Ford has reported lower-than-expected profits for Q1 2015 after it sold fewer vehicles in North America and continued to lose money in Europe and South America.
Pre-tax profit for Q1 2015 rose $24 million to $1.4 billion, but revenue slipped $2 billion to $33.9 billion.
The carmaker sold 1.57 million vehicles, down 21,000 compared with a year earlier.
There were 678,000 sales in North America – a fall of 39,000.
The introduction of a new F-150 pickup affected sales in North America as vehicles are still being sent to dealers, while customers waited for a new model of the Ford Edge SUV. The two models are among the company’s most profitable.
However, Ford said it expected a “very strong year” in North America, despite a slight fall in revenue to $20 billion and an 11% slide in pre-tax profit to $1.34 billion.
Ford – which employs about 194,000 people globally at 66 plants – maintained its full-year forecast for pre-tax profits of between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion.
Ford CFO Bob Shanks said the carmaker was on track for a “breakthrough year”.
CEO Mark Fields also said Ford would “grow progressively stronger” as recent launches “start to pay off”.
The results were lower than analysts had expected, Ford said, because they had forecast a tax rate of 29% for the quarter, while the company paid 34%.
Europe remained a weak spot even though sales rose 2% to 376,000 vehicles in the quarter, with revenue down $900 million to $6.9 billion and pre-tax losses totaling $185 million.
There was robust demand for commercial vehicles such as the Transit van.
Revenue in South America fell 20% and the carmaker remained in the red for the region with a $189 million loss as it replaced legacy products with those from its “One Ford” range.
That was better than the $510 million loss for the period in 2014, which included a $310 million charge to offset currency devaluation in Venezuela.
Prospects in Asia were brighter, as sales rose 16,000 to 366,000 vehicles and a $103 million profits.
The financing operation, Ford Credit, returned a profit of $483 million on the back of higher lending.
Ford Q1 dividend was raised by 20% to 15 cents a share.
Ford has launched e-bikes at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), as part of its plans to extend its footprint beyond cars.
Increasingly car manufacturers are looking to new ways to make money with many developing so-called smart transportation systems.
Ford’s electric bicycles come in two versions – one for use by commuters, MoDe:Me, and one as a commercial bike for couriers, MoDe:Pro.
Both are linked to a smartphone app that provides step-by-step navigation.
The experiment with e-bikes is part of Ford’s smart mobility plan – it is keen to study how such bicycles integrate with cars and public transport.
“There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together,” said Ken Washington, vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.
“Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.”
Traffic problems and overly long commutes have been proved to have a significant economic and social impact on cities. According to the European Commission, congestion within the EU costs about 100 billion euros each year.
Both Ford’s e-bikes are equipped with a 200-watt motor with a 9-amp-hour battery that provides electric pedal assistance for speeds of up to 15mph. Both can also be folded.
Rear-facing sensors offer riders an alert system that warns the cyclist when a vehicle is overtaking by vibrating both handlebars. Sensors also alert motorists to the presence of the e-bike by lighting up the handlebars.
An app – currently only available on the iPhone 6 – provides step-by-step navigation – it plans an entire route for commuters, from driving to a train station to taking a train and completing a journey via an e-bike. It also offers information about the routes – so if a train service in cancelled it may offer an alternative method of transport.
It also provides navigation for riders, via a Bluetooth headset that uses haptic touch technology to notify the rider of whether to turn left or right.
Ford profits dropped in Q3 2014, largely due to the cost of developing its new F-150 pickup truck.
Net profit for the period was $835 million, down by a third from a year earlier. Revenue was up slightly at $35.8 billion.
Ford said it invested “heavily” in new products and closed its Dearborn truck plant for five weeks to replace machinery to make the F-150.
The new truck is scheduled to go on sale later this year.
Ford profits dropped in Q3 2014, largely due to the cost of developing its new F-150 pickup truck
“During the third quarter, we continued to introduce an unprecedented number of new vehicles and invest heavily in the new products and technologies that will deliver strong profitable growth beginning next year,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields.
The carmaker had warned that profits this year would be under pressure from new model launches, including the new Mustang, and the cost of building new plants in Asia.
In the first nine months of this year, Ford made a net profit of $3.1 billion.
For 2015, Ford forecasts “significantly higher” profits of between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion, excluding one-off items.
The American carmakers reported strong sales figures for May 2014.
Chrysler said sales were up 17%, driven by its Jeep brand which saw sales jump 58% after it introduced new models.
GM reported a 12.6% rise in sales compared with the same period last year.
Ford posted a better-than-expected 3% increase in sales, helped by increasing demand for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) as well as its Fusion sedan.
The carmaker saw its truck sales drop 4% as it cut back on incentives in preparation for the launch of its new F-150 pick-up truck, which is the best-selling vehicle in North America.
The American carmakers reported strong sales figures for May 2014
Ford also said it was shutting down some truck plants for a total of 13 weeks in an effort to plan for the launch and manage inventory of the new truck, which features a lighter body for better fuel mileage.
May is traditionally a strong month for car sales in the US.
This May in particular was helped by an extra weekend, which saw particularly strong sales.
GM shares rose more than 3% on the news, before falling later in the day.
The company appears not to be suffering from a mishandled recall, which resulted in a $35 million fine for the company last month.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Board (NHTSA) said it was the single highest civil penalty ever levied as a result of a recall investigation.
Foreign car makers also saw strong US sales, with Japanese car makers Toyota and Nissan reporting double-digit sales increases.
Of the major car manufacturers, only Volkswagen saw its sales fall.
Demand for Volkswagen vehicles slumped 15%, partially as a result of a pause before the launch of a new Golf compact car.
Carmaker Ford shares have fallen 3.9% in early Wall Street trading on the rising cost of fixing its European business.
Ford cautioned that 2013 losses in Europe would be $2 billion, greater than its previous $1.5 billion estimate.
The stock market reacted negatively, despite Ford reporting profits for the last three months of 2012 that beat expectations thanks to strong US sales.
Earnings after tax for the quarter were $1.6 billion, with underlying profits up 55% from the same period in 2011.
Revenues rose 5% overall, driven by a 13% rise in North America.
Ford boasted that its North American unit had enjoyed its most profitable fourth quarter and year since it first began recording the region’s performance in 2000.
The contrasting fortunes of the number two US carmaker on either side of the Atlantic reflect the broader market trends. While total US car sales hit a post-financial-crisis high last year, 2012 sales in Europe fell more than 8% from the previous year.
Ford shares have fallen 3.9 percent in early Wall Street trading on the rising cost of fixing its European business
Ford, like many rivals, is in the process of downsizing its European business to reflect the shrinking market, with resulting losses due to redundancy payments and the write-off of the value of factories and other assets it owns in the region.
The company said these costs were turning out to be more than expected, thanks to the strength of the euro and the higher valuation of employee pension claims. It has also marginally cut its forecast for total European sales in 2013.
To add to the firm’s woes on the continent, chief financial officer Bob Shanks admitted to investors that the delayed launch of the new Mondeo in Europe would cost Ford several hundred million dollars in missed revenues.
Considered the most prestigious event of its kind, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (“a competition of elegance”) is the conclusion of a week long festival of classic cars events in the Monterey area, California.
This year, a Mercedes-Benz built in 1928 won Best of Show, Baroness von Krieger’s 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K was sold for $11.77 million, while a 1968 Ford GT40, sold for $11 million, set a new record as the most expensive American car ever sold at auction.
On the third Sunday of each August (August 19, 2012) the most refined cars in the world are displayed on the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.
Around 200 of the most prized collector cars and motorcycles are presented on the best finishing hole in golf, the famed eighteenth fairway at Pebble Beach.
Bugatti, Daimler, Delage, Duesenberg, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Rolls-Royce, are represented, along with Alfa-Romeo, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Chrysler, Cord, Isotta-Fraschini, Lancia, Maserati, Stutz and Talbot-Lago.
The 62nd edition of Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance included fifteen Cars of the Maharajas, twelve marques (brands) of Mercer (road and race cars, including Mercer Raceabout) and eight marques of Fiat (Grand Prix racers, coachbuilt prewar classics, and small postwar cars, with variants on the original Fiat 500). Special classes presented eleven cars designed by Jacques Saoutchik (Bugatti, Delahaye and Pegaso), nine roadsters Shelby Cobra, designed by Carroll Shelby in collaboration with AC Motors, ten American Sport Customs (1930s–1950s), German Motorcycles (BMW, DKW, NSU, Zündapp, including an 1885 Daimler Reitwagen, the world’s first actual motorcycle).
The maharajas (great kings) of India and South Asia bought hundreds of expensive cars (Rolls-Royce, Daimler, Hispano-Suiza, Maybach, Bugatti, Duesenberg, Minerva) during the last century. Lots of those cars were custom built for hunting or display. Over 800 Rolls-Royces were shipped to India between 1900 and 1950. Seven of them, built between 1924 and 1937, were displayed. One of them still belongs to the Maharaja of Udaipur, another (the “Star of India” of 1935) to the grandson of the maharaja who first bought it. The Maharajas Collection also includes a 1930 Bentley, a 1930 Delage, a 1935 Duesenberg, a 1925 and a 1935 Hispano-Suiza, a 1930 Mercedes-Benz 27/140/200 Type SS, and two “swan”-shaped vehicles comissioned by the Maharaja of Nabha in 1910 and 1919. The 1910 Brooke motor car, brought from the Louwman Museum in The Hague, was commissioned by Scotsman Robert Nicholl Matthewson, who lived in India in the early 1900s. It is modeled after a swan, and it is equipped with eyes that light up, a beak that opens, closes and sprays steam, and an eight-tone horn.
The three best cars in twenty categories (plus one for German motorcycles) are awarded and one of them is chosen “Best of Show”, with two runners-up.
Buggati has won “Best of Show” nine times since the beginning of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It is followed by Duesenberg and Mercedes-Benz, each of them with six victories. Rolls-Royce had five victories; and Daimler, Delage, Jaguar and Packard, three each.
1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo, entered by Paul and Judy Andrews of White Settlement, Texas, won Best Of Show at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2012.
Mercedes-Benz acquired its seventh victory with the 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Saoutchik Torpedo entered by Paul and Judy Andrews of White Settlement, Texas. The car is one of seven Torpedo bodies designed by Jacques Saoutchik for the Mercedes-Benz 680S chassis and is powered by a 6.8-liter supercharged engine (somewhere between 200 and 300 horsepower). This low-windshield appeared at the New York Auto Show in 1928, was sold to Frederick Henry Bedford and spent 30 years in storage before receiving a total restoration.
During Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, classic-car auctions are held by Gooding and Canadian RM Auctions at the nearby equestrian center.
An auction world record was set last year, when a 1957 Ferrari Testarossa was sold for $16.4 million.
Gisela von Krieger’s silver-striped black 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster, although expected to break the record, was sold for $11.77 million at Gooding’s auction, while a 1968 Ford GT40, sold for $11 million (RM Auctions), set a new record as the most expensive American car ever sold at auction.
The 1968 Ford GT40 is an extremely rare racer (one of only two surviving) and it was used as a camera car by Steve McQueen for his film “Le Mans” (1971).
1968 Ford GT40 made a record as the most expensive American car sold at auction, at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2012.
Considered the automotive equivalent of a coveted Picasso painting and known as the Von Krieger’s Special Roadster, the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K had only two owners, Gisela and, after her death, Lee Herrington.
This rare car is one of 26 540K Special Roadsters, and was built on special order before World War II. Baroness Gisela Josephine von Krieger was considered one of the ten most fashionable women in the world. She made the car her own, although the car was bought by aristocratic von Krieger family for the use of her brother, Henning. When the war started, Gisela refused orders from the Third Reich to return home from France and sent the car to Switzerland. After the end of the war, Gisela lived in Manhattan, but kept the car at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich area, even after when she moved back in early 1960s to Switzerland. At her death in 1989, the car was valued $2.5 million. The vehicle was discovered untouched, with pink lipstick-stained cigarette butts in the ashtray, vintage roadmaps of New York and Connecticut in the door pockets and a woman’s driving glove in the glove box. The radiant black-and-chrome roadster with an interior of saddle leather and wood veneer is one of perhaps a dozen left in the world, and represents the height of prewar German automotive engineering.
Gisela von Krieger’s 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster, although expected to break the sale record, was sold for $11.77 million at Gooding's auction. Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2012
Mercedes-Benz wants to preserve classic cars and to encourage collectors, it has a Classic Center which offers customers hard to find parts.
During the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the annual Mercedes-Benz gala dinner honored car collector Arturo Keller with its coveted Star Driver Award.
The White House issued an angry denial following claims that First Lady Michelle Obama indulged in a $50,000 shopping spree at Agent Provocateur’s boutique in Madison Avenue in New York.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, Agent Provocateur’s boutique in Madison Avenue was partially closed off for Michelle Obama.
Kristina Schake, director of communications for First Lady Michelle Obama said this morning: “This story is 100 per cent false.”
The Telegraph claimed: “Michelle Obama has risked the wrath of cash-strapped Americans by indulging in a $50,000 shopping spree at Agent Provocateur…
“Along with the Queen of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah, she closed off part of Madison Avenue to spend time in the luxury lingerie shop.”
The article also said that Michelle Obama’s alleged spree had sparked the 12% boost in sales recently released by the British label.
But while the chain’s profits are certainly on the rise, it was quick to point out that this is not thanks to Michelle Obama.
A spokesman for Agent Provocateur said: “Recent claims regarding Michelle Obama and purchases made at an Agent Provocateur boutique are incorrect.
“Agent Provocateur never discusses any of its clientele or their purchases.”
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph today, Agent Provocateur's boutique in Madison Avenue was partially closed off for Michelle Obama
Indeed, it goes without saying that Michelle Obama’s lingerie-purchasing habits are most likely not something she would be prepared to share with anyone but the President himself.
It seems Agent Provocateur is doing fine without her help though. In the last 43 weeks, the company reported trading has been up 12.5% on a like-for-like basis and 21.6% overall.
Over the Christmas period overall business also shot up more than 15%.
Agent Provocateur CEO Gary Hogarth told the Telegraph that the label had garnered several “unexpected famous names” in the U.S. as of late.
Beyonce Knowles and Christina Aguilera have been seen at its stores in recent months, presumably purchasing unmentionables which can run to as much as $1,990 for a single French lace nightie.
Michelle Obama has come under fire from critics of late, who have taken issue with her taste for expensive designer labels and lavish parties.
A new book by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, “The Obamas”, fuelled widespread criticism when it emerged that she had hosted a high-octane Alice in Wonderland Halloween party in 2009, a time when the country was in the midst of a recession.
The expensive wardrobe Michelle Obama packed for their $4 million Hawaii Christmas break, including a $2,000 dress and $1,000 skirt, also sparked a reaction.
One comment on the Naked DC site read: “She claims to be a champion of the poor and a fellow bargain shopper, but yet, here she is, sporting a dress that no unemployed American can afford.
“For someone who says she understands the troubles of the American people, who claims to shop at Target, she certainly fails to show it.”
Michelle Obama’s striking cobalt blue Barbara Tfank dress, worn for last week’s State of the Union address, is believed to be worth approximately $2,000.
While winning over the style set with the eye-catching look, some questioned whether her choice was appropriate, given that she was seated next to Jackie Bray, a single mother from North Carolina who put herself through community college to boost her career prospects after getting laid off from her job.
Agent Provocateur, founded by the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, Joseph Corré, and his then-wife, Serena Rees, in 1994, was bought out by private equity firm 3i in 2007 for a reported $108.5 million.
With Sarah Shotton as creative director, the designs certainly are not for the faint-hearted. The current collection is inspired by her collection of vintage Playboy magazines.
The company’s expansion in the U.S. – where sales have outpaced the UK – is already underway.
According to Business Week, Agent Provocateur has annual sales of $40million, with a budgeted increase of nine per cent same-store sales this year in the U.S.
By summer, the label plans to have 11 retailers in the U.S. and is aiming to expand from 54 to 100 total stores worldwide in the next three years.
Researchers studying mice at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California have converted skin cells directly into cells which develop into the main components of the brain.
The experiment, which was reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, skipped the middle “stem cell” stage in the process.
The researchers said they were “thrilled” at the potential medical uses.
Far more tests are needed before the technique could be used on human skin.
Stem cells, which can become any other specialist type of cell from brain to bone, are thought to have huge promise in a range of treatments. Many trials are taking place, such as in stroke patients or specific forms of blindness.
One of the big questions for the field is where to get the cells from. There are ethical concerns around embryonic stem cells and patients would need to take immunosuppressant drugs as any stem cell tissue would not match their own.
An alternative method has been to take skin cells and reprogram them into “induced” stem cells. These could be made from a patient’s own cells and then turned into the cell type required, however, the process results in cancer-causing genes being activated.
The research group is looking at another option – converting a person’s own skin cells into specialist cells, without creating “induced” stem cells. It has already transformed skin cells directly into neurons.
This study created “neural precursor” cells, which can develop into three types of brain cell: neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.
These precursor cells have the advantage that, once created, they can be grown in a laboratory into very large numbers. This could be critical if the cells were to be used in any therapy.
Brain cells and skin cells contain the same genetic information, however, the genetic code is interpreted differently in each. This is controlled by “transcription factors”.
The researchers used a virus to infect skin cells with three transcription factors known to be at high levels in neural precursor cells.
After three weeks about one in 10 of the cells became neural precursor cells.
Lead researcher Prof. Marius Wernig said: “We are thrilled about the prospects for potential medical use of these cells.
“We’ve shown the cells can integrate into a mouse brain and produce a missing protein important for the conduction of electrical signal by the neurons.
“More work needs to be done to generate similar cells from human skin cells and assess their safety and efficacy.”
Dr. Deepak Srivastava, who has researched converting cells into heart muscle, said the study: “Opens the door to consider new ways to regenerate damaged neurons using cells surrounding the area of injury.”
Sundance Film Festival 2012 took place from Thursday, January 19 to Sunday, January 29 in Park City, Utah.
The 28th edition of the festival presented about 118 independent films from 30 countries, including 45 first-timers (24 in competition) and 91 world premieres. Featured in four different competition categories were 58 individual films.
Parker Posey was the host of the closing awards ceremony.
“Every year the Sundance Film Festival brings to light exciting new direction and fresh voices in independent film, and this year is no different. While these awards further distinguish those that have had the most impact on audiences and our jury, the level of talent showcased across the board at the Festival was really impressive, and all are to be congratulated and thanked for sharing their work with us,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival director.
The film also received a prize for excellence in cinematography, US dramatic.
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of two persons (a father and his daughter) who are trying to deal with the effects of global warming. Hushpuppy is 6 years old and lives in the vicinity of the Mississippi delta with her father. The film is directed Benh Zeitlin, 29, first-time filmmaker and features a cast of non-actors. Quvenzhane Wallis (Hushpuppy), 8, who was 6 when she started to shot the movie, is for Benh Zeitlin “the biggest person” he knows.
The movie is described by Damon Wise (The Guardian) as “the first significant eco-threat movie to be seen through the eyes of the generation that has inherited global warming.”
“I hope with this movie there is a flag that goes up to allow directors to explore the world,” said Benh Zeitlin.
Beasts of the Southern Wild won Grand jury prize for drama at the Sundance Film Festival 2012.
The Surrogate won drama audience award and best ensemble at Sundance Film Festival 2012.
The film is based on the autobiographical writings of Mark O’Brien, journalist and poet and presents a man, 38, half paralyzed from poliomyelitis (John Hawkes) who wants to have a relation with his therapist (Oscar-winning Helen Hunt).
John Hawkes has health problems because his spine’s curvature was affected. He said he needed a help of a chiropractor to diminish the damages he caused to his back.
“I’ve been doing yoga for like 25 years, but my spine doesn’t have enough movement in one direction and the opposite direction has way too much movement. (My chiropractor) doesn’t know how to fix it other than I might wear a brace for a while,” he said.
Fox Searchlight bought Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Surrogate and the films are expected to be launched in the US theaters this year.
The House I Live In documentary won Grand jury prize at Sundance Film Festival 2012.
The documentary exposes the failure of US war against drugs. Film director, Eugene Jarecki, said the authorities’ effort to stop the drug trade was “tragically immoral and so heartbreakingly wrong and misguided“. That war was “a terrible scar on America,” said Eugene Jarecki, because of unfair drug penalties affecting minorities.
The Invisible War by Kirby Dick won documentary audience award.
Both documentaries are the mirrors of the “dark and grim” times, as characterized by Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance Film Festival 2012 Full List of Winners
Grand jury prize, documentary: The House I Live In
Grand jury prize, drama: Beasts of the Southern Wild
US directing award: The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield
US directing award: Middle of Nowhere, Ava Duvernay
Waldo Salt screenwriting award: Safety Not Guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow
Audience award, US documentary: The Invisible War
Audience award, US dramatic: The Surrogate
Special jury prizes, US documentary: Love Free or Die and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
US dramatic special jury prize for producing: Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling, Smashed and Nobody Walks
US dramatic special jury prize for Ensemble Acting: The Surrogate
Shorts audience award: The Debutante Hunters
Excellence in cinematography, US documentary: Chasing Ice
Excellence in cinematography, US dramatic: Beasts of the Southern Wild
US documentary editing award: Detropia
Best of next award: Sleepwalk With Me
Alfred P Sloan feature film prize: Robot and Frank and Valley of Saints
World cinema jury special prize, Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
World cinema documentary editing: Indie Game: The Movie, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky
World cinema jury prize,documentary: The Law in These Parts, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, director
World cinema dramatic special jury prize: Can, Rasit Celikezer, director
World cinema cinematography award, drama: David Raedeker, My Brother the Devil
World cinema cinematography award, documentary: Lars Skree, Putin’s Kiss
World cinema directing award, documentary: Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras
Shorts audience award: The Debutante Hunters, Maria White, director
World cinema audience award: Searching for Sugar Man
Sundance Film Festival has begun in Salt Lake City in 1978 as an effort to attract independent filmmakers.
A research team found that some bacteria can evade efforts to vaccinate against them by wearing a new disguise.
The study, published in Nature Genetics, tracked how pneumococcus bacteria responded to the introduction of a vaccine in the US in 2000.
Specialists said the evasion would make some vaccines less successful in the long term.
An updated pneumococcus vaccine is already in use.
A research team found that some bacteria can evade efforts to vaccinate against them by wearing a new disguise
Vaccines train the immune system to attack something unique to an infection. In the case of tetanus, it results in the body making antibodies which target the toxin produced.
Dr. Rory Bowden, one of the researchers from the University of Oxford, said: “There are plenty of vaccines out there that look stable and continue to work because they target bacteria or viruses that are not changing.”
Pneumococcus bacteria, however, comes in more than 90 varieties or serotypes. Each variety looks different to the immune system so would each need separate vaccines.
Infection can result in pneumonia and meningitis. Across the globe, more than 800,000 children under five die as a result each year.
A vaccine against more than 90 types would not be possible, but in 2000 the US authorities began immunizing against seven of the most common varieties.
Cases rapidly dropped. By 2007, there was a sustained 76% drop in cases of septicemia, pneumonia and meningitis in children under five.
However, some bacteria managed to change their outer coat – known as capsule switching – to avoid the immune response.
They did it by collecting pieces of DNA from other pneumococcus bacteria which had died.
By analyzing bacterial genes, the researchers identified five cases of capsule switching. They said one of the new strains, called P1, “quickly became established spreading from east to west across the United States”. It had “becomes one of the most prevalent” varieties by 2007, the report said.
An updated vaccine which protects against 13 types has since been introduced. Dr. Rory Bowden said the “holy grail” would be a universal vaccine which would target something common to all types of pneumococcus.
Prof. Derrick Crook, from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Understanding what makes a vaccine successful and what can cause it to fail is important.
“Our work suggests that current strategies for developing new vaccines are largely effective but may not have long term effects that are as successful as hoped.”
Dr. Bernard Beall, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added: “The current vaccine strategy of targeting predominant pneumococcal serotypes is extremely effective, however our observations indicate that the organism will continue to adapt to this strategy with some measurable success.”
The Wellcome Trust’s Dr Michael Dunn said: “New technologies allow us to rapidly sequence disease-causing organisms and see how they evolve. This will provide useful lessons for vaccine implementation strategies.”
A new study review says that measuring blood pressure in both arms should be routine because the difference between left and right arm could indicate underlying health problems.
The Lancet research found that a large difference could mean an increased risk of vascular disease and death.
Although existing guidelines state that blood pressure should be measured in both arms, it is not often done.
A heart charity said it was too early to judge the findings.
The arm with the higher pressure can vary between individuals, but it is the difference between arms that counts, the study suggests.
Dr. Christopher Clark and colleagues, from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter, UK, reviewed 28 previous study papers looking at this area.
Most people in the study had an elevated blood pressure risk and about one-third had a normal level of risk.
A new study review says that measuring blood pressure in both arms should be routine because the difference between left and right arm could indicate underlying health problems
The study concluded that a difference in systolic blood pressure of 10 mm of mercury (mm Hg) between arms could identify patients at high risk of asymptomatic peripheral vascular disease.
A difference of 15mm Hg would also indicate an increased risk of cerebrovascular disease, a 70% increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and 60% increased risk of death from all causes, the authors said.
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet. There are often no symptoms.
The UK vascular check programme for over 40s which includes a test for hypertension, advises that blood pressure measurements be taken in both arms.
“But surveys have shown that the average GP doesn’t do it,” said Dr. Christopher Clark.
Early detection of PVD is important because these patients could then benefit from stopping smoking, lowering their blood pressure or being offered statin therapy.
Dr. Christopher Clark said the findings supported the need for blood pressure checks in both arms to be the norm.
Writing in The Lancet, Prof. Richard J. McManus, department of primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford and Prof. Jonathan Mant, from the department of public health and primary care at the University of Cambridge, said the review supports existing guidelines.
“Further research is needed to clarify whether substantial differences between arms should prompt aggressive management of cardiovascular risk factors.
“Ascertainment of differences should become part of routine care, as opposed to a guideline recommendation that is mostly ignored.”
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said measuring blood pressure on both arms to assess vascular disease is, theoretically, a quick and simple task.
“But it’s too early to say whether this idea could become part of standard healthcare practice and so we need more research to confirm the findings.”
Prof. Bryan Williams, from the Blood Pressure Association and the University of Leicester, said the study reinforced the message already in the guidelines from health watchdog NICE.
Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December.
The moving St. Louis event brought tears to the eyes of Army Major Rich Radford.
“It’s not necessarily overdue, it’s just the right thing,” said Rich Radford, a Army veteran who served 23 years in the force and walked in the parade alongside his 8-year-old daughter, Aimee, and 12-year-old son, Warren.
Rich Radford was among about 600 veterans, many dressed in camouflage, who walked along downtown streets lined with rows of people clapping and holding signs with messages including “Welcome Home” and “Thanks to our Service Men and Women”.
Fire trucks with aerial ladders hoisted huge American flags in three different places along the route, with politicians, marching bands – even the Budweiser Clydesdales – joining in.
The large crowd was clearly there to salute men and women in the military, and people cheered wildly as groups of veterans walked by.
That was the hope of organizers Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum.
Neither man has served in the military but came up with the idea after noticing there had been little fanfare for returning Iraq War veterans aside from gatherings at airports and military bases. No ticker-tape parades or large public celebrations.
Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December
Tom Appelbaum, an attorney, and Craig Schneider, a school district technical coordinator, decided something needed to be done.
So they sought donations, launched a Facebook page, met with the mayor and mapped a route. The grassroots effort resulted in a huge turnout despite raising only about $35,000 and limited marketing.
Veterans came from around the country, and more than 100 entries – including marching bands, motorcycle groups and military units – signed up ahead of the event, Tom Appelbaum said.
Craig Schneider said he was amazed how everyone, from city officials to military organizations to the media, embraced the parade.
“It was an idea that nobody said no to,” Craig Schneider said.
“America was ready for this.”
All that effort by her hometown was especially touching for Gayla Gibson, a 38-year-old Air Force master sergeant who said she spent four months in Iraq – seeing “amputations, broken bones, severe burns from IEDs” – as a medical technician in 2003.
“I think it’s great when people come out to support those who gave their lives and put their lives on the line for this country,” Gayla Gibson said.
With 91,000 troops still fighting in Afghanistan, many Iraq veterans could be redeployed – suggesting to some that it’s premature to celebrate their homecoming.
In New York, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said there would be no city parade for Iraq War veterans in the foreseeable future because of objections voiced by military officials.
In St. Louis, there was clearly a mood to thank the troops with something big, even among those opposed to the war.
“Most of us were not in favor of the war in Iraq, but the soldiers who fought did the right thing and we support them,” said 72-year-old Susan Cunningham, who attended the parade.
“I’m glad the war is over and I’m glad they’re home.”
Several veterans of the Vietnam War turned out to show support for the younger troops.
Among them was Don Jackson, 63, of Edwardsville, Illionis, who said he was thrilled to see the parade honoring Iraq War veterans like his son, Kevin, who joined him at the parade.
Kevin Jackson, 33, an Air Force staff sergeant said he’d lost track of how many times he had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a flying mechanic.
“I hope this snowballs,” Kevin Jackson said of the parade. “I hope it goes all across the country. I only wish my friends who I served with were here to see this.”
Looking at all the people around him in camouflage, 29-year-old veteran Matt Wood said he felt honored. He served a year in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard.
“It’s extremely humbling, it’s amazing, to be part of something like this with all of these people who served their country with such honor,” Matt Wood said.
European scientists are developing a system to protect Earth from the giant asteroids which travel around the Milky Way.
The NEOShield project is run out of Berlin with funds from the EU.
The project, which will look for a way to protect Earth from the space rocks, is expected to take three years to complete.
Some of the ideas being tossed around at the moment include repelling asteroids with projectiles or explosives or using gravity to change its course.
NEOShield project though is a little late as a chunk of rock 400 times the City of London is set to hurtle closer than a rock of its size has in a very long time.
The asteroid labelled “(433) Eros” measures 19 by 8 by 8 miles and is set to pass by next week.
Despite its massive size, the cosmic rock shouldn’t be too cause too much of a threat as it is on a circular path far outside the moon’s orbit.
A smaller bus-sized asteroid passed extremely close to Earth yesterday.
European scientists are developing a system to protect Earth from the giant asteroids which travel around the Milky Way
With NASA estimating that there are almost one thousand asteroids over one kilometre in length and 19,500 over 100-metres, scientists at the Institute of Planetary Research are trying to find a way to protect Earth.
With an investment of some €4 million ($5.2 million) by the European Commission and an extra €1.8 million ($2.3 million) coming from scientific institutions and partners, the German Aerospace Center aims to have a plan for a test mission drafted within three years.
After that, if they can find the extra cash, the mission may be launched by 2020.
The scientists will be looking at a host of ideas, many of which have already been proposed.
For one, there’s the “kinetic impactor” plan where a massive projectile would deflect the asteroid.
Another is the “gravity tractor” idea where a small probe would linger near the asteroid and use its gravitational traction to move it out of Earth’s way.
Or, like waging an all-out space war, some have suggested a full scale strike with nuclear missiles.
“Of course, a lot of things have already been proposed,” Alan Harris, the study’s leader, told Spiegel Online.
“But, so far, most of them have come from a single institution, perhaps even from a single person. So it has been hard to pursue them.”
Investigating each idea ‘will take place on paper and in lab experiments, since we don’t have the money to do more than that,” said Wolfram Lork, who works with a subsidiary on the project.
One other, coarser idea would be “blast deflection” which would involve deterring the asteroid with directed explosive charges. Harris says this would be the “final, desperate approach”.
“We would like to present plans for a feasible, affordable mission. We want to show the world it can be done,” Alan Harris said, adding that the ultimate solution might be a combining a gravity tractor with a kinetic impactor.
By observing the huge craters around the world – such as the Barringer Crater in Arizona or the Nördlinger Ries near Munich – scientists know that asteroids have struck Earth in its history and that, without action, they could well strike again.
Some of the employees at Apple’s manufacturing centres in China complain about working excessive overtime without a single day off during the week, living together in crowded dormitories and standing so long that their legs swell and they can hardly walk after a 24-hour shift.
Almost 140 workers at a supplier in China were injured two years ago using a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens – and two explosions last year killed four people while injuring more than 75.
Apple had allegedly been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant in southwest China before the explosions at those plants, reported the New York Times.
“If Apple was warned and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology work safety expert Nicholas Ashford told the New York Times.
“But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that,” the former U.S. Labor Department advisor added.
Banners in the Chengdu plant gave a warning to the 120,000 staff: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.” Workers who arrived late often had to write confession letters.
The newspaper’s report comes hot on the heels of Apple announcing whopping $13 billion profits on $46 billion sales in its last quarter – but the firm still wants its overseas factories to produce more.
Apple executives claim it has improved factories in recent years and issues a supplier code of conduct on labour and safety – but problems still exist, according to employment advocacy groups.
More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have broken at least one part of its conduct code each year since 2007 and have even broken the law in some cases, according to company reports.
A Foxconn employee jumped or fell from a block of flats after losing an iPhone prototype in 2009 – and 18 other workers apparently tried to commit suicide in two years, reported the New York Times.
Suicide nets were installed to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths and Foxconn began providing better mental health treatment for its staff.
Li Mingqi worked for Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology until last spring and helped manage the Chengdu plant which had the explosion. He is now suing Foxconn over his dismissal.
“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” Li Mingqi told the New York Times.
“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests.”
The fatal Chengdu explosion came from an aluminium dust build up three weeks after the iPad came out. Despite Apple’s probe, seven months on there was a further, non-fatal, explosion in Shanghai.
A former Apple executive claimed that the company has had knowledge of labour abuses in some factories for four years
A former Apple executive claimed that the company has had knowledge of labour abuses in some factories for four years – “and they’re still going on because the system works for us”.
Suppliers are only allowed the smallest margins on what they produce for Apple, and executives at the Cupertino company always ask them for details on part costs, worker numbers and salary sizes.
But workers at a factory of Apple partner Wintek went on strike after rumours that employees were exposed to toxins because they evaporated three times faster than alcohol when rubbing screens.
Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs, who died last October, said two years ago that the company is a worldwide leader in “understanding the working conditions in our supply chain”.
Steve Jobs said many of the factories have restaurants, cinemas, hospitals and swimming pools. While staff says they appreciate these facilities, the working conditions are still seen as relentless.
Foxconn said conditions are “anything but harsh”, just one in 20 workers assembly line workers must stand to do their jobs and the firm has a “very good safety record”, reported the New York Times.
The Mail on Sunday visited a Foxconn factory making iPods in Shenzhen, China, in 2006, and its reports on long hours, crowded accommodation and punishments shocked Apple executives.
“We’re trying really hard to make things better,” one former Apple executive told the New York Times.
“But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”
Recent studies emphasized the negative influence exerted by obesity on the risk to develop prostate cancer, the diagnostic and the recovery after surgical treatment.
A meta-analysis of 25 prostate cancer studies over a 14 years period detailed the association between body mass index (BMI) and prostate cancer risk. For every 5-point BMI increase, the risk to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer is elevated with 9%. In the same time, for every 5-point BMI increase the risk to develop a less aggressive form of prostate cancer diminished with 6%. The study was published this month in the Annals of Oncology.
Body mass index shows the relation between how many kilograms has a person and his/her height (body weight in kilograms divided by the square of his/her height in meters). A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 25. For children there is another calculation that implies age and sex. A person under 20 with a BMI between the 85th and 95th percentile is overweight.
Another study showed that obesity multiplied the risk of metastases by 5 and prostate cancer grew 3 times faster in obese patients. The study was presented in 2011 at the American Urological Association annual meeting.
Other research reports the risk of death from prostate cancer is 25% higher for overweight men and to obese men the risk may be double than of normal-weight men.
Obesity raises the risk to develop prostate cancer.
There are reactions in the medical field: prostate cancer screening is increasing in obese men, according to the Journal of Obesity.
“This is good news. Physicians recognize increased risk factors in their obese patients and are encouraging vigilance when it comes to prostate cancer PSA testing,” said Dr. David Samadi, Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
An obese patient requires a much careful analysis of treatment options, because the common surgical complications can be more frequent and more severe in patients with high BMI. During the surgery, extended surgical time and increased hemorrhage (bleeding) are the main concerns regarding men with obesity.
The age of the patient and his general health combined with the experience and the skills of the surgeon have a great influence on prostate cancer outcomes.
“There’s so much we can’t yet control about our medical path, particularly in the area of cancers, but what we can do is optimize our general wellness. Maintaining a healthier weight, eating better, getting active, those are all places to start… Many health issues can be avoided through wellness, and for those that can’t, well, healthier men are certainly better equipped to withstand the rigors of prostate cancer treatment and recovery, if necessary,” said Dr. David Samadi.
Generally, prostate cancer causes no symptoms in the early stage.
In some cases, may occur frequent urination, nocturia (increased urination at night), difficulty starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine, hematuria (blood in the urine), dysuria (painful urination), difficulty achieving erection or painful ejaculation.
Prostate cancer screening is performed by two methods: the digital rectal examination (DRE), and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
A lot of prostate cancers are indolent and would never progress to a clinically meaningful stage, but there are other prostate cancers potentially lethal.
Prostate cancer screening is performed by two methods: the digital rectal examination (DRE), and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
Prostate test screening is controversial. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded in 2011 that “prostate-specific antigen–based screening results in small or no reduction in prostate cancer–specific mortality and is associated with harms related to subsequent evaluation and treatments, some of which may be unnecessary.”
“Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment. Starting at age 50, (45 if African American or brother or father suffered from condition before age 65) talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if testing is the right choice for you.“
The diagnosis of prostate cancer can be confirm only by a biopsy.
During life time one in six Americans will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is estimated. One in three U.S. men are considered obese. Obesity is the second leading risk factor for developing cancer.
Powerful storms hit Alabama early this morning in an area that has not yet fully recovered from tornadoes that left the community in despair last year.
At least two people were killed and heavy damage was reported just hours after tornadoes struck portions of Arkansas, downing trees and power lines and leaving thousands without electricity there.
The predawn storms struck the Birmingham area, with the towns of Center Point and Trussville just to the northeast of the city being particularly hard hit, emergency management officials said.
The devastation prompted Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to declare a state of emergency for the entire state.
Fatalities were reported in the towns of Oak Grove and Clay, but those weren’t the only towns affected.
“Center Point was hit pretty badly,” Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency spokesman Mark Kelly said.
An emergency management spokesman told the Associated Press that more than 100 people have been injured in central Alabama by the line of storms.
Homes were flattened, windows were blown out of cars and roofs were peeled back in the middle of the night in the community of Oak Grove near Birmingham. As dawn broke, residents surveyed the damage and officials used chainsaws to clear fallen trees.
Powerful storms hit Alabama early this morning in an area that has not yet fully recovered from tornadoes that left the community in despair last year
Chief Deputy Randy Christian told the Birmingham News: “The hardest hit area at this time includes Oak Grove and Center Point through Clay and Trussville. Several homes are reported destroyed and numerous reports of injuries have come in to our call center.”
Jefferson County EMA official, Bob Ammons said: “We have major, major damage.”
Chief Deputy Coroner Pat Curry told The Birmingham News that those killed in the storms were identified as 16-year-old Christina Nicole Heichelbech of Clay, and 83-year-old Bobby Frank Sims of Oak Grove.
The Birmingham News reported that Christina Nicole Heichelbech’s body was found among debris next to her family’s pool after her house was destroyed.
Bobby Frank Sims was found dead after his entire home was flung about 200 feet away from its foundation by the force of the storms.
Oak Grove was hit hard in April when tornadoes ravaged Alabama, killing about 240 people, though officials said none of the same neighborhoods were struck again. Officials had to reschedule a meeting Monday to receive a study on Alabama’s response to the spring tornadoes.
Yasamie Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said: “Some roads are impassable, there are a number of county roads where you have either debris down, trees down, damage from homes.”
Stevie Sanders woke up around 3:30 a.m. and realized bad weather was on the way. She, her parents and sister hid in the laundry room of their brick home as the wind howled and trees started cracking outside.
“You could feel the walls shaking and you could hear a loud crash. After that it got quiet, and the tree had fallen through my sister’s roof,” said Stevie Sanders.
The family was OK, and her father, Greg Sanders, spent the next hours raking his roof and pulling away pieces of broken lumber.
“It could have been so much worse,” he said.
“It’s like they say, we were just blessed.”
In Clanton, about 50 miles south of Birmingham, rescuers were responding to reports of a trailer turned over with people trapped, City Clerk Debbie Orange said.
In Mississippi, the National Weather Service was tracking a thunderstorm to the southwest of Hattiesburg that was producing wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles per hour.
These were the latest in a series of powerful January storms to have torn through the Southeast.
On Sunday, twisters downed trees and power lines in Arkansas leaving thousands without power.
A tornado tore into an area outside of Fordyce, some 70 miles south of state capital Little Rock, damaging houses and felling trees and power lines as it moved, according to Accuweather.com.
Accuweather carried reports of five other twisters touching the ground in Arkansas, which was pelted by soft-ball sized hailstones and buffeted by winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour.
As of late Sunday, roughly 13,400 homes were without power across Arkansas as the storms intensified, according to utility provider Entergy Arkansas, Inc.
Sundance Film Festival 2012 started on Thursday night, January 19, in Park City ski resort, Utah. It will run until January 29, and it will have shows in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden.
This 28th edition will introduce 117 feature films from 30 countries, including 45 first-timers (24 in competition) and 91 world premieres. Featured in four different competition categories are 58 individual films.
The snow fell over the city when the festival started and made Mayor Dana Williams to mention a last year bill that officially disavowed the idea of climate change. Since then it has not snowed in Park City until this week.
Sundance Film Festival 2012 is taking place from January 19 until January 29.
On Thursday, the opening press conference of the Sundance Film Festival was held at the David Eccles Conference Center and Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
Robert Redford, wearing jeans and a black sweater, said about the films they were products of “dark and grim” times and the “suffering from a government that’s in paralysis.” However, “they’re breathing life into fresh, new stories.”
“In terms of what’s going on there… in terms of Mitt Romney, I mean, I’m not going to get into politics. The fact is you can see the (Republican) debates going on, this mushroom cloud of ego hovering over everybody... It’s kind of silly and stupid and I’m sorry about it… Mitt Romney can go and see what he wants to see. If he likes ‘Transformers,’ great, it’s there for him, but that’s not where we are… For years and years and years, you’ve all experienced what we had to live with, the fact that other countries are far more supportive of their artists than we are… But when you have congressional narrow-minded people, people who are afraid of change when change is the only thing that succeeds, the only thing we know is going to happen is that things are going to change,” Redford said.
Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival 2012 in the press conference held at the Egyptian Theater. (Photo by Calvin Knight)
Robert Redford then talked about the state of independent film.
“It’s true that independent films now are healthy. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It’s never been easy…What I’m seeing now is that… independent film is growing. You have people who used to work more exclusively in the mainstream that are now coming into the independent world…The reason I think this community is growing, I think, is because it’s offering more possibilities and more freedom and control for the artists themselves,” he said.
Robert Redford, 75, is the founder and the president of the Sundance Institute, that was created to promote the production of independent US and non-American cinema. He played with Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969).
“Independent film is the theme,” said festival director John Cooper.
One of the opening-night films was “The Queen of Versailles” by Lauren Greenfield, a chronicle of a couple that tried to build a palatial 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles, “a movie about dreams, both collective and individual, and what happens when things go wrong,” as Greenfield described it. David Siegel and his wife, Jackie, lived a life of incredible luxury even before they decided to build the biggest single-family house in the United States. Siegel sued Greenfield and Sundance over a press-release description that said his house was foreclosed; the suit is ongoing.
“Hello I Must Be Going,” by Todd Louiso is about a love story between a 19-year-old man and a 35-year-old divorcee, and stars Melanie Lynskey. “Wish You Were Here,” by Kieran Darcy-Smith is a dark story of a vacation gone wrong that stars Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer; “Searching for Sugar Man,” by Malik Bendjelloul’s is a documentary about promising 1970s singer-songwriter Rodriguez and his fade into obscurity.
“All the film press in North America is at Sundance to discover films,” said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics. He is showing “Where Do We Go Now?” by Nadine Labaki and “The Raid” by Gareth Huw Evans at the festival.
Others works at the festival are “Red Hook Summer” by Spike Lee; “Lay the Favorite” by Stephen Frears starring Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rebecca Hall; “Under African Skies” by Joe Berlinger, a documentary on Paul Simon portrait; Julie Delpy with her relationship comedy “2 Days in New York,” in which she stars with Chris Rock.
The Sundance Film Festival has put nine of its short films online. They can be watched at www.sundance.yahoo.com. The films can be voted, and the winner will receive the Yahoo! Audience Award.
Sean Penn, Kate Bosworth, Peter Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Bruce Willis, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Richard Gere will be present this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
Behind the innocent aspirations and her shy smile, the 19-year-old Gemma Barker from Staines, Middlesex, UK, led a double life that saw her pose as a boy in order to date two younger girlfriends to whom she was sexually attracted.
In an extraordinary deception, Gemma Barker created false alter egos so she could have sexual encounters with her 15 and 16-year-old victims.
Gemma Barker had three fake identities – Aaron Lampard, Connor McCormack and Luke Jones.
The teenager tricked her victims by talking like a boy and wore boys’ baggy clothes, hats and hooded tops to disguise her figure.
She set up Facebook profiles for each “boy” and gave each an individual dress sense and personality.
Gemma Barker incredibly completely fooled her friends and their families by posing as three different teenage boys.
The victims were completely taken in and kissed and cuddled with her – despite both having gone to the same school as Barker.
Eventually they became suspicious that their “boyfriends” were the same person.
One took off Connor McCormack’s hat as “he” slept in her bedroom and realized it was her friend’s supposed boyfriend Aaron Lampard.
Gemma Barker created false alter egos so she could have sexual encounters with her 15 and 16-year-old victims
It was only when – in the guise of one of her fake identities Aaron Lampard – she was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and her clothes were removed in the cells that police discovered her true identity.
Gemma Barker’s two victims were completely taken in and had sexual encounters with the person they variously believed was Aaron Lampard, Connor McCormack or Luke Jones.
The teenager now faces jail after admitting two counts of sexual assault and one of fraud by tricking the girls into relationships.
Prosecutors at Guildford Crown Court told how Gemma Barker reinforced her deception by setting up Facebook profiles for her different personas and even had individual dress styles for them.
She wore different hats, hoodies and other baggy clothing to mask her identity, walking and talking like a boy.
Judge Peter Moss told Gemma Barker he could not be sure whether she was “bad and dangerous to know or mad and dangerous to know”.
Gemma Barker’s disguise was so convincing that when one of the victims removed a sleeping “Connor’s” hat following a petting session, she was shocked to discover it was her best friend’s boyfriend “Aaron” she had been kissing.
Even at that point she did not realize the boy was actually a female friend.
When the net was closing in, Gemma Barker deliberately fractured her jaw and tried to blame her “Luke Jones” alter-ego for attacking her and forcing her to pose as “Aaron”.
She even tried to claim compensation for her injuries.
Prosecutor Ruby Selva told the court: “The defendant was 19 years old when she befriended her victims, who were 16 and 15 years old.
“Having befriended them she disguised herself as various 16-year-old boys for the sole purpose of having sexual relationships with them.
“Neither had any idea it was Gemma Barker – their friend.
“If either of them had known of the deceit, that the boy they were having a relationship with was Gemma Barker, they would not have consented to the acts.”
Gemma Barker struck up an online relationship with the older victim by inventing the fictitious character “Aaron Lampard”, and the pair became a “couple”.
The girl met “Aaron” in various parks and even took him home to her family, Ruby Selva said.
The prosecutor said the 16-year-old’s parents were taken in by the disguise, even though they had met Gemma Barker.
Ruby Selva added: “They (her parents) described never really seeing <<Aaron Lampard’s>> face because of the hat being pulled down so low or him averting his eyes from them.”
Gemma Barker engaged in “kissing, cuddling and groping” with the girl as Aaron Lampard before creating another boy persona and befriending a second victim.
It was through “Aaron Lampard” that the 16-year-old’s younger friend met “Connor McCormack”.
“Connor” had slightly different clothing but still concealed “himself” with a hoodie and baggy clothes when with the girl.
The younger victim began a relationship with “Connor McCormack”, despite having met both “Aaron Lampard” and the real Gemma Barker.
In May 2010 the bizarre story took a further twist when the second girl removed “Connor McCormack’s” hat and saw who she thought was “Aaron Lampard”.
Ruby Selva added: “As far as the second girl is concerned a third character – <<Luke Jones>> – was introduced, again via <<Aaron Lampard>> and <<Connor McCormack>>.
“She described on one occasion kissing him. She described similar clothing, a hat and a hoodie being up.”
After the alleged infidelity, the girls became suspicious and contacted police.
“Aaron Lampard” was arrested in June 2010 but it was only when he was searched that Barker’s identity was revealed.
Gemma Barker described herself as an “actress” on her Twitter feed.
The cross-dresser said of herself: “I love life and live to make people laugh. I try to be a best i can. Im an actress, loving my job. Never say Never !!!”
One Direction fan Gemma Barker repeatedly bombards the five members of the X-Factor band, which includes Harry Styles and Zane Malik, with tweets.
One message to Niall Horan read: “Please make my night and follow me xxx.”
Another to Zayn Malik said: “Miss you at the airport cos i’m ill 🙁 promise ill see you next time xxx.”
Gemma Barker also regularly tweeted the X Factor contestants during the ITV show and also posts about hanging around at Shepperton Studios.
Judge Peter Moss said her case involved “fairly lengthy and convoluted deception” of everybody around Gemma Barker.
He told her: “What concerns me is, however unusual it is, it has got a very mean, manipulative streak to it.”
Gemma Barker was bailed until sentencing on March 2.
High school student Angela Zhang from Cupertino, California, has found a possible cure for cancer and she has been rewarded with a scholarship for $100,000.
Angela Zhang, 17, a first generation Chinese schoolgirl, who is learning to drive, seems in many ways an average Californian teenager, CBS News reported.
When Angela Zhang shared a project she had created in her spare time with her Monta Vista High School, chemistry teacher, Kavita Gupta it was the beginning of an extraordinary sequence of events.
The project, an advanced research paper detailing a method for curing cancer, was beyond her teacher.
“Cure for cancer – a high school student,” Kavita Gupta told CBS.
“It’s just so mind-boggling. I just cannot even begin to comprehend how she even thought about it or did this.”
Angela Zhang had always been precocious. As a freshman, she read doctorate level papers on bio-engineering.
In sophomore year she’d talked her way into the lab at Stanford, and by junior year she was doing her own research on the project.
“I just thought, <<Why not? What is there to lose?>>” said Angela Zhang.
“At first it was a little bit overwhelming,” she said, “but I found that it almost became like a puzzle, being able to decode something.”
High school student Angela Zhang from Cupertino has found a possible cure for cancer and she has been rewarded with a scholarship for $100,000
Angela Zhang’s idea was to mix cancer medicine in a polymer that would attach to nanoparticles. These nanoparticles would then fasten themselves to cancer cells and show up on an MRI allowing doctors to exactly where tumors are.
An infrared light aimed at the tumours would melt the polymer and release the medicine, killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
When tested on mice the tumours almost completely disappeared. Although it will be years before scientist will be able to run tests on humans, the results do seem promising.
Meanwhile Angela Zhang’s paper won her the national Siemens science contest, netting the teen $100,000.
“This is a Cinderella moment for a science nerd like me,” Angela Zhang told the Mercury News.
“I’m excited to learn just everything possible,” she said.
“Everything in the sciences – biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, even computer science – to make new innovations possible.”
Friday the 13th is a particularly inauspicious day for those of a superstitious inclination. Moreover, they may be unhappy to learn that 2012 will be an especially unlucky year.
January 13, 2012, is the first of an unusual three Friday the 13ths – the fear of which has its roots in Christian tradition – that will fall in 2012.
However, the good news is that they only have to get through this year and the phenomenon will not strike again until 2026.
And while they may spend the day cowering under the duvet in case any ill might befall them if they leave the house – and avoiding walking under ladders or over three drains at a time if they are forced to venture outside – they can take some comfort in knowing they are not alone.
More than 60 million people worldwide are claimed to suffer from fear of the day – known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek.
It is believed that superstitions over Friday the 13th stem from two separate fears – the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays, which both have their roots in Christian theology.
Thirteen is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper and Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.
And Friday was the day on which Jesus was crucified.
Others say it has its roots in anti-paganism.
But whatever the cause, the fear is so deeply ingrained that many people will refuse to leave their homes for fear of an accident or some other misfortune such as losing money.
Dr. Donald Dossey, of the Stress Management Center/Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, estimates this costs as much as $900 million to the US economy alone.
The other Friday the 13ths this year will come in April and July.
While some may find it hard to believe that any day of a year could be more unlucky than other a 1993 study found that on the day “the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%”.
The article “Is Friday 13th bad for your health?” published in the British Medical Journal concluded the date was actually unlucky for some and that it might be safer to stay at home.
Separate research in 2003 suggested people who thought they were unlucky were more likely to believe in superstitions linked to bad luck which could, in turn, actually lead to bad luck.
Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, said Friday the 13th could make some people anxious and more accident-prone.
Though with many preferring to stay at home on some an inauspicious day, it has been reported that the number of road accidents can fall on Friday the 13th.
Research in the housing industry suggests that superstitious people in UK are more likely to refuse to buy a house with a number 13 on the door – helping to knock more than $10,000 off its asking price.
And Friday the 13th also sees fewer property deals signed off as a result of new buyers and sellers worrying about it being unlucky.
The fear of the number 13 can be a financial burden to those trying to sell, but helps to pick up a bargain for buyers, said website FindaProperty.com.
The company reduces the selling price by an average of 4% – around $10,000 – compared with homes with other numbers on the door.
An analysis of transactions over a decade of sales found 144,789 homes with the number 13 were sold compared to 239,716 number 12s – a 33% gap.
Similarly there have been 222,127 number 14s. And the superstition does not stop there, said FindaProperty. There are fewer homes sold on the 13th of the month than any other day, around 32% fewer than an average day.
Samantha Baden of FindaProperty.com, said: “The fact that buyers avoid the number 13 is a trend that has been evident for the past 10 years.
“Many people believe Friday 13th to be one of the most unlucky days of the year and as a nation of superstitious buyers, we expect it will one of the quietest for property.”
Samantha Baden added: “What this research shows is that it’s not just the bricks and mortar that effect a property’s sale price – there are so many other less tangible things to consider and this is a prime example.
“Whether or not a potential buyer warms to a property can have a huge impact on its saleability and for some people, superstitions can play a big role in this.”
There are a wide range of reasons given for the fear, and in some cases it seems that the theories have been sought to later justify the belief.
Some theologians even claim that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that the Great Flood began on a Friday.
Other historians suggest the Christian distrust of Fridays is actually linked to the early Catholic Church’s overall suppression of pagan religions and women.
In the Roman calendar, Friday was devoted to Venus, the goddess of love. When Norsemen adapted the calendar, they named the day after Freya, the Norse goddess of sexuality.
Both of these strong female figures once posed a threat to male-dominated Christianity, the theory goes, so the Christian church vilified their day.
A separate Christian legend holds that 13 is unholy because it signifies the gathering of 12 witches and the devil.
But some trace the infamy of the number 13 back to ancient Norse culture.
In Norse mythology, the beloved hero Balder was killed at a banquet by the mischievous god Loki, who crashed the party of twelve, bringing the group to 13.
This story, as well as the story of the Last Supper, led to one of the most entrenched 13-related beliefs – that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.
Sailors were particularly superstitious with regards to Friday, often refusing to ship out on that day of the week, believing that to start a trip on a Friday mean you would meet misfortune.
One urban legend tells of the ship the HMS Friday, commissioned by the British Navy in the 1800s to combat the superstition.
The navy selected the crew on a Friday, so the myth goes, launched the ship on a Friday and even selected a man named James Friday as the ship’s captain.
Then, one Friday morning, the ship set off on its maiden voyage and disappeared forever. Sadly there is no record of such a ship ever having existed.
It is also said that 13 turns make a traditional hangman’s noose – anything less would fail to snap a neck.
IBM researchers have successfully stored a single data bit in only 12 atoms, as currently it takes about a million atoms to store a bit on a modern hard-disk.
The researchers believe this is the world’s smallest magnetic memory bit.
The new technique opens up the possibility of producing much denser forms of magnetic computer memory than today’s hard disk drives and solid state memory chips.
“Roughly every two years hard drives become denser,” research lead author Sebastian Loth said.
“The obvious question to ask is how long can we keep going. And the fundamental physical limit is the world of atoms.
“The approach that we used is to jump to the very end, check if we can store information in one atom, and if not one atom, how many do we need?”
IBM researchers have successfully stored a single data bit in only 12 atoms
Below 12 atoms the researchers found that the bits randomly lost information, owing to quantum effects.
A bit can have a value of 0 or 1 and is the most basic form of information in computation.
“We kept building larger structures until we emerged out of the quantum mechanical into the classical data storage regime and we reached this limit at 12 atoms.”
The groups of atoms, which were kept at a very low temperature, were arranged using a scanning tunnelling microscope. Researchers were subsequently able to form a byte made of eight of the 12-atom bits.
Central to the research has been the use of materials with different magnetic properties.
The magnetic fields of bits made from conventional ferromagnetic materials can affect neighbouring bits if they are packed too closely together.
“In conventional magnetic data storage the information is stored in ferromagnetic material,” said Dr. Sebastian Loth, who is now based at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Germany.
“That adds up to a big magnetic field that can interfere with neighbours. That’s a big problem for further miniaturization.”
Other scientists thought that was an interesting result.
“Current magnetic memory architectures are fundamentally limited in how small they can go,” said Dr. Will Branford, of Imperial College London.
“This work shows that in principle data can be stored much more densely using antiferromagnetic bits.”
But the move from the lab to the production may be some time away.
“Even though I as a scientist would totally dig having a scanning tunnelling microscope in every household, I agree it’s a very experimental tool,” Dr. Sebastian Loth said.
Dr. Sebastian Loth believes that by increasing the number of atoms to between 150 to 200 the bits can be made stable at room temperature. That opens up the possibility of more practical applications.
“This is now a technological challenge to find out about new manufacturing techniques,” he said.
Monica Hussing and William Robinson Sr. from Clevland, Ohio, who failed to seek medical care for their cancer-stricken son because they said they couldn’t afford medical care have pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Their son, Willie Robinson, 8, died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008 after begging his parents to get him medical care, according to prosecutors. The prosecutors say that had he received treatment, the youngster would have had a 96% chance of making a full recovery.
The parents claim they never took their cancer-stricken son to the doctor because they didn’t have the money.
But somehow, they found the cash to have their family pit bull treated for fleas, prosecutors say.
Willie Robinson, 8, died of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2008 after begging his parents to get him medical care, according to prosecutors
Monica Hussing, 37 and William Robinson, 40, have been free on $150,000 bail each in Cleveland, since their son died. On Monday, the parents pleaded guilty to attempted involuntary manslaughter and face up to eight years in prison.
Monica Hussing’s lawyer blamed Willie’s death on the fact that the parents, who still have five children, were poor and did not have health insurance.
“Unfortunately, these people did not have that ability to get the proper health care and I think the entire system both in Warren, in Trumbull County and in Cuyahoga County it was just a little bit of… the ball was dropped,” John Luskin told WJW.
But prosecutors say as Willie Robinson was dying a horrible, but preventable, death, his parents paid $87 to take their pit bull Petey to a veterinarian and have it treated for fleas.
After ignoring his pleas for medical help, Willie Robinson collapsed at their home March 22, 2008. It was then Monica Hussing and William Robinson finally took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with cancer and died later that day.
The coroner ruled the boy’s death, caused by cancer and pneumonia, a homicide, meaning it was the result of his parents’ actions.
Authorities say none of the couple’s five other children, now 17, 16, 10, 9 and 8, received medical care. All of them have been removed from their parents and are living with an aunt.
The parents also kept their children out of school. Willie Robinson never saw a classroom in his short life, authorities say.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is cancer of lymph tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow. Symptoms include: fatigue, fever and chills, loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.
It is the most common form of childhood cancer and the most treatable, with up to 96% of children surviving at least five years after the cancer goes into remission.