to hack election systems. Last week, seven senior U.S. national security officials delivered classified briefings to members of Congress about their efforts to secure 2020.State election officials, meanwhile, are attempting to bolster security in elections systems to thwart attacks.So far at least, there have been no successful breaches of campaigns or election systems related to the 2020 election disclosed by Microsoft or the Trump administration. Microsoft says it stopped attacks against U.S. think-tanks and leading candidates for the U.S. Senate last year, though it didn’t identify the candidates.The more recent hacking attempts disclosed by Microsoft “reflect a pattern that we also observed in the early stages of some previous elections,” Burt said in the blog post. “In this pattern, a spike in attacks on NGOs and think tanks that work closely with candidates and political parties, or work on issues central to their campaigns, serve as a precursor to direct attacks on campaigns and election systems themselves.”Microsoft is one of many companies offering its services to candidates, election officials and non-governmental organizations in the wake of the Russian attacks on the last presidential election. Last August, Microsoft unveiled AccountGuard, a free threat notification service, as part of a broader program called Defending Democracy, which analyzes vast amounts of emails to protect users from phishing attacks and tampering.The company is on the cusp of a pilot project with Columbia University to test its ElectionGuard system in the 2020 elections, a program that would allow voters to track their ballots from the voting booths to tabulation systems on personal devices.(Updates with interview with Microsoft’s Tom Burt.)To contact the reporters on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at;Kartikay Mehrotra in San Francisco at kmehrotra2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at, Andrew MartinFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Are vitamins a waste of money? A new study says yes

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:15

Are you wasting your money on vitamin and mineral supplements? For most people, the answer is yes, according to a new study.

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Skin cancer rates have soared by 45 per cent in a decade as legacy of package holidays hits

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:01

Skin cancer rates have soared by 45 per cent over the course of a decade, with young people also developing the disease, new figures show. Cancer Research UK found rates of melanoma - the most deadly type of skin cancer - rose dramatically between 2004-2006 and 2014-2016, the most recent figures available. The charity said the rise of package holidays in the 1970s and more recent surges in cheap flights for weekends abroad have meant a sharp rise in risks. Rates of melanoma increased by 35 per cent for women and by 55 per cent for men. Overall, the jump was from 18 cases per 100,000 people to 26. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 16,000 diagnoses is annually and 2,285 deaths.  While the condition is most common in those aged over 65, rates for 25 to 49-year-olds have increased by 70 per cent since the 1990s, and it is the second most common type of cancer in this age group.  The rise has been from nine cases per 100,000 people in 1993-1995 to 16 per 100,000 in 2014-2016. Experts said rising rates were also down to increasing awareness of the disease, which has led to more people seeking a diagnosis. Experts believe almost nine in 10 cases could be prevented if people protect their skin with a high factor sun cream. Getting sunburnt just once every two years triples the risk of melanoma. Burning twice in a year triples the risk of skin cancer  Credit: Press Association  Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "While some might think that a tan is a sign of good health, there is no such thing as a healthy tan, it's actually your body trying to protect itself from harmful rays. "These statistics highlight the importance of our Own Your Tone campaign, which encourages people to embrace their natural skin tone and adopt sun-safe behaviours." Karis Betts, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Sun safety is not just for when you're going abroad, the sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September. "It's important that people are protecting themselves properly both at home and further afield when the sun is strong. "We want to encourage people to embrace their natural look and protect their skin from UV damage by seeking shade, covering up and regularly applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and four or five stars." Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said:  “Although cancer survival is at a record high, more people are getting diagnosed with melanoma and nearly half a million people were urgently referred for skin cancer checks in the last year, so it’s vital that people take every precaution possible to protect their skin, particularly in the summer months, by wearing sunscreen and spending time in the shade.” “Getting cancer diagnosed as soon as possible is vital to people’s chances of surviving, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out ways to catch it earlier including through genomic testing and the rollout of rapid diagnostic services.”

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Soaring obesity rates fuel doubling in the number of organs which cannot be transplanted

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:01

NHS transplants are declining because soaring obesity rates have fuelled a doubling in the number of unusable organs in the last decade, a stark report shows.  Official statistics reveal that for every 10 donors, there was one fewer transplantable organ than last year.  In total, 849 organs - more than one in six of those retrieved - were rejected because they were clinically unsuitable in 2018/19, because donors were too overweight, old or suffering from medical problems. The figure is almost double the 460 such cases in 2009/10.   Health officials warned that rates of obesity among deceased donors rose from 24 per cent to 29 per cent in less than a decade.  Experts said the disclosures reflected a tragic worsening of Britain’s lifestyles, with many of those willing to donate organs after their death unaware their weight problem could make this impossible.  Britain has the highest rates of obesity in Western Europe, with rates rising even more quickly than those of the  United States.  Obesity is on the rise in the UK The report from NHS Blood and Transplant also show an increasing reliance on older donors, whose organs are less likely to be suitable, with 15 per cent of donors aged 70 and over - a rise from eight per cent in 2008/9. The total number of transplants fell to 3,951, down from 4,038 in 2017/18 - the first drop for five years. Meanwhile, the number of eligible donors saw the first significant fall in a decade, with 5,815 cases, down from 6,038 the previous year. Despite the fact the number of donors reached a record high, with 1,600 such cases, up from 1,574 in a year, the worsening quality of organs meant the number of transplantable organs slumped.  The number of lung or heart and lung transplants fell by a fifth in a year, with just 344 carried out in 2017/18, while 646 people were on the transplant list.   Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the figures reflected a spiralling health crisis in Britain.  He said: "There may well be many thousands of people wishing to donate their organs on death who are oblivious to the fact that their obesity renders that impossible.  “Most people think of fat as being visible but it's the invisible viscous fat that envelopes and crushes vital internal organs that does the damage and renders transplant improbable.  “The greater tragedy is that, as morbid obesity increases, so, too will successful donorship reduce.” Organs retrieved but not transplanted, 2009 to 2019 In total there were 5,147 usable organs, down from 5,260 the year before. This equates to around 27 organs for every 10 donors, down from 28 in 2017/18 .  It comes as England and Scotland prepare to follow Wales in introducing a system of presumed consent, requiring those who do not wish to donate to opt out. The changes, to be introduced next spring, aim to boost rates of organ donation, and encourage more public debate about the issue.  The report warns that the rising proportion of older and obese donors, who are more likely to suffer from medical problems which affect their organ quality  is likely to be affecting the numbers of successful transplants.  It warns: “All of these changes may have an adverse impact on the quality and utilisation of the organs, and the subsequent transplant outcome for the recipient.”  Prof John Forsythe, NHSBT medical director of organ donation and transplant, said: “Every potential donor is very precious to us. But what we are seeing reflects the changing demographics of the population”. “It isn’t surprising that someone with obesity is more likely to have heart disease, which would affect heart transplants. But it has an impact on other organs too - so if the liver is affected by obesity fat is laid around it and it becomes more vulnerable to the process of transplantation; bigger and more fragile. Similarly the capacity of the pancreas is affected if fat is laid around it.” “In addition, when you have got older or obese donors, there is a higher risk of other conditions - for example diabetes.”

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Obesity should be classed as a disease to remove the stigma it is 'self-inflicted' medics say

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:30

Obesity should be classed as a disease to remove the stigma that it is "self-inflicted" and encourage those with weight problems to get help, medics have said.  Writing in the BMJ, they said that up to 70 per cent of weight variability was inherited, with 200 genes linked to it. And they said the rise in obesity was due to “an altered environment” which meant cheap food was readily available.  Latest figures show that 29 per cent of adults in England are obese. John Wilding, professor of medicine at the institute of ageing and chronic disease at the University of Liverpool, and Vicki Mooney, executive director of the European Coalition for People living with Obesity, said: “Body weight, fat distribution, and risk of complications are strongly influenced by biology - it is not an individual's fault if they develop obesity." “The recent rapid increase in obesity is not due to genetics but to an altered environment (food availability and cost, physical environment, and social factors).  “Strong links exist with social deprivation; some environments are more obesogenic than others, but again we should not blame individuals. Despite these facts, the prevalent view is that obesity is self inflicted and that it is entirely the individual’s responsibility to do something about it. The pair pointed out that the World Health Organisation has classed obesity as a disease since 1936. Prof Wilding is president elect of the World Obesity Federation, while Ms Mooney runs Ireland’s only plus size modelling agency.  "The Oxford Dictionary defines disease as 'a disorder of structure or function ... especially one that produces specific symptoms ... and is not simply a direct result of physical injury” their comment piece says.  "Obesity, in which excess body fat has accumulated to such an extent that health may be adversely affected, meets that definition. Obesity is on the rise in the UK They argued that recognising obesity as a chronic disease rather than a lifestyle choice "should help reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by many people with obesity" and encourage more people to seek NHS treatment.  In contrast, Dr Richard Pile, a GP from St Albans, said the Oxford Dictionary definition of disease "is so vague that we can classify almost anything as a disease". Also writing in the BMJ, he said such attitudes would encourage “fatalism” and stop people being motivated to lose weight  "It suggests health professionals will slap themselves on the forehead in a eureka moment, shouting: 'This changes everything.' "Labelling obesity as a disease risks reducing autonomy, disempowering and robbing people of the intrinsic motivation that is such an important enabler of change. RISE IN UK OBESITY LEVELS SINCE 1991 "It encourages fatalism, promoting the fallacy that genetics are destiny,” he added.  Dr Pile said making obesity a disease may not benefit patients, "but it will benefit healthcare providers and the pharmaceutical industry". The debate follows calls from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in January for the Government and the NHS to recognise obesity as a disease. The RCP said it wanted to see obesity recognised as an ongoing chronic disease to allow the creation of formal healthcare policies to improve care both in doctors' surgeries and hospitals.

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