Saturday, September 27, 2014

“Skype Translator Users Group” is created to enhance communication among people worldwide

Cortana (about whom more later), and related features on Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia 635, make using this phone a pleasure and very informative.  After asking Cortana “Who is the CEO of Microsoft?,” I was directed online to video of Satya Nadella, the company’s CEO, discussing his work at a venture capital conference, reminding us that cloud computing, and machine learning within the cloud, are the future of today’s computing.  He spoke highly of Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.

On the international front, he is trying to bring a calming point of view to bear on relations between Microsoft and China, and an energetic one between Microsoft and India, where he has recently expressed high hopes for thorough-going cooperation between the company and the state in the pursuit of economic and social development for all Indians.

Microsoft keen to team up with India: Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's - Skype Translator | 2014 Re/Code Conference

Skype Translator combines the functionality of Cortana’s speech recognition software with translations by Bing Translator and subsequently synthesizes the translated text into speech through Cortana’s text-to-speech software.

A “Skype Translator Users Group” has been created on Facebook, and can be found at:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

California Department of Public Health is waiting to hear from CDC on DOT regulations regarding disposal of Ebola waste

The disposal of the contaminated waste generated by Ebola patients receiving the best of care at Emory University Hospital and the Nebraska Medical Center is already the subject of journalistic and public interest.

You can read some expert opinion about this at ““US hospitals unprepared to handle Ebola waste.”

You can read about the extraordinary steps that were taken to sterilize before disposing of Ebola waste in Nebraska in “Clean gear, toss it, burn it – that's med center's Ebola containment strategy." 

In light of these issues, Etopia News queried the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), asking:

“Is CDPH involved in any discussions with the agencies mentioned in that article (DOT, the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency) about how California will deal with Ebola-contaminated waste materials and has it otherwise addressed this problem?”

The CDPH responded:

CDPH’s Medical Waste Management Unit recently participated in a national conference call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically addressing medical waste management practices associated with Ebola contaminated waste in clinical facilities. At that time, CDC recognized potential conflicts with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, because Ebola is recognized as a Category A disease agent, which under normal circumstances cannot be transported by California Registered Medical Waste Haulers. CDC is still having further discussions with DOT. CDC will inform CDPH on the outcome of these discussions.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

State of California and Los Angeles County health agencies say they are ready for, but not worried about, Ebola

Comments received by Etopia News from the California and Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health indicate that these agencies believe that there is not much of a threat of an Ebola outbreak within their territories and that existing facilities are sufficiently prepared to cope with any such outbreak.

Asked “Has the department catalogued and analyzed the availability of resources within the state to meet the emergency needs that an outbreak of Ebola in the state would generate?” a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health responded:

“Both CDC and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) continue to prepare for the unlikely event that a returning traveler from these countries is infected with Ebola virus.  CDPH is working with local health departments across California to assess the readiness of health care facilities to handle patients who may have Ebola.  Hospitals have resources to effectively isolate patients.  Local health departments have resources to follow up on any persons in the community who may be exposed.”

Asked the same thing about its own area, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County of Public Health responded by saying:

“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not anticipate an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to occur in the county, however Public Health is prepared should an incidence of EVD occur. In the event of multiple cases of illness, Public Health and its County partners are able to swiftly respond. This readiness includes the ability to identify and diagnose any suspected EVD case through the Public Health Laboratory, isolate the patient in the event a diagnosis is confirmed, provide appropriate care with strict infection control, and work with those who have contact with the patient.  

“Public Health is confident that the level of precaution required to protect against EVD is well within the capabilities of all hospitals in Los Angeles County. The Department has provided information about the diagnosis and management of suspected cases of Ebola to health care providers and all hospitals in the County. In addition, quarantine stations, under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are available in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, should the need arise.

The spokesperson added, “A survey of the County’s overall readiness is not available for distribution.”

Neither agency had anything to say about the safe disposal of Ebola-contaminated materials, including protective gear, which emerged as an issue during the treatment of Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, as reported in an article from Reuters entitled “US hospitals unprepared to handle Ebola waste.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No mention of re-instating their contract in Pentagon response on Sarepta

As reported by Etopia News here, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based bio-tech company Sarepta Therapeutics announced on October 3, 2012 “that the Ebola portion of the Company's contract [with the Department of Defense] for the advanced development of hemorrhagic fever virus therapeutics was terminated for the convenience of the government due to funding constraints.”

In light of the accelerating spread of Ebola in West Africa, Etopia News contacted the Department of Defense to inquire about the possibility of that contract being re-instated. 

According to a Defense official who responded:

“The DoD Joint Project Manager for Medical Countermeasure Systems (JPM-MCS) terminated its contract with Sarepta Therapeutics (Cambridge, Massachusetts) in 2012 for the development of the Ebola product, AVI 7537.  At that time, JPM-MCS retained the drug material. Recently JPM-MCS agreed to a request from Sarepta to return all AVI 7537 material to the company for potential use in the current outbreak.”

The official also stated that “the Department of Defense (DoD) remains committed to supporting the nation's response to the Ebola outbreak,” but made no mention of whether that support would extend to re-instating Sarepta’s contract.

In a recent article, Adam Feuerstein argued that “Sarepta Should Shut Up About Ebola, Focus on Job No. 1,” writing:

“Ebola is big news today, but Sarepta has one job right now: Finishing the eteplirsen regulatory package and delivering it to the FDA for review before the end of the year. Nothing else is more important to Sarepta, shareholders or Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients and their families.  Talking up ebola sounds like a distraction from Sarepta's priority. It sounds like the company is losing focus.”  

More about Sarepta at:

Sarepta shares plunge 60 percent after FDA questions drug trial

Sarepta bets on DMD drug approval with a $25M plant buy

FDA Questions around Dystrophin Quantitation by Sarepta Delay DMD Drug

Sarepta CEO: Start of main Duchenne drug trial delayed by one to two months

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recreation and Parks will extend “cooling center” hours until 9:00 pm on Wednesday, September 17th

Veronica Hendrix, Public Information Officer in the Emergency Management Department, Communications Division, with the City of Los Angeles, today told Etopia News that open hours at the eight “cooling centers” set up to help people cope with the on-going heat wave, “will be extended one more day, Wednesday, September 17 until 9:00 pm at the 8 selected sites.” 

She mentioned that “We haven't pushed out that bulletin yet, you are among the first to know.”

Ms. Hendrix also said that, according to the Department of Recreation and Parks, they played host to “232 people among all the extended hours sites” on Sunday, September 14th.