Las Vegas, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — Many of the hottest new gadgets are also the nosiest ones.
This week's CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that livestream the living room, bathroom mirrors that offer beauty tips and gizmos that track the heartbeats of unborn children. All will collect some kind of data about their users, whether photos or monitor readings; how well they'll protect it and what exactly they plan do with it are the important and often unanswered questions.
These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and their workers to peek into your private life. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave a variety of employees and executives access to recorded and sometimes live video footage from customers' homes.
Our data-driven age now forces you to weigh the usefulness of a smart mirror against the risk that strangers might be watching you in your bathroom. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data, or your ex might hold onto a video feed long after you've broken up.
"It's not like all these technologies are inherently bad," says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington computer security and privacy researcher.
But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy in the process.
AMAZON'S VIDEO FEEDS
Like other security devices, Ring cameras can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home; a phone app lets you see who's there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file.
In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing.
At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into the peepholes in apartment or dorm-room doors. Though it doesn't appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, records show that Amazon recently filed a patent application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras.
LIVING ROOM LIVESTREAM
It's one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but Alarm.com wants us to also put them in other people's houses.
Alarm's Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to "peek in" anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.
The notion of placing a camera in someone else's living room might feel unsettling.
Wellcam says video streaming isn't started until someone activates it from a phone and then it stops as soon as the person turns it off. Chazin says such cameras are "becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe."
Just be sure you trust whom you're giving access to. You can't turn off the camera unless you unplug it.
French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you "try on" different hairstyles. Facial recognition helps the mirror's camera know which person in a household is there, while augmented-reality technology overlays your actual image with animation on how you might look.
CareOS expects hotels and salons to buy the $20,000 Artemis mirror - making it more important that personal data is protected.
"We know we don't want the whole world to know about what's going on in the bathroom," co-founder Chloe Szulzinger said.
The mirror doesn't need an internet connection to work, she said. The company says it will abide by Europe's stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives. Customers can choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after they've explicitly agreed to how it will be used.
The same applies for the businesses that buy and install the mirror. Customers can choose to share some information — such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon — but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.
Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.
Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there's a button for sharing details with a doctor.
Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren't regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and policy premiums.
Chicago, Jan 5 (AP/UNB) — A suburban Detroit woman and South Side Chicago man are recovering in a Chicago hospital following rare triple transplant surgeries that gave them the healthy heart, liver and kidney each needed — and a new friendship they never expected.
University of Chicago Medicine doctors announced Friday that they successfully completed the triple organ transplants on Sarah McPharlin, a 29-year-old woman of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, and Daru Smith, a 29-year-old father from Chicago's South Side, within 30 hours of one another.
McPharlin had two transplants canceled earlier in the year, pushing her surgery back.
"Maybe because it's only luck that both of those transplants were supposed to be at the same time," Nir Uriel, the director of heart failure, transplant and mechanical circulatory support for the hospital, said at a news conference Friday. University of Chicago Medicine has performed the most heart-liver-kidney transplants in the world.
Just eight minutes after a medical team finished Smith's liver transplant on Dec. 20, hospital staff learned that donor organs were available for McPharlin. Smith, who finished surgery that day, became only the 16th person in the U.S. to undergo a heart-liver-kidney transplant and hours later on Dec. 21 McPharlin became the 17th. Each surgery required a 22-person team, with some staffers working on both patients. The hospital also performed five other organ transplants during that time period.
Smith and McPharlin, who had her first heart transplant at the age of 12, arrived at the Chicago hospital in November. But neither knew they were both seeking a triple transplant when they first met during pre-therapy sessions ahead of surgery. The sessions were quiet and patients didn't share details about their transplants. But McPharlin's mother, who quit her job as a school teacher in Michigan to be with her daughter for treatment, pried out of Smith that he was awaiting the same organs as McPharlin.
"It's been mind-blowing and amazing, having someone go through the process with me, gave me more motivation," Smith, a truck driver, said during a video interview at the hospital Friday.
The pair, who are recovering on the same hospital floor, share walks and give each other high-fives when they pass one another in the hallways. Their families are already planning a dinner together in the city once the two are released and feeling better. Nurses say they notice a difference in recovery for the two compared to other transplant patients, because they have gone through the same unusual and debilitating surgery together.
McPharlin and Smith notice too.
"It was so cool to know we would be able to see each other progress together," McPharlin, an occupational therapist, said Friday. "It was really cool to see how Daru was getting up in the hall and I knew eventually, or pretty soon, I would be doing the same."
New York, Jan 1 (AP/UNB) — If you're planning to try to lose weight in 2019, you're sure to find a fierce debate online and among friends and family about how best to do it. It seems like everyone has an opinion, and new fads emerge every year.
Two major studies last year provided more fuel for a particularly polarizing topic — the role carbs play in making us fat. The studies gave scientists some clues, but, like other nutrition studies, they can't say which diet — if any — is best for everyone.
That's not going to satisfy people who want black-and-white answers, but nutrition research is extremely difficult and even the most respected studies come with big caveats. People are so different that it's all but impossible to conduct studies that show what really works over long periods of time.
Before embarking on a weight loss plan for the new year, here's a look at some of what was learned last year.
Fewer carbs, fewer pounds?
It's no longer called the Atkins Diet, but the low-carb school of dieting has been enjoying a comeback. The idea is that the refined carbohydrates in foods like white bread are quickly converted into sugar in our bodies, leading to energy swings and hunger.
By cutting carbs, the claim is that weight loss will be easier because your body will instead burn fat for fuel while feeling less hungry. A recent study seems to offer more support for low-carb proponents. But, like many studies, it tried to understand just one sliver of how the body works.
The study , led by an author of books promoting low-carb diets, looked at whether varying carb levels might affect how the body uses energy. Among 164 participants, it found those on low-carb diets burned more calories in a resting state than those on high-carb diets.
The study did not say people lost more weight on a low-carb diet — and didn't try to measure that. Meals and snacks were tightly controlled and continually adjusted so everyone's weights stayed stable.
David Ludwig, the paper's lead author and a researcher at Boston Children's Hospital, said it suggests limiting carbs could make it easier for people to keep weight off once they've lost it. He said the approach might work best for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Ludwig noted the study wasn't intended to test long-term health effects or real-world scenarios where people make their own food. The findings also need to be replicated to be validated, he said.
Caroline Apovian of Boston University's School of Medicine said the findings are interesting fodder for the scientific community, but that they shouldn't be taken as advice for the average person looking to lose weight.
Do I avoid fat to be skinny?
For years people were advised to curb fats , which are found in foods including meat, nuts, eggs, butter and oil. Cutting fat was seen as a way to control weight, since a gram of fat has twice as many calories than the same amount of carbs or protein.
Many say the advice had the opposite effect by inadvertently giving us license to gobble up fat-free cookies, cakes and other foods that were instead full of the refined carbs and sugars now blamed for our wider waistlines.
Nutrition experts gradually moved away from blanket recommendations to limit fats for weight loss. Fats are necessary for absorbing important nutrients and can help us feel full. That doesn't mean you have to subsist on steak drizzled in butter to be healthy.
Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of international health at Johns Hopkins, said the lessons learned from the anti-fat fad should be applied to the anti-carb fad: don't oversimplify advice.
"There's a constant look for an easy way out," Lee said.
So which is better?
Another big study this past year found low-carb diets and low-fat diets were about equally as effective for weight loss. Results varied by individual, but after a year, people in both groups shed an average of 12 to 13 pounds.
The author noted the findings don't contradict Ludwig's low-carb study. Instead, they suggest there may be some flexibility in the ways we can lose weight. Participants in both groups were encouraged to focus on minimally processed foods like produce and meat prepared at home. Everyone was advised to limit added sugar and refined flour.
"If you got that foundation right, for many, that would be an enormous change," said Chris Gardner of Stanford University and one of the study's authors.
Limiting processed foods could improve most diets by cutting down overall calories, while still leaving wiggle room for people's preferences. That's important, because for a diet to be effective, a person has to be able to stick to it. A breakfast of fruit and oatmeal may be filling for one person, but leave another hungry soon after.
Gardner notes the study had its limitations, too. Participants' diets weren't controlled. People were instead instructed on how to achieve eating a low-carb or low-fat in regular meetings with dietitians, which may have provided a support network most dieters don't have.
So, what works?
In the short term you can probably lose weight by eating only raw foods, or going vegan, or cutting out gluten, or following another diet plan that catches your eye. But what will work for you over the long term is a different question.
Zhaoping Li, director of clinical nutrition division at the University of California, Los Angeles, says there is no a single set of guidelines that help everyone lose weight and keep it off. It's why diets often fail — they don't factor into account the many factors that drive us to eat what we do.
To help people lose weight, Li examines her patients' eating and physical activity routines to identify improvements people will be able to live with.
"What sticks is what matters," Li said.
Saddle Brook, Dec 25 (AP/UNB) — The New Jersey Department of Health says more than 3,000 patients at a surgery center may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Officials say patients who had procedures done at the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook between January 2018 and Sept. 7, 2018 may have been exposed.
Surgery center administrator Betty McCabe says the exposure was due to "deficiencies in infection control" involving the cleaning of instruments and injection of medications. McCabe says 3,778 patients are being urged to get their blood tested.
The health department says the risk of infection is low, and no illnesses have been reported. The department called it "an abundance of caution" to suggest that people be tested.
McCabe says the center is offering to pay medical costs associated with testing.
Canberra, Dec 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -A "revolutionary" cancer drug that supercharges immune cells to hunt and kill cancer cells has been approved for human use in Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Wednesday announced that CAR-T therapy has been approved for use in pediatric and young adult patients with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and adults with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
CAR-T therapy trains immune cells to fight and kill cancer cells by first extracting them from a patient's body to genetically re-engineer them before infusing them back into the body.
Prior to the TGA approving the treatment, patients with aggressive blood cancers who had exhausted all other treatments had been traveling overseas to be treated.
Daniel Clarke, 45, traveled with his family to the United States so he could receive CAR-T treatment for his DLBCL. Within one month his cancer had vanished.
"I felt like someone had just handed my life back to me," he told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
"It has all happened so quickly. Late September we (went to Boston) not knowing what to expect, hoping for the best, fearing the worst. Then come November I was in complete remission."
Global pharmaceutical giant Novartis owns the therapy and has already increased production to keep up with global demand.
"We are focused on ramping up capacity at our U.S. and Switzerland facilities and we recently announced a collaboration agreement for additional manufacturing capacity with Fraunhofer (Germany) and CellforCure (France)," spokesperson Lauren Carey said.
"These additional manufacturing facilities are intended to support production on a global scale."
However, CAR-T therapy is not classified as a "drug", so it cannot be subsidized by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Patients who undergo the treatment in Australia face an out-of-pocket cost of up to 598,000 Australian dollars.
Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, has flagged his intention to have the treatment subsidized as soon as possible.