Interview with Reggie Bibbs on his life with neurofibromatosis

Friday, December 14, 2007

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic condition causing benign tumors (neurofibromas) to grow along certain types of nerves and, in addition, it can affect the development of bones or skin. There are several variants of the disease but type 1 and type 2 NF account for the vast majority of cases.

The disease manifestations can vary from very mild to severe. Major symptoms include growths on and under the skin; skin pigmentations called café au lait spots in type 1; acoustic nerve tumors and consequent hearing loss in type 2. Growths can affect nearly all parts of the body, and pressure on nearby structures can cause a wide variety of complications. There is a small risk that the tumors transform into malignant cancerous lesions.

NF is one of the most common single-gene human diseases; around 1 in 2,500-4,000 live births are affected by NF-1, whereas NF-2 occurs in about 1 in 50,000-120,000. Both type 1 and 2 are autosomal dominant conditions, meaning that only one copy of the mutated gene need be inherited to pass the disorder. A child of a parent with neurofibromatosis and an unaffected parent will have a 50% chance of inheriting the disorder. The gene responsible for NF-1 and possibly NF-2 is thought to function as a tumor suppressor gene.

In most cases of neurofibromatosis 1, patients can live normal and productive lives. In about 25-40% of patients there is an associated learning disability with or without ADHD. In some cases of neurofibromatosis 2, the damage to nearby vital structures, such as the cranial nerves and the brainstem, can be life-threatening. When tumors are causing pain or disfiguration, surgery is thus far the only proven beneficial treatment option.

Reggie Bibbs is a 43-year-old-man living in Houston, Texas. Mr Bibbs was born with a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis (NF), which causes him to develop tumors on his body (see infobox on the right). NF can be a subtle disease, but in Bibbs’ case it has left him with a disfigured face and deformed leg. But he is happy with the way he looks, and doesn’t want to change his appearance to please other people. He has launched a successful campaign entitled “Just Ask”, and that’s just what Wikinews did in a video-interview.

The interview was prepared by Wikinews reporter Michaël Laurent with the help of Bertalan Meskó (who has a popular genetics and web 2.0 blog). Their questions were sent to a close friend of Mr. Bibbs, Lou Congelio, who kindly conducted the interview.

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World stocks plunge on fears on US recession

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stock prices dropped sharply in Europe and Asia Monday, with fears of economic problems in the United States causing some of the biggest single-day losses in recent years.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 5.5 percent – its biggest fall since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Losses of between three and seven percent were recorded in India, China, Britain, France, Germany and Canada.

While there are many factors linking national economies, analysts blame recent losses on fears of a recession in the United States.

The United States is the main export market for many overseas businesses. Foreign investors also have bought large stakes in U.S. companies.

When American home loan companies began reporting large numbers of defaulting loans in late 2007, the losses spread to other financial institutions, tightening credit markets and sparking worries about Americans’ high levels of debt.

Last week, President Bush proposed a $145 billion stimulus plan to encourage more consumer spending. But analysts say the measure may not be able to prevent a recession – defined as a broad decline in a nation’s economy over a period of at least six months.

U.S. markets are closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday, but stock futures trading indicates further losses are expected when markets reopen Tuesday.

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Romania announces 18 percent increase in tourists in 2004

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bucharest, Romania — 6.6 million tourists visited Romania in 2004, marking an 18% increase over 2003, announced the National Authority for Tourism (ANT). This was one of the highest rates of tourism growth in Europe. However, it remains slightly below the number of Romanians who spent their holidays in other countries throughout 2004 – a figure of 6.9 million.

Carmen Moraru, the promotion and marketing director at ANT said that many tourists came as part of holiday packages or tours, organised around the regions of Maramure?, Transylvania, Moldova, the Prahova Valley and the Danube Delta.

In 2005, the number of tourist arrivals is set to rise further, mainly due to a Romanian promotion campaign launched across Europe. The country’s tourist revival is mainly due to its diversity – it is home to Europe’s largest delta, the Black Sea Coast with its resorts, the Carpathian Mountains with their skiing and winter activities, Transylvania with its ecotourism, agritourism and beautiful landscapes, as well as the medieval history of cities like Sibiu and Sighi?oara.

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Chula Vista, California becomes model for blight control laws in the US

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The San Diego, California suburb of Chula Vista has responded to the recent housing crisis with an aggressive blight control ordinance that compels lenders to maintain the appearance of vacant homes. As foreclosures increase both locally and throughout the United States, the one year old ordinance has become a model for other cities overwhelmed by the problem of abandoned homes that decay into neighborhood eyesores.

Chula Vista city code enforcement manager Doug Leeper told the San Diego Union Tribune that over 300 jurisdictions have contacted his office during the past year with inquiries about the city’s tough local ordinance. Coral Springs, Florida, and California towns Stockton, Santee, Riverside County, and Murietta have all modeled recently enacted anti-blight measures after Chula Vista’s. On Wednesday, 8 October, the Escondido City Council also voted to tighten local measures making lenders more accountable for maintenance of empty homes.

Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.

Under the Chula Vista ordinance lenders become legally responsible for upkeep as soon as a notice of mortgage default gets filed on a vacant dwelling, before actual ownership of the dwelling returns to the lender. Leeper regards that as “the cutting-edge part of our ordinance”. Chula Vista also requires prompt registration of vacant homes and applies stiff fines as high as US$1000 per day for failure to maintain a property. Since foreclosed properties are subject to frequent resale between mortgage brokers, city officials enforce the fines by sending notices to every name on title documents and placing a lien on the property, which prevents further resale until outstanding fines have been paid. In the year since the ordinance went into effect the city has applied $850,000 in fines and penalties, of which it has collected $200,000 to date. The city has collected an additional $77,000 in registration fees on vacant homes.

Jolie Houston, an attorney in San Jose, believes “Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.” Traditionally, local governments have resorted to addressing blight problems on abandoned properties with public funds, mowing overgrown lawns and performing other vital functions, then seeking repayment afterward. Chula Vista has moved that responsibility to an upfront obligation upon lenders.

That kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.

As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States during recent years, Chula Vista saw 22.6% growth between 2000 and 2006, which brought the city’s population from 173,556 in the 2000 census to an estimated 212,756, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chula Vista placed among the nation’s 20 fastest growing cities in 2004. A large proportion of local homes were purchased during the recent housing boom using creative financing options that purchasers did not understand were beyond their means. Average home prices in San Diego County declined by 25% in the last year, which is the steepest drop on record. Many homeowners in the region currently owe more than their homes are worth and confront rising balloon payment mortgages that they had expected to afford by refinancing new equity that either vanished or never materialized. In August 2008, Chula Vista’s eastern 91913 zip code had the highest home mortgage default rate in the county with 154 filings and 94 foreclosures, an increase of 154% over one year previously. Regionally, the county saw 1,979 foreclosures in August.

Professionals from the real estate and mortgage industries object to Chula Vista’s response to the crisis for the additional burdens it places on their struggling finances. Said San Diego real estate agent Marc Carpenter, “that kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.” Yet city councils in many communities have been under pressure to do something about increasing numbers of vacant properties. Concentrations of abandoned and neglected homes can attract vandals who hasten the decline of struggling neighborhoods. Jolie Houston explained that city officials “can’t fix the lending problem, but they can try to prevent neighborhoods from becoming blighted.”

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CEO Robert Klein of Safeguard, a property management firm, told the Union Tribune that his industry is having difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing local ordinances. “Every day we discover a new ordinance coming out of somewhere”, he complained. Dustin Hobbs, a spokesman from the California Association of Mortgage Bankers agreed that uneven local ordinances are likely to increase the costs of lending. Hobbs advised that local legislation is unnecessary due to California State Senate Bill 1137, which was recently approved to address blight. Yet according to Houston, the statewide measure falls short because it fails to address upkeep needs during the months between the time when foreclosure begins and when the lender takes title.

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Copiapó, Chile mining accident: in depth

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The rescue of the Chilean miners trapped in the San José Mine in Copiapó, codenamed Operación San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Operation), began on Tuesday night, at around 20:00 local time (23:00 UTC).

Florencio Ávalos was the first miner to be rescued, at 00:12 local time (03:12 UTC) on Wednesday. He was wearing a shirt signed by all his fellow miners. “The first miner is already with us. We saw it all, him hugging his wife Monica and his son Byron,” said President Piñera shortly after the first rescue. “We still have a long journey.”

“This will be recorded on every single Chilean heart forever,” Piñera added. “I hope the miners’ hope stay with us, just like the [February] earthquake victims’ [hope] and what the earthquake took off. We know that the disasters unite us all.”

All the 33 miners were rescued. The last miner, Luis Urzúa, was rescued at 21:55 Chile time (00:55 UTC). “It is a pleasure to be Chilean, [I’m] proud,” said Luis Urzúa to President Piñera. “In honour of the miners, their families, the rescuers […] let’s sing our national anthem. Viva Chile Mierda!,” said Piñera. Urzúa thanked Mining Minister Golborne and the First Lady Cecilia Morel for “fighting for their lives.” “I’m proud of my fellow miners,” Urzúa added.

Six rescuers, including a miner and a paramedic, descended to the miners’ shelter using the Fénix 3 capsule which was specially constructed for the rescue. They performed check-ups and talk with the miners before taking them back to the surface. The rescuers still don’t leave the mine.

The Fénix 3 capsules are 3.95 metres in height and weigh about 460 kilograms. They have an armour, an oxygen tube and a microphone. The occupants helmets contain an intercom to keep them in contact with the rescue team on the surface.

President of Chile Piñera assisted to the rescue. Bolivian President Evo Morales could not attend Carlos Mamani’s rescue. Mamani is the only Bolivian miner in the group.

A mass for the miners was conducted at 18:00 local time (21:00 UTC). The rescue takes between 15 and 20 minutes for each miner.

On Tuesday, Mayor of Copiapó Maglio Cicardini announced that the municipal schools in the city will have no classes this Wednesday “to transform the rescue of the Atacama’s 33 in a familiar meeting,” Radio Cooperativa reported.

“The miners will be taken to the Copiapó Regional Hospital for medical checkup, where they will have to stay for 48 hours,” Health Minister Mañalich said to Televisión Nacional de Chile.

Celebrations are taking place in several Chilean cities. In Santiago de Chile, people gathered in one of the most important points of the city, Plaza Italia. In Pichilemu, tens of cars are passing over its most important streets. In Copiapó, people gathered in its main square to assist a massive concert.

On August 5, 33 miners were trapped more than 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground, in the San José copper–gold mine, located about 40 kilometers north of Copiapó, Chile.

The youngest trapped miner is 19 years old, and the oldest is 63. There were several rescue attempts before reaching the miners’ shelter on August 22. The National Emergencies Office of Chile (ONEMI) released a list of the trapped miners on August 6, which included Franklin Lobos Ramírez, a retired footballer.

Chile is the worlds top producer of copper, according to The Economist. The San José Mine is owned by the San Esteban Mining Company (Empresa Minera San Esteban). The mine was closed down in 2007, after relatives of a miner who had died sued the company executives, but the mine was re–opened in 2008.

It was originally estimated that “it would take three to four months to complete the rescue of the trapped miners”. There were three plans to reach the miners: “Plan A” using a Strata 950 drill, “Plan B” using a Schramm T130XD drill, and “Plan C” using a RIG-422 drill. The first to reach the miners was “Plan B”, early on Saturday 9.

The last step of their rescue, announced by Health Minister Jaime Mañalich, was originally due to begin on Tuesday. Laurence Golborne, Minery Minister said “If it is possible, and the cement sets before and we don’t have any impediments to doing it, it would be wonderful,” in a press conference on Monday. The men will be extracted in a steel rescue capsule 54 cm (21 inches) in diameter.

On September 4, Chilean filmmaker Rodrigo Ortúzar announced plans to film a movie about the accident, called “Los 33” (“The 33”). The film will be released in 2011.

One miner is Bolivian, and the other 32 are Chilean.

Raúl Bustos, 40 years old, is an hydraulics engineer. He left his job in Talcahuano after the February 27 earthquake to work in the mine.

Daniel Herrera, 27 years old, is a lorry driver. He has acted as paramedic assistant in the mine. He said to La Tercera “the miners were unhappy with the psychologist in the rescue team.”

Claudio Acuña, miner, is fan of the Colo-Colo football club. The BBC reports he is aged 56, but El Comercio says he is 44.

Pedro Cortez is aged 24. He joined the mine with his friend Carlos Bugueño. Cortez is an electrician, and lost a finger in the mine a year ago.

File:Juan Aguilar with President Piñera.jpg

A native of Los Lagos, Juan Aguilar is 49 years old. Aguilar is married to Cristy Coronado, according to El Comercio. Aguilar works as a supervisor.

Mario Sepúlveda is a 39 years old electrician native of Parral; he is married. He has been the spokesman of the most of the miners’ videos. Mario Sepúlveda was the second miner to be rescued, on Wednesday at 01:10 local time (04:10 UTC).

Víctor Zamora is a 33 years old auto mechanic. Zamora is married to Jéssica Cortez, who confirmed she was pregnant while he was in the mine.

Osman Araya is 30 years old, and married. He began working as miner four months before the accident.

Florencio Ávalos is 31 years old. He is the brother of Renán Ávalos, who is also trapped in the mine. He worked as driver in San José. Ávalos filmed videos, sent later to his relatives.

Ávalos was the first miner to be rescued, on Wednesday at 00:10 local time (03:10 UTC).

Jorge Galleguillos, 56 years old, has worked all his life in the mine. He said in one video he was feeling unwell; he takes medication for hypertension.

Carlos Barrios is a 27 years old miner. His father, Antenor Barrios, told Agence France-Presse: “I find he’s very strong and has enthusiasm. He spoke loud and clear. I was excited.”

Franklin Lobos Ramírez is a 53 years old retired footballer. He played for Cobresal, Deportes Antofagasta, Club de Deportes Santiago Wanderers and Unión La Calera, and briefly for the Chile national football team. Lobos had worked as a truck driver in the mine.

Yonni Barrios, called “The Doctor”, is a 50 years old electrician. He has knowledge of first aid, and was given responsibility for monitoring the health of his colleagues. “I felt I was in hell,” Barrios said in a letter to his wife.

Carlos Bugueño, 27 years old, joined the mine with Pedro Cortez. Previously, he worked as a watchman.

Alex Vega Salazar is a 31 years old heavy machinery mechanic. He is married to Jessica Salgado, and celebrated his birthday in the mine on September 22.

Ariel Ticona is a 29 years old miner. His wife, Margarita gave birth to his daughter on September 14. She was named Esperanza (Hope), at Ticona’s request.

Richard Villarroel is a 27 years old mechanic from Coyhaique.

Edison Peña is a 34 years old miner. “I want to go out soon,” he said on his first contact with his relatives. “I want to be free, I want to see the sun,” he added. He is a fan of Elvis Presley.

Claudio Yáñez is 34 years old, and works as drill operator.

José Ojeda, 46 years old, is the master driller. Ojeda is widowed and diabetic.

Luis Urzúa is a 54 year old topographer. He is the shift-leader, and was the first miner to talk with authorities. He is known as Don Lucho among the miners. He draw plans of the area of the mine where they are trapped.

Urzúa will be the last miner to leave the mine.

José Henríquez is a 54 years old drill master. He is also an evangelical preacher, and has worked in mines for 33 years.

Víctor Segovia is a 48 years old electrician. He is in charge of writing down everything that happens in the mine.

Pablo Rojas is a 45 years old explosives loader. Married, he had been working less than six months in the mine.

Juan Illanes is a 51 year old miner. He was a sergeant in the Beagle border conflict between Chile and Argentina in 1978, the incident which almost provoked a war between the countries.

Illanes was rescued on Wednesday, at 02:07 local time (05:07 UTC).

Jimmy Sánchez, 19, is the youngest miner. He had been working in the mine for five months before the accident. His role is to check the temperature and humidity in the mine.

Samuel Ávalos is a 43 years miner. His wife Ruth said “he was addicted to the cocaine.” His role in the rescue is to check air quality in the area the miners are living. According to the BBC, “Ávalos has worked in the mine for five months.”

Mario Gómez, aged 63, is the oldest of the miners. He has worked 51 years as miner. His father was also a miner, and is nicknamed “El Navegao” (“The Sailed One”). He was thinking of retiring in November.

Gómez also wrote the message “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” (“We are fine in the shelter the 33 [of us]”).

Segovia is 48 years old. He is married to Jessica Chille, who said “To hear his voice was a confort to my heart,” after talking with him for the first time in 24 days. His sister María, was nicknamed “La Alcaldesa” (“The Mayoress”) for her leading role at Campamento Esperanza. His father, Darío Senior, was trapped in a mine for a week, and suffered serious injuries after two other mining accidents, according to the BBC.

Carlos Mamani is a 23 years old heavy equipment operator. He is also the only non-Chilean miner; Mamani is Bolivian. He began working in the mine just five days before the accident.

He was rescued at 03:11 local time (06:11 UTC) on Wednesday.

Renán Ávalos is a 29 years old miner, single, who had been working for five months in the mine before the accident. Florencio Ávalos is his brother.

Omar Reygadas is a 56 year old electrician. He began working in the mine shortly before the accident.

Esteban Rojas is a 44 years old miner. Rojas is married to Jessica Yáñez.

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Proton rocket fails during launch of JCSAT-11 satellite

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Proton rocket which was intended to launch the JCSAT-11 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit lifted off and successfully completed its first stage burn, but the second stage failed leading to loss of the rocket and satellite.

The launch vehicle was a Proton M booster with a Breeze M upper stage. More than 300 Proton rockets have been launched, all from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following the launch failure, Kazakhstan suspended the launch of Proton rockets from Baikonur, Interfax news agency reported.

JSAT Corporation immediately placed an order with Lockheed Martin, the satellite manufacturer, for an identical replacement satellite based on the A2100AX design.

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Explosion in Turkey kills seventeen

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Reuters, AFP, the Associated Press are reporting that a gas explosion in a Turkish school killed at least seventeen girls Friday.

Reuters reports the initial death toll at sixteen, with 27 injured. The number of deaths later rose to 17 when a body was removed from the rubble. Two survivors were pulled from the rubble as rescuers worked into the night. One girl is still missing.

“We won’t stop until we find her,” village mayor Mehmet Demirgul, told the Associated Press.

About fifty students and teachers were in the school, where some had gathered on for Islamic study in the three-story structure in the village of Balcilar, near Taskent in the Konya province .

Merve Avci, a 13-year-old, slightly injured student spoke to the Anatolian news agency: “I was in the part of the building which didn’t collapse with five of my friends immediately after the explosion, and we felt flames rising from the downstairs to upper floors.”

Anatolian says that Avci was in the process of washing before pre-dawn prayers, when a noise in the building’s kitchen led Avci and some teacher to investigate. She says she saw a loose gas pipe before being ordered back to her room. She says she smelled gas coming from somewhere above her room before the explosion.

“We think the collapse was caused by a gas canister explosion in the building, given the burns on the injured,” Konya province health service official Galip Sef told Reuters.

Mayor Demirgul said a leak in a pipe carrying liquefied petroleum gas is the probable cause of the pre-dawn blast.

“We are hearing voices. I believe those inside the rubble will be saved,” Demirgul told reporters, according to the Associated Press and Reuters.

The Associated Press reports that a small portion of all three stories of the building were left standing. This is confirmed by images displayed on the Reuters website.

The building is owned by a religion foundation and is under investigation when Turkish authorities found an non-approved annex to the structure, according to AFP.

The explosion is unrelated to the bomb blast in northern Turkey on July 28.

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NASA mission to map the boundary of solar system

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to map the boundary between the solar system and interstellar space will be launched on a Pegasus XL rocket today. The two year mission, costing US$165 million, will study the region in space where the solar wind from the sun suddenly slows down as it reaches the thin, cold gas of interstellar space. This region, called the heliospheric boundary of the solar system, helps to deflect most of the potentially life-threatening forms of radiation coming from elsewhere in our galaxy.

IBEX will ride Pegasus to around 200 kilometres from earth, before boosting itself into its final earth orbit 322,000 kilometres away. The probe will capture energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), which are formed when positive ions in the solar wind hit neutral atoms of interstellar material and rip out electrons from them. IBEX-Lo and -Hi detectors will collect data on the ENAs to create a three-dimensional map of the heliosphere.

The heliospheric boundary was first probed by Voyager 1 in 2004 and later by Voyager 2 in 2007. The data from the two missions indicated several indentations on the heliospheric boundary. It is hoped that IBEX studies may reveal the cause of these indentations.

Recent observations indicate the solar wind pressure has weakened by 25 percent over the past decade and is presently at its weakest level in 50 years. Ibex studies could help confirm whether and why the heliosphere is shrinking. Scientists postulate that if the heliosphere continues to weaken, the amount of cosmic radiation reaching the inner parts of our solar system, including earth will increase. This could trigger growing levels of disruption to electrical equipment, damage satellites and possibly harm life on earth.

“Around 90 per cent of the galactic cosmic radiation is deflected by our heliosphere, so the boundary protects us from this harsh galactic environment,” said Nathan Schwadron, co-investigator on the IBEX mission at Boston University. “IBEX gives us a chance to look at how our Solar System’s bubble fits in as a tiny piece of the entire Galaxy,” claimed David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and IBEX’s principal investigator.

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Indian banks propose to use gold deposits as CRR/SLR

Monday, June 30, 2014

State Bank of India (SBI) and Bank of Baroda (BoB), two of the largest public sector banks of India, proposed on Saturday their gold deposits should be allowed to count toward their state-mandated cash reserve ratio (CRR) or statutory liquidity ratio (SLR).

Arundhati Bhattacharya, the chairperson of SBI, made the proposal at a Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council event held in Mumbai on Saturday. She said the need for gold deposits to become more liquid has increased because gold import is putting a strain on the country’s current account deficit. S. S. Mundra, Chairperson and managing director of BoB, agreed and said it would help bringing gold into the more productive sectors of the economy.

Bhattacharya added SBI has no longer any incentive to run its gold deposit scheme as it cannot fully deploy the assets, noting SBI is the party most involved with gold deposits in India. G. S. Sandhu, Union financial services secretary, also at the event, responded that the government is looking for ways to monetize the gold held by the public, as import of gold can strain the current account deficit and foreign exchange reserves.

Currently, the Reserve Bank of India has set the CRR at 4% and the SLR at 22.5%. SLR is the portion of deposits that must be invested in recognized safe securities and assets.

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