Tag Archives: Conference
Console Makers at E3 Weigh the Impact of Casual, Mobile Games. Xbox One’s $499 prce tag called ‘dangerous’. Microsoft To Set Up Windows Stores In 600 Best Buy Locations, Launching This Summer
This Mile High Gardening Conference, which took place in Denver over the weekend, had sessions aplenty about 21st Century growing techniques, with a big focus on aquaponics and a vertical garden installed by the Spanish firm Urbanarbolismo.
What wasn’t on the program? Marijuana — although it was originally supposed to be. The change in plans frustrated representatives of one dispensary, but the organizer says he had to cut it because of resistance from other sponsors.
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(Please note this story contains language that may offend some readers)
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Encana Corp, Canada’s largest natural gas producer, apologized on Thursday because one of its executives cursed after an analyst asked about whether new Canadian investment rules would prohibit its takeover by foreign state-owned entities.
When asked the question by Canaccord Genuity analyst Phil Skolnick, interim CEO Clayton Woitas said: “The answer would be no.” Then, in a whispered comment that was clearly audible on a replay of the call, someone can be heard saying, “fucking asshole.”
“Something like that should never have been said and we’re sorry about it,” Jay Averill, a spokesman for the company, said.
Averill said about 20 Encana executives had been gathered in a room with microphones to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter profit report with analysts and the media. The spokesman said he was unable to say which one of them uttered the expletive or whether it was directed at Skolnick.
Skolnick, a Canaccord Genuity managing director and head of Canadian energy equity research for the investment bank, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Woitas took over as interim chief executive just over a month ago after then-CEO Randy Eresman suddenly retired.
Eresman, who led the Calgary, Alberta-based company for seven years, faced criticism from investors because of poor share price performance and a U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether the company illegally colluded with Chesapeake Energy Corp to lower the price of Michigan exploration lands.
Encana’s shares dropped 6.6 percent on Thursday as investors were disappointed by the company’s oil production forecast. They closed on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$ 18.20, a 10-month low. Skolnick has a “hold” rating on the stock with a target price of $ 21.50 a share.
The new foreign investment rules specifically cover Canadian oil sands producers rather than all energy producers.
It is not the first time that open microphones have proved problematic for corporate executives. In 2007, the CEO of U.S. student lender SLM Corp, Albert Lord, was caught saying at the end of a testy conference call: “There’s no questions – let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Lord subsequently apologized, saying he recognized his “comments were offensive.”
And in taped comments in 2001, then-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling mockingly thanked an analyst for a question on a conference call, ending with the clearly audible word: “Asshole.”
The abusive comment was subsequently seen by short sellers as a sign of how much pressure Skilling was under at the time as Enron’s accounts, which were later discovered to be fraudulent, began to unravel.
“If I could go back and redo things, I would not have used the term that I used,” Skilling, who is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in the Enron scandal, later told a Congressional hearing.
(Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Martin Howell and Leslie Gevirtz)
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First and Only Man Cured of HIV Wants to Start Foundation
July 24, 2012 — At his first U.S. news conference, the first and only man to be cured of HIV infection says he’s setting up a foundation to fund an AIDS cure.
Timothy Ray Brown, 45, was living in Berlin and being treated for his HIV infection with a normal anti-HIV drug regimen. When he developed leukemia, he underwent a bone marrow transplant. His doctor decided to look for a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that makes a person resistant to HIV infection.
Such a donor was found. After having his own blood cells eradicated with radiation and powerful chemotherapy, Brown received the transplant with the anti-HIV mutation. While recovering, he was unable to take his anti-HIV drugs — yet there was no sign of the virus in his body.
Five years later, Brown remains HIV free. A recent report that there may be lingering virus in his body is not true, Brown said at the news conference.
“Despite what you may have heard recently, I am cured of the AIDS virus,” Brown said. “I am cured and will remain cured.”
Brown said that doctors have tried the same type of transplant on nine other leukemia patients with HIV. None of the others survived their cancer.
Brown himself has some difficulty walking. Although his HIV disappeared after his first bone marrow transplant, his leukemia did not. He narrowly survived a second transplant, which left him with some lasting neurological damage.
He certainly does not recommend that anyone else undergo the same procedure in the hopes of being cured of HIV infection.
“I had leukemia and this was the only way for me to survive,” Brown sad. “I’d do it again, but I would not wish this on my worst enemy. There were times I felt like I could die. And times I kind of wished I would. But I survived. I have a great survival spirit, and that is why I am here.”
At first, Brown hoped to remain anonymous. For a time, he was known only as “the Berlin patient.” Now he’s stepping out of the shadows to set up a foundation to attract funds for AIDS-cure research.
“I did not choose to become the Berlin patient. I’m just a human being who took part in a cutting-edge treatment that led to my being cured of the AIDS virus,” Brown said. “I am now choosing to dedicate my life, my body, and my story to finding a cure for AIDS for everyone with this disease and everyone who will be infected before a cure is found.”
THURSDAY July 19, 2012 — The first glimmer of hope for a cure for HIV came in 1996 with the advent of powerful drug cocktails known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). But the feeling was short-lived.
While HAART has drastically reduced deaths due to AIDS and other HIV-related diseases, it is no cure — if patients stop taking the medications (because of side effects or other reasons), the virus bounces right back, as a 2010 study of patients in Latin America and the Caribbean showed.
Yet, there is now a renewed sense of promise that, even if it still years away, researchers have a better understanding of targets that could lead to a cure, said Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research at the Foundation for AIDS Research. “We are seeing something that is probably a lot like that time in the 1990s,” she said.
In 2012, new causes for optimism include approval of a new drug, Truvada, that can help prevent the spread of HIV, safer and more effective drugs to treat those who are infected and better efforts to diagnose HIV/AIDS in people who don’t realize they have it.
These and other achievements will be a focus at the biennial International AIDS Conference, held this year in Washington, D.C. The meeting, which begins Sunday, has not been held in the United States in 22 years. Its return stems from the Obama administration’s decision in 2009 to end the ban on HIV-positive people entering the country, Johnston said.
Hints at a cure
Another “large part of the basis for the new optimism” comes from the experience of one patient back in 2008, Johnston said. That was Timothy Brown, also known as “the Berlin patient,” who was pronounced cured of HIV by his doctors.
The cure involved a special kind of blood transplant that Brown received for his leukemia from a donor that happened to have rare, mutant cells that did not allow HIV to take hold. This procedure is “absolutely not practical” for the general population, Johnston said, but it has launched research looking at ways to mimic the effect, by using gene therapy to make a patient’s cells resistant to HIV.
“[But] if we are going to bring about an ‘AIDS-free generation,’ as [then] Senator Hilary Clinton said, we are also going to need to decrease the number of new HIV cases and bring that number down to zero,” Johnston said.
That’s a lofty goal, since more than 1 million people in the United States remain infected with HIV, according to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are also about 50,000 new cases of HIV every year and that number hasn’t budged over the past two decades.
“On the prevention side, the excitement is all around use of antiretroviral therapy,” said Dr. Sten Vermund, director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health in Nashville, Tenn.
For example, one 2011 study showed that treating patients with antiretroviral therapy early — before HIV had weakened their immune system — not only kept the patients healthier, it reduced the risk that their uninfected sexual partners would become infected by 96 percent. “That’s as good as condoms,” Vermund noted, although experts are quick to stress that no medication should be seen as a substitute for the condom.
Partly because of that study, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March 2012 recommended that doctors prescribe antiretroviral therapy for all HIV patients, even if their immune system is strong, as long as they can commit to the daily medication regime.
Using treatment as prevention
Taking the use of antiretroviral therapy for prevention a step further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Truvada (an anti-HIV drug already used as treatment) for people uninfected with HIV but at high risk of becoming infected — making it the first medication to help prevent infection.
However, some experts argue that people taking Truvada for HIV prevention will forego condoms or that improper use of Truvada could lead to the emergence of resistant strains of HIV.
There’s also headway being made in improving access and uptake of HIV testing. The goal: “Radically expanding testing so we don’t have people who don’t know their HIV status, and if you are HIV-positive, you are [then] linked to effective care,” Vermund said.
Experts estimate that about one in five people who has HIV does not know it and three recent studies, including one by Vermund and his colleagues, found that only about one-quarter of people with HIV are keeping the virus in check with antiretroviral drugs. Data like that was “a wake-up call” that more needed to be done, Vermund said.
There’s good reason to find out your HIV status early, since newer antiretroviral drugs now carry lower risk of side effects, noted Stephen Gange, a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. “I think everyone felt comfortable that they could be used fairly widely,” he said.
Another milestone in HIV/AIDS care was achieved earlier this month, when the FDA approved the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, the first test that can give a person rapid results on his or her HIV status in the privacy of their own home.
Better access to testing, better outcomes
San Francisco may be ahead of the curve in testing and treating, Vermund said. In 2010, the city announced that any resident living with HIV would be directed to antiretroviral therapy even before they show signs of advancing disease. New York is the only other city to have announced this policy, in December 2011.
Since 2010, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has intensified its efforts on routine HIV testing in emergency rooms, doctors offices and storefront testing sites in high-prevalence neighborhoods, unless patients want to opt out, said Dr. Moupali Das, director of research for the department’s HIV Prevention Section. And if a person tests positive for HIV, the testing site and clinic now communicate with each other to ensure the person receives care, she added.
The result: the proportion of gay and bisexual men who did not know they were HIV-positive has dropped from about 20 percent in 2004 to only 8 percent in 2011, Das said.
“HIV in the U.S. is not a homogenous epidemic. It’s lots of tiny little epidemics affecting different groups of people and different geographies in different ways,” Das said.
In the United States, HIV has the biggest impact on gay and bisexual men. Black men in this group make up a quarter of new HIV cases. Among women infected HIV, black and Hispanic women made up more than three-fourths of new cases in 2005.
A new study is under way in the Bronx, in New York City, and in Washington to promote testing in these areas, with special messages for gay and bisexual men, and to determine whether incentives like receiving gift cards make people more likely to visit their clinic and take their medication as directed.
“Like many others, I would be delighted to have an AIDS-free generation, but I think we really need to think that we can’t rely on [only] one strategy,” Ganges said.
In the meantime, researchers seeking to adapt the cure of the “Berlin patient” are still in the early stages of trying to figure out how to target the appropriate cells without harming others, Johnston said.
A vaccine for HIV also remains a possibility, although no one expects it anytime soon. One 2009 vaccine trial in Thailand reduced HIV infection rates by about 30 percent, which is the first evidence that an HIV vaccine might be effective, said Rick King, vice president of AIDS vaccine design at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, in New York City.
More studies have to be done to get a better idea of how much protection this vaccine offers, as well as whether it would work in populations like the United States. But even if it all goes smoothly, it would probably be close to 10 years before this vaccine were deployed to the public, King said.
To keep pessimism from setting in as it did after HAART turned out not to be the end-all-be-all, people should think of eradicating HIV in stages, Gange said. “I think first it would make sense to see strategies for bringing rates of HIV infection down 50 percent or 90 percent and that would be great, and then reevaluate,” he said.
The news about Truvada and the data on preventing HIV transmission by early antiretroviral therapy are great, Gange said. “These are encouraging and give us a set of phase-one strategies.”
You can learn more about the International AIDS Society and its news by visiting the AIDS 2012 Guide to Community Involvement.
Posted: July 2012