SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – With the cost of some lifesaving cancer drugs exceeding $100,000 a year, more than 100 influential cancer specialists from around the world have taken the unusual step of banding together in hopes of persuading some leading pharmaceutical companies to bring prices down.
Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years — and recently led to a public protest from doctors at a major cancer center in New York. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to join the effort is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices. In this case, some of the specialists even include researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The doctors and researchers, who specialize in the potentially deadly blood cancer known as chronic myeloid leukemia, contend in a commentary published online by a medical journal Thursday that the prices of drugs used to treat that disease are astronomical, unsustainable and perhaps even immoral.
They suggested that charging high prices for a medicine needed to keep someone alive is profiteering, akin to jacking up the prices of essential goods after a natural disaster.
“Advocating for lower drug prices is a necessity to save the lives of patients” who cannot afford the medicines, they wrote in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology.
While noting that the cost of drugs for many other cancers were just as high, the doctors focused on what they know best — the medicines for chronic myeloid leukemia, like Gleevec, which is enormously profitable for Novartis. Among the critics is Dr. Brian Druker, who was the main academic developer of Gleevec and had to prod Novartis to bring it to market.
Novartis argues that few patients actually pay the full cost of the drug and that prices reflect the high cost of research and the value of a drug to patients.
Gleevec entered the market in 2001 at a price of about $30,000 a year in the United States, the doctors wrote. Since then, the price has tripled, it said, even as Gleevec has faced competition from five newer drugs. And those drugs are even more expensive.
The prices have been the subject of intense debate elsewhere as well. The Supreme Court in India ruled recently that the drug could not be patented, clearing the way for use of far less expensive generic alternatives.
Some of the doctors who signed on to the commentary said they were inspired by physicians at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who last fall refused to use a new colon cancer drug, Zaltrap, because it was twice as expensive as another drug without being better.
After those doctors publicized their objections in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, Sanofi, which markets Zaltrap, effectively cut the price in half.
What impact the new commentary will have remains to be seen. The authors, however, call merely for a dialogue on pricing to begin.
The leader of the protest is Dr. Hagop M. Kantarjian, chairman of the leukemia department at the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Many of the roughly 120 doctors who were co-authors of the commentary — about 30 of whom are from the United States — work closely with pharmaceutical companies on research and clinical trials. They say they favor a healthy pharmaceutical industry, but think prices are much higher than they need to be to ensure that.
“If you are making $3 billion a year on Gleevec, could you get by with $2 billion?” Dr. Druker, who is now director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, said in an interview. “When do you cross the line from essential profits to profiteering?”
Gleevec’s sales were $4.7 billion in 2012, making it Novartis’s best-selling drug. A newer Novartis leukemia drug, Tasigna, had sales of $1 billion.
Novartis said in a statement released Thursday: “We recognize that sustainability of health care systems is a complex topic and we welcome the opportunity to be part of the dialogue.”
It said that its investment in Gleevec continued after the initial approval, expanding the drug’s use to other diseases. It also said that it provided Gleevec or Tasigna free to 5,000 uninsured or underinsured Americans each year and to date had provided free drugs to more than 50,000 people in low-income countries.
Novartis and the manufacturers of the other drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia say the prices reflect the value of the drug. While many cancer drugs with equally high prices extend life by only a few months on average, it is widely agreed that Gleevec and rivals are near-miracle medicines that essentially turn a death sentence into a chronic disease like diabetes.
“It is a little surprising that their focus is in a cancer where the small-molecule medicines have had the greatest impact on long-term benefit,” said Dr. Harvey J. Berger, chief executive of Ariad Pharmaceuticals, which sells the newest and most expensive of the leukemia drugs, Iclusig.
Dr. Berger said the price of Iclusig was $115,000 a year, not the $138,000 a year cited in the commentary. Pfizer said the price of its drug, Bosulif, also was overstated in the piece. The manufacturers cite the price at which they sell to wholesalers, while the authors of the commentary were referring to a price they say better reflects what is charged by a pharmacy to patients.
The other drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia are Sprycel from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Synribo from Teva.
The commentary noted that despite drug company programs, a minority of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million people in the world with chronic myeloid leukemia were receiving one of the drugs. In many developing nations, it said, cancer experts were advocating risky bone marrow transplants because that is a one-time procedure that is cheaper than continuous treatment with one of the drugs.
The article also said the survival rate for patients in the United States appeared to be less than it should be, perhaps because costs are forcing patients to not take their medicine. Prices for the drugs are twice as high in the United States as in many other countries, which often apply some government pressure or price controls to keep drug costs down.
Even if out-of-pocket costs can be low, health systems in general still must pay for the drugs, the commentary says. And some patients say assistance programs are not always easy to use.
Raven Riedesel of Winlock, Wash., said she had been turned down by various charities — though she hadn’t yet tried Novartis itself — because her husband, a pipe fitter, makes too much money. Yet the insurance from his union would require her to pay $1,200 to $1,600 a month as a co-payment for Tasigna.
“It would take everything that we had left over after buying necessities and paying our bills,” said Ms. Riedesel, 28, a mother of two young children. She is now in a clinical trial allowing her to obtain Tasigna free; the trial will end in November.
Patients in the United States circulated an online petition last year protesting the price of Gleevec, but the effort was dropped after receiving about 400 signatures.
Cheap generic versions could enter the American market as early as 2015 when the main patent on Gleevec expires. Novartis might try to assert other patents to stave off competition, however. It is also trying to shift patients to Tasigna, which has a longer patent life.
Dr. John M. Goldman, emeritus professor of hematology at Imperial College in London and a co-author of the commentary, said he knew several researchers who declined to become authors because they feared losing research money from the industry.
Dr. Kantarjian, the lead author, said that was a risk.
“I am sure I am going to be blackballed,” he said. “My research career will be hurt.”
But he said it was time to speak out. “Pharmaceutical companies have lost their moral sense,” he said. Prices, he added, “are getting to the point where it is becoming unsustainable.”-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Ny Times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani expressed his opinion regarding the allocation of a Khoms year, the details of which are given below.
Question: How can we allocate a Khoms year?
The Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani: The start of the Khoms year for self-employed, businessman and anyone who has a profession is when the first profit is earned and if there are many incomes, the total of them is counted at the end of one year. For those who are not self-employed any extra incomes which may be earned during the year and after all expenses are taken out, Khoms must be paid on whatever extra is left of those incomes.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A 25-year-old man known online as Recursion has been sentenced to a year in jail for hacking Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Cody Kretsinger pleaded guilty last April, and admitted being part of an infamous hacking group known as Lulzsec.
After his jail term, Kretsinger will be required to do 1,000 hours of community service, a Los Angeles judge ruled.
Sony said thezhack caused more than $600,000 (£392,000) in damage.
Not to be confused with the attack on Sony's PlayStation Network, the Sony Pictures hack in July 2011 involved breaching the company's website and accessing a database of customers' names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
Around 50,000 of the names were later posted online.
Kretsinger pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy and unauthorised impairment of a protected computer.
Prosecutors declined to say if Kretsinger was also co-operating with authorities in exchange for leniency.
Lulzsec in the dock
It follows guilty pleas last week from other hackers involved with Lulzsec.
At Southwark Crown Court in London, 26-year-old Ryan Ackroyd, from South Yorkshire, admitted to being part of the group that targeted the NHS and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).
He is to be sentenced next month with three others: Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, from Peckham, south London, Jake Davis, 20, from Lerwick, Shetland, and Ryan Cleary, 21, of Essex.
Kretsinger's guilty plea came a month after it was revealed that another prolific hacker, known as Sabu - real name Hector Xavier Monsegur - had been co-operating with US authorities to provide information on people suspected of being part of Lulzsec.
Murdoch and CIA targeted
The group emerged as a splinter group of the Anonymous hacking collective in May 2011.
The name stood for Lulz Security - in which "Lulz" is derived from the popular internet term "lol", meaning "laugh out loud".
Members employed techniques to flood websites with high traffic - known as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks - in order to render them unusable.
Lulzsec claimed to have attacked the Sun newspaper's website, on which a false story was planted suggesting that Rupert Murdoch, CEO of its News Corporation parent company, had died.
In the US, the group was credited with attacking the website of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Lulzsec had previously posted a story on American broadcaster PBS's website, suggesting that the dead rapper Tupac Shakur was alive.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – There have been a number of rumors floating around in regards to the next Nexus 7 as we heard it could be equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and could be released in July for possibly $149. A new report is estimating just how many Google Nexus 7 could be shipping this year once it’s made available.
DigiTimes claims their “sources from the upstream supply chain” are saying they expect a total of 8 million Google Nexus 7 to be shipped before the end of the year, with one million of those units being shipped starting in May. Considering the Google Nexus 7 is expected to be unveiled at Google I/O next month, that means Google and Asus will need to sell over one million units a month in order to meet they expectations. When you think about just how popular the previous Nexus 7 was, we’re sure more Android-tablet owners will flock to the new and improved one once it’s announced.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – I first saw Drifter, developer Colin Walsh's great space trading simulation, at last year's GDC. Back then, the game was a great idea, though Walsh's Celsius Game Studios had plenty of work to do. In the year in between, however, Walsh carried out a successful Kickstarter, picking up over $80,000 in support for the title. As a result, the game is not only coming out on iOS but also being released on PC and Mac, and Walsh has picked up composer Danny Baranowsky to do the music, as well as an artist to help him with the game's assets and UI.
I got to see the game again this week at GDC 2013, and Drifter looks terrific these days -- it's very clearly a love letter to the space trading genre (which includes games like Elite, Privateer, Freelancer, and EVE Online), an open world sandbox game on an epic scale. The universe the game creates (which is generated randomly every time you start a character) spans 10,000 light years, according to Walsh, and contains 20,000 star systems to travel through. You pilot your ship manually, and while the game as I saw it last year had a top-down view on a 2D field, the latest version has moved the camera to a behind the back view, which Walsh says really makes everything look that much bigger.
Some of the larger systems might take a full hour to fly all the way across, if you were to just hit the accelerator and go. But instead of merely flying across the universe, of course, you can jump from system to system, with a short cooldown period in between each jump. During this cooldown period, you might be attacked by pirates, so every system has its own safety rating. Alternately, you could do the pirating, attacking any ships you find at will and trying to steal their cargo.
Whether you come across goods by stealing them, by buying them, or even by mining them yourself (by blowing up various astroid fields you come across), the game also supports a complicated economy, where every system has its own price structure and goods for sale. And Walsh says that though it's not done yet, there will eventually be a crafting/synthesis system as well, where you can make more complicated tech out of other materials you find.
Finally, says Walsh, once the sandbox elements of the game are completed (and players can fly around the universe on their own, collecting goods and money as they'd like), he wants to try and put some story into the game, building up missions and quests to send people around the world. That's a large feature that may not make it into the game's first release, but Walsh isn't worried. Currently, the game is in beta for early Kickstarter backers, and then he's going to release it to other Kickstarter backers, before eventually showing it off to the public. And then Walsh says there's lots of room to grow -- he expects to support the game with new features and content after release, listening in close to what the community wants as the game is put together.
I asked Walsh if he'd always planned to run a Kickstarter, and he confirmed that yes, even though he'd done quite a bit of work on the game before the campaign, "I've been thinking about Kickstarter since I started." The Kickstarter money has definitely pushed the process along, however -- in addition to gaining an artist and the budget to support one, it's given Walsh a strong community of space trading fans very interested in the game's development.
The other Kickstarter backers should get their beta starting in April, and then Walsh is hoping for a May beta for the Mac and PC version. Soon after, sometime this summer, the iOS version should appear on the App Store, and after that, Walsh hopes to spread it to even more platforms, including possibly a Steam Greenlight release. There should be no substantial difference between the versions, though the PC version's graphics may be a little more high fidelity. But Walsh says he's working on a cloud save option, where players would be able to play on one platform, and then load that exact game somewhere else.
Drifter looks like a great game -- Walsh definitely knows his space trading genre, and this is an excellent example of why these games are so popular with the genre's fans. Walsh has plenty of work to do, and it'll be very exciting to see where the game goes as he moves further and further into development. But this is definitely an example of a Kickstarter campaign really paying off, and providing a game's creator not only with a larger budget to put into action, but a dedicated community to support his work.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Social networking apps are beginning to pay off quite nicely after monthly revenues for the category on the App Store jumped 87% year-over-year in January, according to a new study from App Annie.
The app store analytics service found that the social networking apps category is now the third highest in terms of monthly revenue, behind only games and productivity. It’s an impressive showing, given that it was placed 12th last January.
In terms of downloads, social networking was sixth overall among categories on the App Store in January. According to App Annie, monthly downloads were up 30% year-over-year and now account for 5% of total downloads.
“This kind of growth is perhaps not as stellar as that of other categories, but speaks to a category that has reached a certain level of maturity,” the company said in its report.
Japan in particular showed a huge increase in social networking revenue on Apple’s App Store, largely due to the success of messaging app Line, which has been climbing the country’s top-grossing charts since last April.
Fueled by services like Tencent’s WeChat and Sina Weibo, China has risen to become a top downloader of social networking apps on the App Store. A new couple’s app and a photo/audio sharing service took the top spots in terms of monthly downloads in China in January.
Globally, the list of top social networking apps with respect to downloads was predictably dominated by Facebook, Apple’s Find My Friends, Twitter and Skype, though WeChat made an impressive sixth-place showing.
Line was the top social networking app for revenue, displacing WhatsApp. Dating apps like Zoosk, Badoo, Grindr Xtra and eHarmony also proved capable at monetization.
Over on Google Play, social networking apps were also among the top downloaded non-game titles. Facebook, WhatApp, Skype, Instagram, Twitter, Line and Viber cracked the top 10. Line was the top grossing non-game app on Google Play in January, while Korea’s KakaoTalk took third place.
Messaging apps out of Asia have been leading the charge in terms of monetization, and western services are taking notice. Path recently took a page out of Asia’s stickerbook with the addition of premium sticker shop in the 3.0 release of its service.
Many of these regional services are looking to go truly global in the long term, so we can expect to see a coming showdown between messaging apps as they compete for your time and money. App Annie notes that social networking app revenue growth is nowhere near its ceiling, and after looking at the numbers, we’re inclined to agree.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: The Next Web
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Marguerite Joseph might be advanced in years, but she likes to use Facebook to keep up with her family. It's just that Facebook doesn't accommodate the idea of being born in 1908.
When Mark Zuckerberg had (or didn't have) the sparkling idea for Facebook, he imagined that everyone on it would be 20 and gorgeous.
Oh, all right, maybe 22. And maybe not always so gorgeous.
But he surely never conceived that more mature people -- yes, the over-30s -- would be interested in sharing their party photos with strangers online.
How times have changed.
And yet the site still has some quirks. Something Marguerite Joseph from Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., discovered to her dismay.
Joseph isn't shy about her age. She's 104. In fact, she'll be 105 in April.
She's legally blind, but she likes to use Facebook to keep up with her family. She's also proud of her age. Yet every time she has tried to put 1908 as her year of birth, Facebook insists she must mean 1928.
Her granddaughter Gail Marlow reads and responds to Joseph's Facebook messages every day.
Marlow told Channel 4 in Detroit: "Every time I tried to change the settings to the right year, Facebook always came back with an unknown error message and would send us right back to a year she wasn't born in. I would love to see her real age on Facebook, I mean in April she's going to be 105. It's special."
You might imagine that Facebook was already aware of this little anomaly. You might imagine that the Duchess of Cambridge secretly dreamed of marrying Mick Jagger.
However, now that the publicity machine has cranked up enough noise to reach Facebook's ears, the company issued a statement: "We've recently discovered an issue whereby some Facebook users may be unable to enter a birthday before 1910. We are working on a fix for this and we apologize for the inconvenience."
What still seems odd is that the machines wouldn't even let Joseph have 1918, instead shifting her immediately to 1928. Perhaps they couldn't believe how young she looked.
There has been a small side benefit to Joseph's sudden publicity. When Channel 4 Detroit took up her cause, she had just over 100 friends.
However, if you go to her Facebook page now, she has 202.
In case you were wondering whether she might be friends with you, please let me reveal that she is a big fan of the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, "I Love Lucy," Ellen DeGeneres, and the movie "Casino."
Oh, yes, she seems like a character.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – According to the sources at 9to5Google, Google will be opening its own chain of retail stores in the US by the end of the year around holiday shopping season.
This move may have come across as a surprise a couple of years ago, but with the advent of the Nexus devices and the Chromebook, along with upcoming devices such as Project Glass, a retail chain of stores is just the thing that the company needs.
Google supposedly feels it needs a retail presence so that customers need to get a hands-on experience with the product before they purchase it. Google currently has mini-stores within stores for selling Chromebooks (as seen above) but the Google stores are said to be much bigger in scale.
As of now, these stores are only said to open within US but hopefully they will spread to other locations around the world next year.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The search for worlds outside our solar system has come a long way since the first exoplanets were confirmed in the early 1990s. Since then, the average rate of alien-world discoveries has shot from about three per year to between fifty and a hundred per year in the last five years. As of the end of 2012, with the tally standing at 854 newfound worlds and reports of new detections being announced nearly every week, thanks in large measure to NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers are calling this the golden age of exoplanet discovery.
Now the race is on to find Earth's twin, the elusive Earth-size planet in the habitable, or "Goldilocks," zone around a star where liquid water can exist—and experts believe we may hit the cosmic jackpot soon.
"I think we are very close to finding a potential 'Earth 2.0'—possibly next year," said Abel Méndez, a researcher with the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
In 2012 astronomers came closer than ever to zeroing in on an earthly doppelganger, or what Méndez refers to as "terran" planets—or at the very least a planet considered potentially habitable.
"However, we are far from confirming the habitability of any of these planets until we have the capability to observe their atmosphere, but that will take many years," Méndez said. "The big goal now is to find an Earth-size planet in [its] star's habitable zone—something more similar to Earth."
But until then, here are five of the most interesting exoplanetary discoveries of this past year:
Tau Ceti e and f. At less than 12 light-years away, the Tau Ceti planetary system, announced in December, is arguably one of the most exciting and important exoplanet discoveries of 2012. Tau Ceti is only the fourth such system known with five planets. Two of the outer planets, four and six times the mass of Earth, may have just the right conditions to support liquid water and even life.
While all five planets circle their star closer than Mars does our own, since their parent star's brightness is only about 55 percent of our sun, both Tau Ceti e and Tau Ceti f fall within the habitable zone. These alien worlds now stand as the closest potentially habitable exoplanets to Earth that also happen to call a sunlike star home. (Read about other stars that may support life.)
Alpha Centauri Bb. The October detection of an Earth-size planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B, only 4.3 light-years from Earth, makes this the closest exoplanet to our solar system. Hugging its star at only a few million miles away—10 times closer than Mercury is to our sun—this rocky world is too hot to be considered habitable, but it opens the possibility that the neighboring Alpha Centauri triple-star system may be home to other planets at the right distance to support liquid water. (Read more about Earth-size planets.)
Gliese 667Cc. In February astronomers announced the discovery of the first exoplanet confirmed to orbit within the so-called habitable zone of a star—only 22 light-years from Earth. With a mass 4.5 times that of Earth, the rocky exoplanet is classified as a super-Earth and orbits its parent star in only 28 days. Despite its proximity, the planet is bathed in warming infrared radiation and receives only 10 percent less light than we receive from the sun, which may mean liquid water can exist on its surface.
Kepler-42 b, c, and d (aka KOI-961 b, c, and d). Sitting 126 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, these are the smallest confirmed exoplanets found to date. Discovered in January, the Kepler 42 planetary system consists of three rocky worlds that come in sizes comparable to Venus and Mars, orbiting a tiny star only 70 percent bigger than Jupiter. These tiny, record-setting worlds are all smaller than Earth, but they hug their dim star so closely that it takes them only two days to circle it. Their tight orbits make them far too hot for even liquid water to survive on their surfaces. (Read more about these diminutive planets.)
Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b. A number of planets with double suns, reminiscent of the fictional world of Star Wars' Tatooine, were found in 2012. But two Saturn-size worlds—each orbiting their own binary star system—are real standouts.
Kepler-34b is a gas giant with almost 22 percent the mass of Jupiter and orbits its host stars in 289 days. Its orbit takes Kepler-34b as far away from its stars as Earth is from our sun. The exoplanet lies 4,900 light-years from Earth. Meanwhile Kepler-35b is about 13 percent of Jupiter's mass, has a year 131 days long, and orbits a pair of sunlike stars 5,400 light-years distant.
Astronomers once believed that environmental conditions around binary stars would be too chaotic for stable planetary orbits, but these two discoveries now demonstrate that "double sun" worlds may in fact be commonplace. - www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: National Geographic
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Ivory Coast's president declared three days of national mourning and promised a speedy investigation into the New Year's Day stampede that killed 60 people, most of them women and children.
"The president of the republic offers his saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and ensures them of his compassion in those painful circumstances," President Alassane Ouattara's office said in a statement issued Tuesday night.
Ouattara went to the scene of the disaster and has ordered the government to take care of the injured, his office said.
"He also asked an investigation to be carried out as soon as possible to determine the circumstances and causes of this stampede," the statement said.
The horror unfolded about 1 a.m. after a New Year's Eve fireworks show in Abidjan, the West African country's largest city and former capital. The dead included 26 children, 28 women and six men, Youth Minister Alain Lobognon reported via Twitter.
Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the tragedy happened as hundreds of people were trying to go home after the fireworks display ended in Plateau, the city's central business district.
The crush was near a stadium, Bakayoko said, adding that the proper security measures were in place during the fireworks show.
In addition to the deaths, Bakayoko said, another 49 people were injured, two seriously.
Many of the victims were trampled on or suffocated by the surging crowd, a senior fire official said on national television. Rescue workers were at the scene two hours later but could not save the victims, the official AIP news agency said. AIP had reported earlier that all the victims were all children, ranging in age from eight to 15.
A police official in Abidjan told CNN that most of the victims were young people who wanted to join in the celebration while their elders stayed at home. The stampede occurred in an area of narrow streets, according to the official, who did not want to be named as he is not authorized to talk to the media.
He said the parents of those involved were at the hospitals and were being assisted by state authorities.
Before the night's events took a deadly turn, AIP reported that thousands of people had poured into the streets to join the celebration, seen by some as symbolizing the nation's return to peace.
Nearly 5,000 extra personnel were deployed to ensure people's security, the news agency said, most of them in the Plateau area.
Ivory Coast suffered months of violence following disputed presidential elections in November 2010. Laurent Gbagbo, then the incumbent president, refused to step down after Ouattara was declared the winner.
Gbagbo was arrested five months later and is now awaiting trial at The Hague, in the Netherlands, accused of crimes against humanity for the civil unrest and deaths. The International Criminal Court also wants Ivory Coast to hand over his wife, Simone Gbagbo, to face allegations of crimes against humanity. - www.shfaqna.com/English