UCLA Outbreak of the “Superbug”

“Superbugs.” Have you ever heard of them? Most think of the aliens from a TV show that are called “superbugs,” but no they are not aliens. In fact, they are bacteria, one of the most deadly types of bacteria.

According to the CDC, a specific family of “superbugs” named Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, also known are CRE, are very hard to treat because of their high resistance to antibiotics. They also have a high mortality rate and due to this, there are very limit therapeutic treatment options. The long-term effects are still unknown to health officials. The people that are most vulnerable to this bacteria are those that use ventilators, urinary catheters, intravenous catheters, and those that are taking certain antibiotics for long periods of time are most susceptible to CRE. The death rates for this are astounding: 50% of infected people die from this disease.

The most recent outbreak was in California at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and it all happened because of the contaminated hard-to-clean endoscopes used in nearly two hundred procedures in the last four months. 179 patients have been affected by the contaminated endoscopes.

An 18-year old student was recently hospitalized and his lawyer is sure to sue the makers of the instruments, Olympus Corp. of the Americas, and are still unsure whether or not to press charges on UCLA. Due to this patient and several others waiting to be treated by doctors, the US Food and Drug Administration have issued a warning about the type of endoscope linked to the UCLA outbreak.

Thankfully, this outbreak is not a danger to the public health, as told by Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Bibliography:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 June 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Helsel, Phil. “UCLA Superbug Outbreak Called No Threat to Public.” NBC News. NBC News, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Briggs, Bill. “UCLA ‘Superbug’ Patient to Sue Maker of Suspect Endocopes: Lawyer.” NBC News. NBC News, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

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Apple Breaks Market Records

As of now, Apple Inc. has set a new record for the stock market as it has become the first company to have a market value of over $700 billion. In contrast, its main rivals Google Inc. and Microsoft Inc. are worth considerably less, valued at $363 and $349 billion respectively. This development can certainly be called a win for Apple as they have only further cemented their positions as one of the top companies in the United States, if not the world. The news also proves that Apple’s products are still quite popular among consumer, even though newer versions of products like the Iphone and the Ipad have often been seen as merely thinner than the previous model. It seems as if Apple has silenced criticisms with its current gains.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attributes the new market value to the company’s amazing performance in China. Cook states that the rapid economic growth in China allowed for the formation of a large middle class. These new consumers had the potential to become a big market for smartphones and Apple capitalized on that opportunity, making nearly $38 billion in profits from smartphone sales. The company also fared quite well in the domestic market. When the new Iphone 6 and 6+ were released in September, there were predictably long lines around nearly every Apple store in the country, filled with customers who wanted the latest version of Apples’s aesthetically pleasing Iphone. Domestic sales for the new models totaled around $18 billion, another sales record broken for the already distinguished company. Apple once again did very well this year and is expected to grow at an even faster rate next year.

For now, the only questions that remain about Apple are what it has planned for the future. Tim Cook announced that that the company has planned to invest $860 million in building a solar farm in California. The farm is expected to cover 2,900 acres and should power around 60,000 homes, along with Apple’s future headquarters in Cupertino. Apple also unveiled plans for a new IWatch, and plans to release the innovative piece in April this year. So far, 2015 has proven to be a momentous year for Apple and it is possible that the resulting years can be just as great if Apple continues to stay at the forefront of marketing and design.

Stress

Grades. The future. Being judged. Appearance. Family problems. Chores. Time management. It all leads down to one single, yet dangerous factor. Stress is a mental pressure caused by demanding circumstances. It can be present in anyone’s life, regardless of age, and dealing with it can pose a struggle. However, it is most common in students in high school and college due to the strenuous work and endless amount of hours spent studying.

A person’s environment is the biggest reason for excessive stress, because their surroundings regulate their thoughts and emotions. Being overwhelmed by a certain factor and being unable to overcome it or find a solution is a leading cause of tension. Because life today is full of frustrations, deadlines, and demands, stress has become a lifestyle.

Although some stress is good, because it motivates you to try harder and achieve your goals, too much stress can take a negative toll on a person. It keeps you on your toes, but it can drive you to constantly be on edge. It sharpens your focus, but can cause loss of it as well. Whereas the adrenaline rush keeps you thinking fast, it can soon lead to extreme overthinking. It alters eating, sleeping and social habits.

Whereas there are medicines available, the best way to get rid of stress is to eliminate the very root of it. However, if the situation is uncontrollable, there are multiple temporary solutions. A strong network of friends and family to support you through stressful times is beneficial, for it provides an outlet and an opportunity for some advice. Changing your outlook on life and attitude towards your problems can make it easier. A silver lining often makes it more bearable and an optimistic point of view helps embrace challenges as a part of life. Your ability to control your emotions is key to raising your stress tolerance, and being able to balance your feelings will help in moments of weakness.

Alternatively, a proactive way of dealing with stress is also useful. Identifying your stressor, the object causing stress, and handling it can ease up your tension. Changing the situation by altering the stressor, avoiding the stressor, adapting to the stressor or accepting the stressor can produce positive results. However it is that you deal with stress, it should be handled carefully and with a timely manner.

Apple vs. Samsung in South Korea

Samsung has maintained strong consumer loyalty and a large amount of the market share in South Korea for several years because the country has always been its home market.  Samsung accounts for a large part of the country’s GDP and the government of South Korea even grants the company several tax deductions and subsidies to help it out. It has been believed that South Koreans have a strong sense of patriotism instilled in them and feel that it is necessary to support those industries that started off in their home market. All of the support the government provides is essential for Samsung to ward off the influence that Apple could have on South Korean consumers.

Recently, the iPhone’s widespread appeal became evident in South Korea when the market shares for both companies were released a few months ago. In a year, Samsung had faced a considerable drop in its market share and Apple had experienced a large gain in market shares. Several incidents and reasons could be linked to this change based on several studies and surveys, South Koreans seem to be more interested in buying more luxury items now and are becoming increasing likely to buy more premium and expensive brands. Additionally, Apple’s devices and technology are viewed as luxury items worldwide and could result in more South Koreans buying Apple products. Furthermore, Apple’s hardware and design is highly advanced and aesthetically appealing. Using such expensive marketing strategies and expensive items to create their devices is alright for Apple since they sell their phones at a relatively high price. However, because Samsung tries to keep up with Apple they spend a large amount on hardware but sell their phones at a much lower price resulting in a lower profit margin.

A recent study showed that the new iPhone 6 beat Samsung’s S5 in nearly every attribute. In terms of design, operating system, speed, and size, Apple came out on top and garnered an above average response. The S5 received comparatively less attention and was given a below average response. This seems odd considering that Samsung tries to keep up with Apple by creating phones that can compete with the sleekness and effectiveness of the iPhone.

Overall, all these consumer trends and data point toward a huge blow for Samsung. South Korea provides Samsung with a huge boost in terms of approval and profits. If Samsung were to lose all of this to Apple, it would be hard to see how Samsung could bring themselves back to a level to compete effectively in the future. They would be placed in the low end of the market for quite some time.

2016 Budget Raises Questions

President Obama has just recently released his proposed budget plan for his final year in office, 2016. The proposal calls for a record $3.99 trillion in spending and hopes to strengthen the economy. In the initial briefing, President Obama stated that the country’s economy has been steadily recovering and that now is not the time to practice austerity measures. The budget will, if approved, utilize $3.53 trillion in estimated revenue for the allotments that the President has envisioned, and will run a $474 billion dollar deficit. However, President Obama has said that the budget will primarily be focused on education, infrastructure, and the middle class.

Now, since the current proposal requires nearly $3.5 trillion dollars, many in Congress are wondering where the money will come from. The President has proposed that American companies should pay 14% of their foreign earnings as taxes. Obama also hopes to raise the top rate on the capital gains tax to 28%, thereby increasing the amount of revenue that the federal government would receive. All of this money is supposed to come from the wealthiest Americans, who will face higher tax rates if the budget is passed. Nonetheless, the money is intended to repair critical infrastructure problems in the country while also helping the middle class. It was outlined that a large portion of middle-class Americans would receive possible tax credits of up to $500 in order to boost incomes and augment the purchasing power of the citizens. From what can currently be told, it seems clear that the proposed budget aims to resolve many problems that middle-class Americans face today.

In spite of this, many prominent Congressmen in the Republican Party were quick to issue their disapproval of the bill. A great deal of House and Senate Republicans think that the bill does not address the problems that they see as important, namely a strong national defense, a tough immigration policy, and a balanced budget. To them, this budget is merely an example of reckless government spending that doesn’t have the interests of the American people at heart. They hope to include many changes in the proposal, especially to the immigration policy. It is very unlikely that the President will be welcome to change on immigration though, particularly as he has just advocated a temporary deportation relief program for recently arrived illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, the GOP still has the ability to exercise their legislative power in Congress and revise the budget proposal to fulfill their agenda.

In my opinion, I think that this budget proposal introduced by President Obama is the Democrats” last chance to win the opinion of the voters. The entire country is aware that Obama only has 2 years left in office and that the Democrats are still searching today to find a suitable replacement. Perhaps this show of support for the middle-class and desire to implement much-needed reforms can prompt a change in attitude. It is very probable that this budget proposal, if approved by Congress, could be the savior of the Democratic Party and the country.

The “Proxy War” in Ukraine

As of now, Russia is funding separatist forces in Ukraine to attempt to conquer and absorb the land. Despite this information being common knowledge, Russia still denies this claim and says that it has no hand in the situation. The U.S. has been acting in a peaceful manner by sending only non-lethal military aid up until this point, but President Obama is reconsidering this policy after seeing the war in Crimea develop over the last few months.

On Saturday (1/31/15), separatists killed 5 Ukrainian soldiers and 15 civilians, and separatist numbers don’t seem to be decreasing by any means. In fact, they have made claims to increase their numbers exponentially to 100,000. Moreover, Reuters recently reported that international observers saw 81 cargo trucks crossing the border into Ukraine, unloading goods, and returning to Russia the following day. Clearly, Moscow’s denial to providing aid to the separatists has no backing.

But what now? The United States and NATO are left with two options: Either leave a nation to be invaded and taken over, or provide military aid to Ukraine and start a proxy war with Russia. The first choice would delay the war retain peace with Russia. However, it would also mean practicing appeasement, the same type of policy which allowed Hitler to rise to power; needless to say, it would result in the infringement of various U.N. policies for nations and people alike. On the other hand, the second choice would call for a much larger commitment and the possibility of provoking Russia, but would be the ethical choice according to international and humanitarian law.

Thus, the United States needs to proceed with caution. The best plan would be to directly confront Moscow verbally, and give Russia one last chance to ensure the impossibility of a peaceful resolution. However, if Putin stands his ground on not providing aid, the United States would have to take decisive action to save Ukraine, and end another World War before it begins.

State of Union

On Tuesday, January 20th the president of the United States gave the State of Union Speech 2015. Many of the proposals seemed quite far fetched, and would most likely be hard to pass in Congress, however his views showed the progression of the nation’s expectations. Right from the beginning, he started off with a positive, more viewer friendly look by having the full transcript of the speech available for all Americans on public news pages and all sorts of social media.The president touched on many topics including higher education, tax reduction, paid leave, and childcare.

His plans for college and higher education in general are very affirmative and affordable.  Many students, smart, talented and financially unstable have a new option for the unfortunate high expenses of college. Obama is hoping to reduce the first two years of community college to as low as “zero” for all students This idea has already been implemented in places such as Tennessee, but they are hoping to spread the idea around the nation. While trying to address many immigrants as well, he is aims to make in state college as well as out of state college the same price. In an interview with the finest youtubers, GloZell Green, Hank Green, and Bethany Mota. he mentioned the importance of education and showed understanding for the stress that young adults go through when trying to pay for college.

Sticking to his ideals of middle class economics he also expressed his opinion about childcare and a women’s role in the workforce. As a part of a low income, middle class family child care is very important and it is the responsibility of a nation as a whole not just a women’s. He plans on cutting taxes about $3000 per child, per year. He also aims for a paid leave for people who need a day off for child care. This is also an issue because the United States is the only country that doesn’t order a paid leave. Obama says, “…and that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” Also in favor of women, and equality as a whole, he spoke for the increase in minimum wage and equal wage for both sexes. Obama added, “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.” A lot of his speech included the advances in the employment system and decrease of the unemployment level.. He also greatly expresses his want for equality throughout the nation.

Lastly, the president briefly mentioned the terrorist attacks taking place throughout the world led by the Islamic states such as Syria and Iraq. He also spoke against the cyberattacks being led by North Korea, saying that we should pass a legislation where our country is no longer vulnerable against cyber-attacks, and combat identity theft. In fact recently, North Korea had attacked the media giant Sony as well as the U.S Central Command’s Twitter account.

Most of all of the proposals were relatable to all the people in the US including children, young adults, parents, working middle class, and veterans. He addressed many issues and provided many high aimed goals to solve these issues.  He also still remains the charismatic and young looking president that he was six years ago and continues to charm the country.Featured image

The Pirate Bay: Once Again Surfing the Internet

If you’re an avid Internet user, you may have heard of The Pirate Bay, a popular (yet controversial) BitTorrent indexing site in which individuals are able to search and download files at their will. These files can range from video games to the latest movies and television shows.

2000px-The_Pirate_Bay_logo.svg

Accordingly, it’s understandable why major corporations would adamantly oppose this website. After all, every person who downloads a movie or other form of media is refusing to give his/her money to the company that made said product, resulting in decreased revenue.

In December of 2014, The Pirate Bay was offline due to a police raid in Sweden. The police took control of servers and other materials needed to properly run the website. This raid was the result of violations of copyright laws performed by The Pirate Bay. This wasn’t the first time The Pirate Bay was shut down, and it likely isn’t the last.

Launching in Sweden in 2003, The Pirate Bay always had a history of strained relationships with Hollywood and other major corporations. The founders, Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij, and Peter Sunde, were even sentenced to one year in prison and had to pay a fine of 30 million SEK on April 17th, 2009. Despite this, the site managed to remain online as it battled against hackers, companies, and the authorities. The December 2014 raid marked a time in which the servers were down for nearly 2 months.

The co-founders of The Pirate Bay
The co-founders of The Pirate Bay

As of right now, however, The Pirate Bay seems to be back online.

Instead of the usual pirate ship logo at the home page, a Phoenix is shown, symbolizing the rebirth of the website.

pirate-bay-phoenix

All in all, it’s safe to say that The Pirate Bay will be around for many years to come. But this raises the question: Should it still be around? We live in a technological age, and despite the numerous advantages that technology brings with it, an abundance of consequences arise- The Pirate Bay being a prime example of this. Corporations create their products for consumers, and in return, consumers repay with money.

What happens when this relationship is interfered? After all, why would someone pay for a product if he/she can achieve the same end result without paying a single penny?

Whether or not you agree with the practices of The Pirate Bay, it’s no doubt that the website itself will forever remain infamous. Used by millions worldwide, The Pirate Bay will go down in history as an entity symbolizing defiance against the regulations set by the entertainment industry.

Don’t Shake Off Shake Shack

Starting as just another hot dog stand on Madison Square Park, the fast and casual restaurant, Shake Shack, is taking its first steps to becoming a global company, as it is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Ever since its humble beginnings, Shake Shack has grown substantially, currently owning 63 outlets in the United States and international cities. As if this was not enough growth, it was announced that Shake Shack had filed to sell shares to the public. And just like the hungry customers who wait hours on a line for a burger and crinkle cut fries, investors showed just as much eagerness for the company’s stock.

Shake Shack more than doubled their initial price offering of $21 on the first day— further showing its immense popularity. At the close of the market, Shake Shack (SHAK) closed at $45.90. This valued Shake Shack as an almost $1.7 billion company.

Shake Shack (SHAK) 's intraday chart of the first day on the market.
Shake Shack (SHAK) ‘s intraday chart of the first day on the market.

Shake Shack’s success is largely paradoxical however, considering its pricey food and inaccessibility for most Americans. Yet this is the exact reason why Shake Shack has gotten investors so excited, and McDonald’s fearful.

Unlike McDonald’s, the Shack has never suffered a “pink slime” moment. The fast and casual restaurant prides itself on being the “anti-McDonald’s” type. It vows to only use premium beef for its flattop grilled burgers and attracts customers with promises of fresh, premium ingredients, like home-spun shakes. In addition, it has not suffered from a menu bloat— it maintains a core menu that has evolved little from the old-style stand it once was.

Whether it be a burger at Shake Shack or McDonald’s, America’s burger business will still continue to strike gold. And gratefully,  it doesn’t seem like consumers nor investors will get tired of burgers anytime soon.

Measles – It’s Back

Measles. A disease thought to have been virtually eliminated with the use of vaccines has made its appearance again in late 2014 and early 2015. Now there are two things that we are waiting for: the Superbowl and the news regarding the measles cases.

How did this even happen? There was an outbreak in Disneyland, California in mid-December of 2014, “probably [. . .] from overseas, carried either by a foreign tourist or by an American coming back with the virus,” stated a top federal health official (3). Many are concluding that it came from the Philippines, since they also witnessed an outbreak of their own. Studies have also stated that this malady’s sudden appearance is similar to those in Indonesia, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Dubai. France had encountered several outbreaks as well and Americans are in fear that measles will take the country by storm. “France went from about 40 cases a year to over 10,000 cases. It is only January and we have already had over 84 cases,” stated Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (3).

Many have been infected all around the United States, mainly in the West Coast and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “As of February 1st, 2015, 84 people from 14 states were reported to have measles in 2015” (2) 64% of those with measles are related to the Disneyland outbreak. There also have been around 700 cases of measles from 27 states in 2014, a record number  to the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Measles cases and outbreaks from January 1-November 29, 2014. 610 cases reported in 24 states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington. 20outbreaks representing 89% of reported cases this year. Annual reported cases have ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 220 in 2011

Why now? This is not the 1950s. To answer that question, Dr. Schuchat said that “this is not a problem of the measles vaccine not working. It is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used” (3) After the virus was “eliminated” in the 2000s, people now take the vaccine lightly. Schuchat warns that “measles can be a very serious disease and people need to be vaccinated” (3).

However, being vaccinated does not mean you are immune to the infectious virus. Three-year old Uriah Krueger was infected with measles on New Years’ Eve but did not know he was infected until a week later. His mother found him in bed with rashes and his grandmother told her that “he had been saying ‘Ow, Ow, Ow’ all night” (1). He was taken to the hospital and into an isolation unit. Anyone who entered the unit had to have a gown, gloves, and a mask on prior to entering. With all of these precautions, one would think that Uriah was lonely in his time at the hospital, but he was far from being alone. People continuously came in, examining Uriah, since he was the first of the many that was affected with measles in decades. Doctors that were born after 1950 did not get chance to treat anyone with measles for the most part, so this was definitely a sight to see for them. Luckily, he was able to recover and lead a normal fun life.

Image: measles

This is not a happy ending, yet. We all have to ensure that we are protected from this virus so that it does not have a chance to infect everyone in the country. Pediatricians are already making it mandatory to take the vaccine again, regardless of whether or not the child has taken it in the past. With these precautions, we can once again defeated the most infectious virus in the world and put it to rest for as long as we can.

Bibliography:

Fox, Maggie. “‘Ow, Ow, Ow’: Child’s Bout With Measles Makes Parents Glad for Vaccine.” NBC News. NBC News, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.

“Measles Cases and Outbreaks.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.

Fox, Maggie. “Disney Measles Outbreak Came From Overseas, CDC Says.”NBC News. NBC News, 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2015.