WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/news/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en To protect his son, a father asks school to bar unvaccinated children http://www.wbez.org/news/protect-his-son-father-asks-school-bar-unvaccinated-children-111464 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rhett-1_slide-c10ff261cacc06cbd89faaa50e63cda63bfc99b4-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Carl Krawitt has watched his son, Rhett, now 6, fight leukemia for the past 4 1/2 years. For more than three of those years, Rhett has undergone round after round of chemotherapy. Last year he finished chemotherapy, and doctors say he is in remission.</p><p>Now, there&#39;s a new threat, one that the family should not have to worry about: measles.</p><p>Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection &mdash; what&#39;s known as <a href="http://blogs.kqed.org/stateofhealth/2013/08/23/5-things-you-should-know-about-vaccines/" target="_blank">herd immunity</a>.</p><p>But Rhett lives in Marin County, Calif., a county with the <a href="http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2013/08/21/marin-vaccinations/" target="_blank">dubious honor of having the highest rate of &quot;personal belief exemptions&quot;</a> in the Bay Area and among the highest in the state. This school year, 6.45 percent of children in Marin have a personal belief exemption, which allows parents to lawfully send their children to school unvaccinated against communicable diseases like measles, polio, whooping cough and more</p><p>Carl Krawitt has had just about enough. &quot;It&#39;s very emotional for me,&quot; he said. &quot;If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that&#39;s your responsibility, that&#39;s your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then ... your action has harmed my child.&quot;</p><p>Krawitt is taking action of his own. His son attends Reed Elementary in Tiburon, a school with a 7 percent personal belief exemption rate. (The statewide average is 2.5 percent). Krawitt had previously worked with the school nurse to make sure that all the children in his son&#39;s class were fully vaccinated. He said the school was very helpful and accommodating.</p><p>Now Krawitt and his wife, Jodi, have emailed the district&#39;s superintendent, requesting that the district &quot;require immunization as a condition of attendance, with the only exception being those who cannot medically be vaccinated.&quot;</p><p>Carl Krawitt provided me with Superintendent Steven Herzog&#39;s response. Herzog didn&#39;t directly address their query, instead saying: &quot;We are monitoring the situation closely and will take whatever actions necessary to ensure the safety of our students.&quot;</p><p>Typically, a response to health emergencies rests with county health officers. During the current measles outbreak, we&#39;ve already seen that unvaccinated students at Huntington Beach High School in Orange County <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-students-exposed-to-measles-oc-20150120-story.html" target="_blank">were ordered to stay </a>out of school for three weeks after a student there contracted measles. It&#39;s one way to contain an outbreak.</p><p>But those steps were taken in the face of a confirmed case at the school.</p><p>When I called Marin County health officer Matt Willis to see what he thought of keeping unvaccinated kids out of school even if there were no confirmed cases, he sounded intrigued. &quot;This is partly a legal question,&quot; he said.</p><p>But he was open to the idea and said he was going to check with the state to see what precedent there was to take such an action.</p><p>Right now, there are no cases of measles anywhere in Marin and no suspected cases either. Still, &quot;if the outbreak progresses and we start seeing more and more cases,&quot; Willis said, &quot;then this is a step we might want to consider&quot; &mdash; requiring unvaccinated children to stay home, even without confirmed cases at a specific school.</p><p>Rhett has been treated at the University of California, San Francisco, and his oncologist there, Dr. Robert Goldsby, said that he is likely at higher risk of complications if he were to get measles.</p><p>&quot;When your immune system isn&#39;t working as well, it allows many different infections to be worse,&quot; Goldsby said. &quot;It&#39;s not just Rhett. There are hundreds of other kids in the Bay Area that are going through cancer therapy, and it&#39;s not fair to them. They can&#39;t get immunized; they have to rely on their friends and colleagues and community to help protect them.&quot;</p><p>Goldsby pointed to the number of people who, when facing a friend or family member who receives a challenging diagnosis, will immediately ask how they can help. &quot;Many families will say, &#39;What can I do to help? What can I do to help?&#39; &quot; he said, repeating it for emphasis. &quot;One of the main things they can do is make sure their [own] kids are vaccinated to protect others.&quot;</p><p>Krawitt has been speaking up about vaccination for a long time now. He told me about going to a parent meeting at his daughter&#39;s school just before the start of the school year, where a staff member reminded parents not to send peanut products to school, since a child or children had an allergy. &quot;It&#39;s really important your kids don&#39;t bring peanuts, because kids can die,&quot; Krawitt recalls the group being told.</p><p>The irony was not lost on him. He told me he immediately responded, &quot;In the interest of the health and safety of our children, can we have the assurance that all the kids at our school are immunized?&quot;</p><p>He found out later from a friend that other parents who were present were &quot;mad that you asked the question, because they don&#39;t immunize their kids.&quot;</p><p><em>This story was produced by </em><a href="http://blogs.kqed.org/stateofhealth/">State of Health</a><em>, KQED&#39;s health blog.</em></p></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/protect-his-son-father-asks-school-bar-unvaccinated-children-111464 Suburban Chicago resident has confirmed case of measles http://www.wbez.org/news/science/suburban-chicago-resident-has-confirmed-case-measles-111461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/measlesvaccine_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois public health officials say a suburban Chicago resident has a confirmed case of measles.</p><p>IDPH Director Nirav Shah says just ten cases of measles have been reported in Illinois over the last five years. He says this case is a reminder of the importance of vaccinations. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease with a characteristic rash.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health says it is working with the Cook County Department of Public Health to trace and contact all potential people who were exposed.</p><p>Officials say potential exposures may have occurred at:</p><p>&mdash; Northwest Community Hospital&#39;s emergency room in Arlington Heights on Jan. 14 and Jan. 17.</p><p>&mdash; Supermercade Guzman in Palatine on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13.</p><p>&mdash; Vista Clinic in Palatine on Jan. 16.</p></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/suburban-chicago-resident-has-confirmed-case-measles-111461 Advocates urge McDonald's to serve meat raised without antibiotics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-urge-mcdonalds-serve-meat-raised-without-antibiotics-111441 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/antibiotics mcdonalds.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Advocacy groups are urging McDonald&rsquo;s Corp to stop serving meat from animals fed antibiotics.</p><p>Members of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition and Rosenthal Group held a press conference at Sopraffina Caffe in the Loop Thursday to formally challenge the fast food giant to rethink its meat sourcing on the issue.</p><p>McDonald&rsquo;s Corp did not respond to requests for comment.</p><p>Leading the charge was Illinois PIRG, which launched the campaign along with its national parent in seven cities across the country Thursday.</p><p>&ldquo;This is part of a larger public health issue of antibiotic resistance,&rdquo; said Illinois PIRG advocate Dev Gowda. &ldquo;The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms and the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals is leading to antibiotic resistance. Now 2 million Americans get sick each year and 23,000 die from antibiotic resistant infections&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a danger when people go to the doctor for routine infections and they get antibiotics, but sometimes they don&rsquo;t work. So it&rsquo;s a really scary situation for many families.&rdquo;</p><p>Joining him was Taryn Kelly of the Rosenthal Group which owns Sopraffina Caffes, Poag Mahone and Trattoria No. 10 in Chicago. Four years ago all of those restaurants began sourcing their meat exclusively from producers who do not use antibiotics on healthy animals.</p><p>&ldquo;It is hard work. It takes dedication and passion,&rdquo; Kelly said. &ldquo;You have to be passionate about the cause. And the more restaurants we can get on board the easier it will before us. That&rsquo;s why we are here urging a big player like McDonald&rsquo;s to get on board with us.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked how such changes in sourcing affected prices for consumers, Kelly pointed out prices on the menu boards at the restaurant which included an 8-inch sandwich filled with grass fed beef raised without antibiotics. It cost $8.99. A 12-inch sausage and pepperoni pizza for two costs $10.49.</p><p>National chain Chick-Fil-A has pledged to start sourcing its chicken from producers who don&rsquo;t use antibiotics within five years and local chain Hannah&rsquo;s Bretzel has already instituted those standards for all of its meat.</p><p>In a released statement Rosenthal group president Dan Rosenthal said, &ldquo;If McDonald&rsquo;s were to [demand meat raised without antibiotics from] its suppliers, it would be a game changer, and one that would help preserve these vital drugs for our kids and grandkids. We&rsquo;ve done it for all the meat we buy for our restaurants&hellip;it&rsquo;ll take time, but McDonald&rsquo;s can do it, too!&rdquo;</p><p>In 2003, McDonald&rsquo;s put in place a policy that would prevent the use of antibiotics for growth promotion but would still allow them for disease prevention among healthy animals. And they do not apply to all producers.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-urge-mcdonalds-serve-meat-raised-without-antibiotics-111441 Global Activism: 'Mano a Mano' brings supplies and infrastructure to Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mano-mano-brings-supplies-and-infrastructure-bolivia-111434 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Mano a mano-CMS.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-00d0ef7f-1239-75c3-d367-d4c1c66b166f">Segundo Velasquez grew up in Bolivia. But when he moved to Minnesota, Segundo&rsquo;s brother Jose, a pediatrician, asked him to bring back medical supplies whenever he came for visits. Soon after, Segundo and his wife, Joan, started the NGO, <a href="http://manoamano.org/">Mano a Mano International Partners</a> to collect surplus medical supplies and equipment for Jose&rsquo;s hospital. Over 20 years later, Mano a Mano&#39;s work has expanded to deliver food and school supplies and build over 300 infrastructure projects throughout Bolivia. Segundo will tell us his story for our </span><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a> series.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/187361302&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Joan wrote about the importance of their work in this excerpt from her book, &quot;Gaining Ground, A Blueprint for Community-Based International Development&quot;:</em></p><p>&ldquo;Bolivia has a total population of just over ten million, more than half the people of Bolivia live in deep material poverty. Family incomes average less than a dollar a day. The country&rsquo;s wealth is concentrated in its cities (43.5%) live in poor barrios. Outside the cities it&rsquo;s worse. The same vistas garner rave reviews dictate isolated and economic hardship for many rural Bolivians. Approximately a third of Bolivia&rsquo;s population (an estimated 3.3 million people) reside in rural areas. Of this rural population, more than sixty-five percent do not have sufficient income to cover basic needs. Some rural residents work as miners or artisans, but the vast majority eke out a meager living as subsistence farmers, raising crops and a few domestic animals on one-or-two-acre plots. The climate and terrain present challenges. As a consequence, 37 percent of rural children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mano-mano-brings-supplies-and-infrastructure-bolivia-111434 The city might not be to blame for high asthma rates http://www.wbez.org/news/science/city-might-not-be-blame-high-asthma-rates-111433 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/asthma1_slide-f87a7c627dcf56654fd9092cf8c7dca97a7dd7a3-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Asthma affects children regardless of where they live and whether they are rich or poor. But scientists have long thought that living in poor urban neighborhoods adds an extra risk for this&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/">troublesome lung inflammation</a>. A new study suggests that&#39;s not necessarily the case.</p><p>Asthma is often triggered by something in the environment, so in the 1960s, scientists started looking for places where asthma was especially bad.</p><p>&quot;Researchers started noting that people living in inner cities like New York, Chicago and Baltimore, had rates of asthma in general and they seemed to have very high rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/staffDetail.aspx?id=8620">Dr. Corrine Keet</a>, a pediatric allergist at the Johns Hopkins Children&#39;s Center.</p><p>Keet and her colleagues realized that nobody had ever taken a sweeping look to see if what was true in those cities applied nationwide. So they did that study to check those assumptions. Their surprising&nbsp;<a href="http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749%2814%2901676-5/abstract">findings&nbsp;</a>appear in the&nbsp;<em>Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology</em>.</p><p>&quot;We found that living in an inner-city area was actually not a big risk factor for having asthma,&quot; she says.</p><p>Absolutely, lots of children in these poor neighborhoods had asthma.</p><p>&quot;But we also found that&nbsp;<em>even more</em>&nbsp;children had asthma in some poor suburban and medium sized towns in other regions of the country,&quot; she says. What&#39;s more, for children outside of the Northeastern states, &quot;living in the inner city didn&#39;t seem to a risk factor at all for having asthma.&quot;</p><p>When they dived in to isolate the actual risks, they found that poverty itself was an overwhelming factor, along with African-American or Puerto Rican heritage. There&#39;s apparently a genetic component to asthma, though it&#39;s tough to tease out. Genetics may help explain why Hispanics from places other than Puerto Rico generally have lower rates of asthma, regardless of their income levels.</p><p>&quot;Where we used to conflate inner city with poverty, now we&#39;re see even more concentrated poverty in suburban areas and smaller towns,&quot; Keet says.</p><p>This means that the environment right outside your door doesn&#39;t matter nearly as much as what life is like in your home.</p><p>According to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/rosalind-j-wright">Dr. Rosalind Wright</a>, a professor of pediatrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, there&#39;s plenty of evidence that bad housing, beset with cockroaches and mold, can increase the risk of asthma.</p><p>&quot;This can also be true in non-urban areas, of course,&quot; Wright says. &quot;If you live in lower-quality housing, you may have similar types of risks.&quot;</p><p>Second-hand smoke is also a risk for children, and poor people tend to smoke more. And people in poverty, no matter where they live, also experience day-to-day stress.</p><p>&quot;Certainly people who live with lower incomes have many more challenges to deal with and psychological stress, and this can affect your immune system,&quot; Wright says.</p><p>Scientists really want to track down the root causes of asthma, so it&#39;s helpful to replace the vague observation about life in the inner city with more specific threats that can trigger asthma attacks.</p><p>Wright has been chipping away at this problem for years, but she doesn&#39;t think we&#39;ll end up zeroing in on just a few specific factors.</p><p>&quot;The problem is it&#39;s not the same environmental factors that might be most relevant or important, if you&#39;re talking about the Upper East Side of New York City versus East Harlem versus rural Michigan or something like this,&quot; she says.</p><p>Wright says what we need now are studies that don&#39;t simply survey the landscape but that get down to the nitty-gritty, so scientists can understand how environmental factors and genes interact to trigger this common and occasionally deadly disease.</p><p>-<em>via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/20/378608279/the-inner-city-might-not-be-to-blame-for-high-asthma-rates">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/city-might-not-be-blame-high-asthma-rates-111433 E-Cigarettes can churn out high levels of formaldehyde http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/vaping_slide-259922e9c838be3bf53a7f24472dd9a2796845e2-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde &mdash; a known carcinogen &mdash; researchers reported Wednesday.</p><p>The findings, described in a letter <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1413069">published</a> in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em>, intensify <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/16/371253640/teens-now-reach-for-e-cigarettes-over-regular-ones">concern</a> about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.</p><p>&quot;I think this is just one more piece of evidence amid a number of pieces of evidence that e-cigarettes are not absolutely safe,&quot; says <a href="http://www.pdx.edu/profile/david-peyton">David Peyton</a>, a chemistry professor at Portland State University who helped conduct the research.</p><p>The e-cigarette industry immediately dismissed the findings, saying the measurements were made under unrealistic conditions.</p><p>&quot;They clearly did not talk to [people who use e-cigarettes] to understand this,&quot; says <a href="http://vaping.com/news/greg-conley-to-lead-american-vaping-association">Gregory Conley</a> of the American Vaping Association. &quot;They think, &#39;Oh well. If we hit the button for so many seconds and that produces formaldehyde, then we have a new public health crisis to report.&#39; &quot; But that&#39;s not the right way to think about it, Conley suggests.</p><p>E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains nicotine to create a vapor that users inhale. They&#39;re generally considered safer than regular cigarettes, because some research has suggested that the level of most toxicants in the vapor is much lower than the levels in smoke.</p><p>Some public health experts think vaping could prevent some people from starting to smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes, and could help some longtime smokers kick the habit.</p><p>But many health experts are also worried that so little is known about e-cigarettes that they may pose unknown risks. So Peyton and his colleagues decided to take a closer look at what&#39;s in that vapor.</p><p>&quot;We simulated vaping by drawing the vapor &mdash; the aerosol &mdash; into a syringe, sort of simulating the lungs,&quot; Peyton says. That enabled the researchers to conduct a detailed chemical analysis of the vapor. They found something unexpected when the devices were dialed up to their highest settings.</p><p>&quot;To our surprise, we found masked formaldehyde in the liquid droplet particles in the aerosol,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>He calls it &quot;masked&quot; formaldehyde because it&#39;s in a slightly different form than regular formaldehyde &ndash; a form that could increase the likelihood it would get deposited in the lung. And the researchers didn&#39;t just find a little of the toxicant.</p><p>&quot;We found this form of formaldehyde at significantly higher concentrations than even regular cigarettes [contain] &mdash; between five[fold] and fifteenfold higher concentration of formaldehyde than in cigarettes,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>And formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.</p><p>&quot;Long-term exposure is recognized as contributing to lung cancer,&quot; say Peyton. &quot;And so we would like to minimize contact (to the extent one can) especially to delicate tissues like the lungs.&quot;</p><p>Conley says the researchers only found formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were cranked up to their highest voltage levels.</p><p>&quot;If you hold the button on an e-cigarette for 100 seconds, you could potentially produce 100 times more formaldehyde than you would ever get from a cigarette,&quot; Conley says. &quot;But no human vaper would ever vape at that condition, because within one second their lungs would be incredibly uncomfortable.&quot;</p><p>That&#39;s because the vapor would be so hot. Conley compares it to overcooking a steak.</p><p>&quot;I can take a steak and I can cook it on the grill for the next 18 hours, and that steak will be absolutely chock-full of carcinogens,&quot; he says. &quot;But the steak will also be charcoal, so no one will eat it.&quot;</p><p>Peyton acknowledges that he found no formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were set at low levels. But he says he thinks plenty of people use the high settings.</p><p>&quot;As I walk around town and look at people using these electronic cigarette devices it&#39;s not difficult to tell what sort of setting they&#39;re using,&quot; Peyton says. &quot;You can see how much of the aerosol they&#39;re blowing out. It&#39;s not small amounts.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s pretty clear to me,&quot; he says, &quot;that at least some of the users are using the high levels.&quot;</p><p>So Peyton hopes the government will tightly regulate the electronic devices. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of deciding just how strict it should be.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/21/378663944/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-of-formaldehyde" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 When it comes to smartphones, are Americans dumb? http://www.wbez.org/news/science/when-it-comes-smartphones-are-americans-dumb-111370 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20150106_122841_wide-8cda4a59d28d672c6de6fc4fb3043f916653da06-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As you might imagine, there are smartphones everywhere at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Tonino Lamborghini [a company not related to the famous car brand] has a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.lamborghinimobile.com/en/" target="_blank">new phone out</a>&nbsp;for $6,000. Samsung&#39;s Galaxy series is on display in a dazzling showroom.</p><p>But these high-end phones are not the force driving global sales. You&#39;ll find that in a little corner of this massive expo: the Asian wing. It took just 30 minutes of speed walking (the convention center madness here spans a few million square feet) to finally reach it.</p><p>The space has a little smartphone alley, filled with cramped, boxy booths rented out by some of the world&#39;s leading manufacturers &mdash; companies you&#39;ve never heard of, likeWeiHeng Digital Co. Ltd., Quality Technology Industrial Co. and Shenzhen GBD Electronics Co.</p><p>All these vendors are here at the show for the first time. They&#39;ve been building customer bases in Asia, Africa and Europe. Now, they say, it&#39;s time to hit the U.S. market.</p><p>I go booth to booth, asking vendors to show me the very best phones they&#39;ve got.</p><p>The phone Gandolf Guan of WeiHeng is holding costs about $110. It&#39;s the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus, though it doesn&#39;t bend (I tried). And with its &quot;smart awake&quot; feature, you can swipe the screen with your finger to awaken it from sleep mode. You can swipe &quot;C&quot; for call pad, &quot;E&quot; for email or &quot;M&quot; for music, but it&#39;s up to you &mdash; &quot;you can make the definitions by yourself,&quot; Guan explains.</p><p>The phone&#39;s camera is high-resolution with 16 megapixels, just like my Samsung Galaxy S5.</p><p>And this phone has a feature mine does not. Guan pops open the back to show me: It has two SIM cards, not one.</p><p>The SIM card, a chip the size of a fingernail, is used in most of the world outside the U.S. You can pop the card, which is associated with a specific carrier, in and out of one phone and put it in another. So with two SIM cards, you could switch back and forth between carriers and save money, Guan says.</p><p>Say Verizon is your main provider, but T-Mobile is having a big promotion. Guan says you could use both SIM cards from different operators on just one phone.</p><p>I have several conversations like this one in the Asia wing. Irene Chen with Quality Ltd. tells me that her $100 phone is not cheap. &quot;It&#39;s very smart,&quot; she says. &quot;Let me show you.&quot;</p><p>Chen grabs her best phone and launches&nbsp;<a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.antutu.ABenchMark&amp;hl=en">AnTuTu Benchmark</a>, an Android app that diagnoses a phone&#39;s specs like its speed and its memory. And it&#39;s true: This phone&#39;s ranking is on par with leading models.</p><p>When many of us see the label, &quot;Made in India&quot; or &quot;Made in China,&quot; we think it must be bad quality.</p><p>But Chen points out, &quot;As you know, almost all the phones [are] made in China. Like Apple. It&#39;s made in China also.&quot;</p><p>The vendors at the Asia wing make a good sales pitch, but they&#39;ve also got money at stake. So I wander through the convention in search of experts who don&#39;t &mdash; and find Greg Harper.</p><p>He&#39;s the kind of rigorous (or obsessive) expert you wish were whispering into your ear while you&#39;re phone shopping. &quot;In terms of smartphones, I have 28 active [phone] numbers,&quot; Harper says. &quot;And I have no idea how many actual phones I own. It&#39;s in the hundreds.&quot;</p><p>Harper swears by his Asian phones.</p><p>&quot;The [Xiaomi] Mi5 is a very, very good phone, and the OnePlus. Those are the two phones I&#39;m using right now,&quot; he says.</p><p>His favorites cost $300 to $400 &mdash; about half the price of a top-end, unsubsidized Apple or Samsung, and he says they&#39;re just as good. They run on Android, so you can use all the same Google apps.</p><p>Korea-based Samsung is, in fact, taking a beating on its home turf. Because it was so focused on Americans who&#39;ll spend a lot of money, it lost the huge market in Asia. One company called Xiaomi has risen so fast it&#39;s now the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS25224914">third-largest</a>&nbsp;smartphone-maker in the world.</p><p>Harper says Americans aren&#39;t paying for quality &mdash; they&#39;re paying for brand.</p><p>&quot;Are&nbsp;American consumers dumb when it comes to how we buy smartphones?&quot; I ask him.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re very dumb,&quot; he says. &quot;Because we&#39;ve been caught up in the whole marketing blitz.&quot;</p><p>The Asian phone-makers at the show say they&#39;re fighting over pennies back home. In the U.S., with prices so high, they can grab dollars.</p><p><em>- via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2015/01/07/375650059/when-it-comes-to-smartphones-are-americans-dumb">NPR&#39;s All Tech Considered</a></em></p></p> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/when-it-comes-smartphones-are-americans-dumb-111370 California dairy owners find greener pastures in Midwest http://www.wbez.org/news/california-dairy-owners-find-greener-pastures-midwest-111365 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/0108_california-dairy-624x409.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>California is the nation&rsquo;s number one dairy state. It&rsquo;s branded as the state with happy cows, but not necessarily happy dairy owners. For many of them, drought, feed costs and development pressure mean it&rsquo;s getting tougher to make a living.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why some are some selling their cattle and heading to the Midwest. From the Here &amp;&nbsp;Now Contributors Network,&nbsp;Grant Gerlock&nbsp;of Harvest Public Media reports.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/08/california-dairies-midwest" target="_blank">via Here &amp; Now </a></em></p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/california-dairy-owners-find-greener-pastures-midwest-111365 A plan to put your driver's license on your phone http://www.wbez.org/news/science/plan-put-your-drivers-license-your-phone-111357 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/phone_wide-183705d44f93b90514ac460de08109553c071bca-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We&#39;re doing more and more things with our smartphones, so why not use them to store our driver&#39;s license? But when you think about it, you may not be comfortable handing your phone over to a police officer.</p><p>Motorists in Iowa may be among the first in the nation to be able to whip out their smartphones to access their licenses at traffic stops. The Iowa Department of Transportation is developing a smartphone app that would allow drivers to access a digitally encoded license that would take the place of the conventional plastic ID card.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s on your cellphone so you can carry it around with you,&quot; Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino says.</p><p>At a recent statehouse briefing on the IDs, Trombino demonstrates that first you access an app on the Internet. Next, with a PIN you fill in the app with information from your physical driver&#39;s license. Then your new virtual license downloads into your phone for you to present wherever you need an ID.</p><p>But some Iowans who might be most affected by the change have their doubts.</p><p>&quot;From a law enforcement perspective I really don&#39;t see any advantages,&quot; says Sgt. Scott Bright with the Iowa State Patrol. &quot;The first thing I thought about is if we&#39;re making a traffic stop, is that violator looking for their cellphone before we stop the car.&quot;</p><p>Bright also doubts that officers could scan the information from a digital license without carrying the cellphone back to the squad car &mdash; and that raises obvious privacy concerns.</p><p>Computer security experts say the digital license could be more secure than a plastic license you might lose or leave lying around. But that doesn&#39;t mean there&#39;s any real need for this yet.</p><aside><p>&quot;My thought is I wouldn&#39;t get one but not for security reasons,&quot; says Doug Jacobson of the Information Assurance Center at Iowa State University. &quot;We&#39;ve all stood in line at the airport behind the people trying to scan their QR codes to get aboard the airplane&quot; after multiple attempts.</p><p>And Jacobson says it would take some time for most people to consider this a valid ID.</p><p>So with all the objections, what&#39;s the point of a digital driver&#39;s license? Andrea Henry at the Iowa DOT concedes there isn&#39;t exactly a clamor yet for this innovation.</p><p>&quot;However, we do know that customers are demanding services through their mobile devices more and more. It&#39;s really about just keeping up with technology,&quot; Henry says.</p><p><a href="http://www.morphotrust.com/">MorphoTrust USA</a>, the technology company developing the app, is pushing that concept to other motor vehicle departments around the country. Jenny Openshaw of MorphoTrust USA says customers do want to be able to renew their driver&#39;s licenses online and sees this as the next logical step.</p><p>&quot;I think that the digital driver&#39;s license doesn&#39;t so much solve a problem as it fulfills a need and a desire on the part of the American consumer to have everything that is important to us in electronic form and on the mobile device of our choice. People are more likely to leave their wallet at home these days than their cellphone,&quot; Openshaw says.</p><p>Iowa officials predict a rollout of the new smartphone license this year or next. That&#39;s after security and privacy concerns are carefully addressed and after DOT employees test it out for customer comfort.</p><p><em>- via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2015/01/07/375658605/a-plan-to-create-put-your-drivers-license-on-your-phone">NPR&#39;s All Tech Considered</a></em></p></aside></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 08:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/plan-put-your-drivers-license-your-phone-111357 Obama will veto Keystone XL legislation http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-111345 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP434296636482.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="storytext"><p>The White House says President Obama will veto any congressional legislation that approves the Keystone XL pipeline.</p><p>&quot;If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn&#39;t sign it,&quot; White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.</p><p>The House, which has a Republican majority, is expected to vote on a Keystone bill this week. The GOP-dominated Senate is considering a similar measure, which has bipartisan support.</p><p>The pipeline, which would move crude from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, has been at the center of a long and contentious debate involving politicians, energy companies and environmentalists, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/11/17/364727163/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-keystone-xl-oil-pipeline">as NPR&#39;s Scott Horsley and Jeff Brady reported last November</a>.</p><p>Supporters of the pipeline say it will create 42,000 jobs, but opponents cite environmental concerns and are skeptical about how many jobs the project can actually create &mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2014/11/18/364751183/how-many-louisiana-jobs-are-actually-at-stake-in-keystone-debate">with one estimate</a> noting that it would create just 35 permanent jobs.</p><p>A State Department <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/01/31/269529696/state-dept-delivers-unwelcome-news-for-keystone-opponents">environmental review</a> of the project found Keystone wouldn&#39;t have an significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. As to where Obama stands on the pipeline, here&#39;s more from NPR&#39;s Horsley and Brady:</p><blockquote><div><p>&quot;The president has unusual leverage over this pipeline. Because it crosses the U.S. border with Canada, Keystone XL requires a &#39;presidential permit.&#39; Obama has guarded that power jealously. Three years ago, when Congress tried to force him to make a decision by issuing a 60-day deadline, he simply rejected the permit application.</p><p>&quot;The political challenge for Obama is that Democrats are genuinely divided on the issue, with construction unions favoring the project and some environmental activists opposing it. No matter what he decides, some constituents will be unhappy &mdash; so the president has basically stalled.&quot;</p></div></blockquote><p>The U.S. State Department is conducting a review of the pipeline&#39;s route, but that process has been held up because of a lawsuit in Nebraska over where the pipeline will be located.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/06/375412544/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-white-house-says" target="_blank">via NPR</a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-will-veto-keystone-xl-legislation-111345