Daily Archives: February 11, 2015

Experts warn independent aid workers of conflict zone dangers

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Independent aid workers heading to conflict zones must be aware of the danger they face compared to staff from international organizations, humanitarian experts warned on Wednesday following the death of an American aid worker in Syria.

Kayla Mueller, 26, was held hostage for 18 months by Islamic State militants who sent her family an email and photograph over the weekend that enabled American intelligence to determine that she had been killed, said U.S. officials, who are investigating the cause of death.

Patrick Skinner, director of special projects for The Soufan Group, a security consulting firm in New York, said there was a “world of difference” between independent aid workers such as Mueller and those affiliated with major organizations.

“People like Kayla Mueller are at a real disadvantage without a trusted local network,” Skinner told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Mueller went to Turkey in December 2012 to work for a Turkish organization providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, having previously volunteered for schools and aid groups in the West Bank, Israel and India.

She was last seen in the Syrian city of Aleppo in August 2013 by Doctors Without Borders employees.

Security experts said there had not been a noticeable increase in the number of independent aid workers in Syria but there have been several recent cases of aid workers and journalists being captured by Islamic State.

NON-STAFF WORKERS MORE VULNERABLE IN CONFLICT ZONES

Some independent workers may think it is safer not to be affiliated with an aid organization, especially in countries where they are targeted, said Abby Stoddard, partner at London-based consultancy firm Humanitarian Outcomes.

Yet there is not much that someone can do without an organization behind them, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If you’re going to stand out as a foreigner, you might create more distrust as to what you are doing there and bring more risk on yourself, and aid workers are treated suspiciously anyway,” Stoddard said.

Independent aid workers may believe they are safe in certain areas, such as the Turkish side of the Turkey-Syria border, Skinner said.

But he warned that the Syria conflict does not respect boundaries, with Westerners facing particular risk.

“International aid workers used to be caught in the crossfire, now they are targeted,” he said.

Attacks on aid workers worldwide reached a record high in 2013, according to the latest Humanitarian Outcomes report, which said 155 aid workers were killed, 171 wounded and 134 kidnapped – a rise of 66 percent compared with 2012.

Trevor Hughes, director of risk management and global security for U.S.-based NGO International Relief and Development, questioned the presence of independent aid workers in conflict zones.

He said, “Unless humanitarians have specific skill sets, such as doctors, nurses and medics, and join established networks, which have structures and security and training in place, then you have to ask – are conflict zones the place to go?”

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Lisa Anderson)


Source: Newsjyoti Lifestyle

Time Warner profit beats as revenue rises in Turner, HBO units

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif


<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – Time Warner Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by higher subscription fees for channels under its Turner Broadcasting and HBO units.

Revenue from Turner, which owns channels such as CNN, TNT and Cartoon Network, rose 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Revenue from HBO, whose popular shows include “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective”, increased 6.2 percent.

The two businesses together account for more than half of Time Warner’s total revenue.

The company’s shares were little changed at $80.76 in afternoon trading.

“Subscription revenue growth will slow materially this year before re-accelerating well into the double digits in 2016 and beyond,” Chief Financial Officer Howard Averill said on a conference call.

A stronger dollar is expected to hurt subscription revenue to some extent, he said.

Time Warner cut jobs in its Turner unit last year to reduce costs and spun off its publishing business Time Inc to focus on its more profitable broadcasting businesses.

Time Warner is now a “much leaner, faster, quicker organization,” Topeka Capital Markets analyst David Miller told Reuters on Wednesday.

As a result, the company’s margins are expected to grow through 2016, he said.

Time Warner reported margins of 23.4 percent for 2014, adjusting for the separation of Time Inc, compared with 24.3 percent for 2013.

The company is also foraying into video-streaming, with a standalone product for HBO that will make the channel available to people without cable subscriptions this year.

The company forecast adjusted profit of $4.60-$4.70 per share from continuing operations for 2015. Analysts were expecting earnings of $4.66 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Macquarie Research analyst Timothy Nollen said the company’s profit forecast was good, given the negative impact of a stronger dollar.

Net income attributable to Time Warner shareholders fell 27 percent to $718 million, or 84 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Excluding items, the company earned 98 cents.

Revenue fell 1 percent to $7.53 billion, mainly due to a 4.5 percent fall in revenue in its Warner Bros movie studio business.

Analysts an average had expected earnings of 93 cents per share and revenue of $7.55 billion.

(Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Savio D’Souza and Kirti Pandey)


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Icahn values Apple at more than $1 trillion

The leaf on the Apple symbol is tinted green at the Apple flagship store on 5th Ave in New York April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid


<span class="articleLocatio

n”>(Reuters) – Activist investor Carl Icahn said Apple Inc’s stock should be trading at $216, far above its record high of $124.92 hit on Wednesday.

At $216 per share, Apple would be valued at about $1.3 trillion, compared with about $700 billion currently.

Icahn said Apple’s price-to-earnings ratio should be about 20 times, which taken together with net cash of $22 per share works out to $216 per share.

“Also, to the extent Apple introduces a TV in FY 2016 or FY 2017, we believe this 20X multiple is conservative,” the billionaire Apple shareholder wrote in a letter to his Twitter followers. (bit.ly/1zWWQPd)

Icahn owns about 53 million Apple shares worth $6.5 billion.

Apple shares were up 2.3 percent at $124.86 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr)


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Women on Accutane need better contraceptive knowledge

Women who take the acne drug isotretinoin (Accutane) must pledge to prevent pregnancy but often they lack thorough, accurate information about birth control methods, according to a new study.

For many young women with severe acne, this is their first real exposure to birth control education, and they aren’t getting the information they need, said senior study author Dr. Eleanor B. Schwarz of the University of California, Davis.

The drug is powerful, experts said, and better contraceptive counseling would make it available to more people who need it.

Four to five months taking prescription isotretinoin usually clears even severe acne that has not responded to other treatment. The drug can cause severe fetal brain, heart and face deformities when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, however.

Between 1992 and 2003, more than 2,000 women became pregnant while taking isotretinoin, almost all ending in abortion or miscarriage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration introduced the iPledge program in 2005, requiring prescribers to register, and female patients of childbearing age to qualify by pledging to use two forms of birth control and take doctor-administered pregnancy tests for two consecutive months.

With two negative pregnancy tests and a completed online comprehension test, the patient will be authorized to pick up her prescription, and has to return to the doctor for pregnancy tests every 30 days while taking the medication.

Schwarz and her team surveyed 100 women of childbearing age visiting a dermatologist’s office about their knowledge of eight contraceptive methods, asking them to rank the methods’ effectiveness.

Then the women reviewed an information sheet about the contraceptive methods that the researchers had specially designed, and retook the effectiveness survey.

More than half of the women surveyed said they had seen a physician for acne problems in the past year, and 11 women said they had ever used isotretinoin.

Before viewing the information sheet, most women overestimated the effectiveness of birth control pills, injections and condoms. A third had never heard of contraceptive implants and 16 percent had not heard of intrauterine devices, which are by far the two most effective options, Schwarz noted.

On average, the women spent less than one minute looking at the information sheet, but the number who answered effectiveness questions correctly increased on almost every measure for the second survey.

Among the participants who had used isotrentinoin, five said the most effective contraceptive method they used while on the drug was the Pill, two said it was the IUD, three said “None” and three did not answer the question.

The information currently provided in the 20-page iPledge packet is out of date, and includes abstinence in its list of contraception options, Schwarz told Reuters Health by phone.

As she and her team developed the information sheet in Pittsburgh, they saw that abstinence was among the most common methods people would use.

“If you forget that you are using abstinence, that’s out the door,” she said.

Schwarz would like to see the iPledge material updated.

“The thing that doesn’t really make any sense is there’s only some methods that you can use in combination, you can’t have two IUDs,” Schwarz said. “And there’s no evidence that doubling up on condom and diaphragm is more effective.”

Most contraception fails when the user forgets it, which is why methods that remove that responsibility are the most effective, she said.

The current iPledge system is cumbersome and does not work well, and has led to underprescription of this important medication, according to Dr. Marie C. Leger, a dermatologist at New York University who wrote an accompanying editorial in JAMA Dermatology.

After the implementation of IPledge at Kaiser Permanente, prescriptions to men dropped by 20 percent and by 36 percent to women, Leger told Reuters Health by email.

Isotretinoin is the only real acne “cure” and an important treatment option, she said.

“Isotretinoin is not usually indicated for mild acne but if I have patients who are developing scars, who have severe cystic acne, or who have failed multiple other treatments I want them to know that it is an option,” Leger said.

“I monitor all of my patients on the medication very carefully – and while it certainly does have serious risks, it really is a life changing medication for many people,” she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1An6GLS and bit.ly/1Ea9GKz JAMA Dermatology, online February 4, 2015.


Source: Newsjyoti Health

Students sought who partied with Oregon man stricken by meningococcal disease

(Reuters) – Public health officials are working to identify and offer antibiotics to about 20 University of Oregon students who attended a fraternity party at the home of a man diagnosed this week with a potentially deadly meningococcemia infection, authorities said on Wednesday.

The student at whose home the party was held was the third person in less than a month from the University of Oregon to contract meningococcemia, a bacterial precursor to meningitis that can also lead to damaging blood infections.

“He was physically there at the gathering, but he would have had to be within three meters of someone to transmit an infection,” said Jason Davis, spokesman for Lane County Public Health. He also declined to name the fraternity involved.

“He was in the kitchen chatting with a few people, then had homework and left the main gathering, so the exposure risk was relatively low,” Davis added.

He urged students who may have been exposed to meningococcemia to reach out to public health officials and also said the recent outbreak is a reminder that vaccines are available to prevent infection.

Some students who attended the party have been hesitant to speak with public health officials, somewhat slowing the public health response.

“We know what our intentions are – to help protect the community and the student body, but when public health starts investigating, it can be intimidating for some people to have a government agent with a clipboard asking questions about their lives,” Davis said. “That hesitation puts a crimp in our process, but it’s understandable.”

The male University of Oregon student diagnosed on Monday and a female student diagnosed on Feb. 3 are both recovering well from their infections, Davis said, but a female student diagnosed on Jan. 16 has had more difficulty recovering.

(Reporting by Courtney Sherwood; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)


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Suge Knight charged with making threat in California camera theft case

Rap mogul Suge Knight stands in court during his arraignment on murder charges at the Compton Courthouse in Compton, California February 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Paul Buck

Rap mogul Suge Knight stands in court during his arraignment on murder charges at the Compton Courthouse in Compton, California February 3, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Paul Buck


(Reuters) – Rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, already in custody in connection with a hit-and-run death, has also been charged with making a terroristic threat during the 2014 theft of a camera from a celebrity photographer, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Knight, 49, and 43-year-old comedian Katt Williams had previously been charged with robbery in connection with the Sept. 5 camera incident outside a studio in Beverly Hills.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder disclosed the new charge against Knight of making a terroristic threat on Wednesday ahead of a court hearing in that case.

Modder declined to provide details on the specific actions leading to the charge. The count was filed against Knight on Feb. 3, and he has not yet had a chance to enter a plea to the charge.

If Knight is convicted of the charge, it could carry a sentence of 25 years to life under California’s three-strikes law, which gives stiffer sentences to those previously convicted of serious felonies, Modder said.

The charge is the latest legal challenge for the co-founder of Death Row Records, an influential label that in the 1990s featured artists such as Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.

Knight faces charges of murder and hit-and-run over a Jan. 29 confrontation outside a fast food restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton where police say Knight ran over two men with his pickup truck, killing one.

A judge has ordered Knight held without bail in that case, and prosecutors said the rap mogul is also a candidate for the three-strike rule in those criminal proceedings.

Knight and Williams previously pleaded not guilty to a count of robbery of a camera in the Beverly Hills case, and he has pleaded not guilty to the murder and hit-and-run charges.

A hearing was expected on Wednesday afternoon to discuss future court dates in the alleged robbery case.

David Kenner, an attorney for Knight declined to immediately comment on the new charge. Knight has previous convictions from 1997 on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, according to documents filed in court by prosecutors.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)


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NYC cop charged for stairwell shooting of unarmed man

New York City Police (NYPD) officer Peter Liang arrives at criminal court for an arraignment hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York City February 11, 2015.   REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


(Reuters) – A New York City rookie police officer was charged during a Wednesday court appearance with manslaughter in the second degree and five other offenses for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man while the officer patrolled the darkened stairwell of a housing project last November.

Officer Peter Liang was patrolling with his partner in the Brooklyn apartment complex about 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 20 when his gun fired a single bullet, killing Akai Gurley, 28, who was in the stairwell a flight below with his girlfriend.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Christian Plumb)


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Costa Concordia captain sentenced to 16 years jail for disaster

Captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner Francesco Schettino walks in court during his trial in Grosseto February 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Max Rossi


(Reuters) – An Italian court sentenced the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner to 16 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32 people off the Tuscan holiday island of Giglio.

Francesco Schettino was commanding the vessel, a floating hotel as long as three football pitches, when it came too close to shore and hit rocks off the island, tearing a hole in its side.

Schettino was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his passengers in one of the highest-profile shipping disasters in recent years.

However, he will not actually go to jail before the end of Italy’s long appeals process, which can take years after the court said he would not be imprisoned or put under house arrest until the whole appeals process is complete.

Investigators severely criticised Schettino’s handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 metre-long vessel too close to shore. The subsequent shipwreck set off a chaotic night evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

He was also accused of delaying evacuation and abandoning ship before all the 4,229 passengers and crew had been rescued.

Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 26 years for Schettino, who has admitted some responsibility but denied blame for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.

The court sentenced Schettino to 10 years for multiple manslaughter, 5 years for causing the shipwreck and one year for abandoning his passengers. In addition he received a one month civil penalty for failure to report the accident correctly.

He was left alone in the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship’s owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, paid a 1 million euro ($1.1 million) fine and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.

He and Costa Cruises were jointly ordered to pay a total of 30,000 euros compensation to each of the ship’s passengers as well as millions of euros in compensation to Italian government ministries, the region of Tuscany and the island of Giglio for environmental damage.

Earlier on Wednesday Schettino had rejected prosecution accusations that he had shown no sense of responsibility or compassion for the victims, saying “grief should not be put on show to make a point.”

The massive hulk of the Costa Concordia was left abandoned on its side for two-and-a-half years before it was towed away in the most expensive maritime wreck recovery in history. The last body was not recovered until last year.

Schettino’s defence team argued he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the ship close to the island as it sank. They said the sentence that was sought by prosecutors went beyond even sentences sought for mafia killers.

(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Susan Fenton)


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"Fifty Shades" draws unscripted laughs at Berlin festival

(Reuters) – The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” is about the serious business of sadomasochism and bondage, but you might not have gathered that from the laughter in the audience at a press screening on Wednesday before the world premiere.

Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele, generally won praise from those at the screening, which was held in conjunction with the Berlin International Film Festival. Christian Grey, who was played by Northern Ireland’s Jamie Dornan, was considered something of a cipher.

“She’s beautiful, she’s a beautiful girl and I think she could make a career because she has the hype around her now,” said Christine Staab, who works for the German-based Bauer Media Group, a publishing house that includes women’s magazines.

But much of the audience tittered or burst out laughing at some of the movie’s more melodramatic dialogue and scenes, mostly taken straight from the book.

The novel is the first in a trilogy by E.L. James. It was widely panned by critics but sold more than 100 million copies and led to a spike in sales for the sex aids mentioned in the book and now featured in the film.

A scene in which Dornan as Grey leaves bed in the middle of the night to play a Chopin piano piece on his Fazioli grand in his penthouse apartment overlooking Seattle drew a particularly large outburst of chuckles.

Others in the audience found their eyes glazing over at the non-stop macho opulence. The display ranges from Grey’s self-piloted helicopter through his harem of cars — apparently every model made by German luxury manufacturer Audi — and the Apple laptop Grey gives Anastasia to his ordering of brand-name gin for a gin and tonic.

Some Germans didn’t think the bondage and sadomasochistic sex scenes were all that titillating — at least for European audiences.

“It will be for all ages, you can even take your kids,” said a man who gave his name only as Ferdinand.

(Editing by Larry King)


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San Francisco Bay Area transit rider had measles on train

A measles vaccine is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A measles vaccine is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson


(Reuters) – Commuters on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system may have been exposed to measles last week after an East Bay resident with the disease rode a BART train to and from work in the city for three days while infectious, public health officials said on Wednesday.

The infected BART rider marks the first case of measles documented by Contra Costa County health officials during an outbreak of the virus that has infected more than 100 people in California since December.

Fewer than 10 of those cases have been diagnosed in the San Francisco Bay area. Most have occurred in Southern California, many of them linked to exposure to an infected person, believed to be from outside the country, who visited the Disneyland resort in late December.

Contra County health officials sought to reassure the public that the infected BART train rider did not pose a high risk of contagion to other passengers, despite having ridden the system during the morning and evening commutes for three days last week.

“Although the risk of contracting measles by being exposed on BART is low, Bay Area residents should be aware of the situation,” the county public health department said in a statement.

People who are vaccinated or have had measles before are extremely unlikely to catch the disease, even if they had contact with a contagious person. However, those who were not previously vaccinated are at high risk if exposed.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Writing By Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)


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