Mourners recall teenager’s will to live

first_imgShe had sparkling blue eyes, a captivating smile and a strong will to live despite her struggle with leukemia. Nataline Sarkisyan – the 17-year-old Northridge girl whose death last week sparked a renewed call for health-care reform after she was twice denied a prescribed liver transplant – was buried Friday following an emotional funeral. “Though she is no longer with us physically, she is now resting peacefully in the presence of God,” said Archbishop Mousbegh Mardirossian, western prelate for the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, who presided over her funeral. “She is the foundation and hope for tomorrow.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonNataline died Dec. 20 just hours after Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare reversed two prior decisions to deny her a liver transplant despite the pleadings of doctors. The insurance company, which deemed the surgery experimental, stated it would pay for the procedure “in this rare and unusual case” after loud public protest. Nataline’s case has drawn national attention among health advocates and Armenian groups calling for reform. “What happened here is a glaring example of what happens when you let the insurance companies decide who lives and who dies,” said Geri Jenkins, co-president of the California Nurses Association, before she attended the funeral. “We’ve put the insurance companies in the driver’s seat – and that needs to change.” “We’re here because of an insurance failure, not being able to get a patient in time,” added Berdj Kasbarian, president of the Hye Riders Motorcycle Club, among two dozen Armenian bikers attending the service. “We should change the health-care system to a European system where everybody is covered.” More than 800 mourners in black packed the ornate St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Glendale. They wore ribbons of pink, her favorite color. And they wiped their eyes before the white and gold casket bearing the Granada Hills Charter High School student. Family members recalled the curly haired teen who had leukemia at age 14, saw it duck into remission, then strike again over the summer. On Nov. 21, her brother Bedig had donated his bone marrow. But because of her failing liver, doctors recommended a transplant. On Dec. 11, Cigna denied a liver transplant for the girl, despite the pleadings of physicians at UCLA Medical Center where she was treated. The Sarkisyan family has retained attorney Mark Geragos, who expects to file a lawsuit. “The last 31/2 years were extremely difficult, filled with doctors visits, hospitals and pain,” said Jeanette Sabonjian, the girl’s aunt. “(Yet) she had elegance, beauty and strength. She had wisdom and life and courage. “She never forgot how to live.” But despite, her charm, she bore a deep inner sadness, according to her statements written three years ago and published for the funeral. “At this moment my life has changed,” she wrote. “No wonder I cry day after day, I am lonely without a friend, I feel locked up in a den, life is tragic I don’t know why.” One ER physician said he’d seen patients die because insurance companies denied to fund care recommended by doctors. Said Dr. Raffi, who declined to give his last name, of his cousin’s death: “This is going to be the catalyst for change.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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Raiders’ Trent Brown goes to I.R., Jacobs won’t play against Chargers

first_imgALAMEDA — Trent Brown was placed on injured reserve Wednesday a day after making his first Pro Bowl. His season is over.Josh Jacobs remains on the 53-man roster, but won’t face the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday because of a shoulder injury he’s played with since Oct. 20. Coach Jon Gruden is holding out hope Jacobs will be able to play against Denver in the regular-season finale on Dec. 29.Meanwhile, left guard Richie Incognito exited the locker room in a walking boot on his right ankle, …last_img

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Reach Out and Touch Some Robot

first_imgThe news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC News, News @ Nature, LiveScience and National Geographic News, for instance).  Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude better than previous attempts.  The work was published in Science.1     While this is indisputably a remarkable achievement, few of the popular articles drew detailed comparisons and contrasts with the capabilities of human skin.  Richard Crowder, in the same issue of Science,2 started his analysis of the paper with a touch of realism: Today’s state-of-the-art dexterous robotic hands cannot achieve tasks that most 6-year-old children can do without thinking, such as tie a shoelace or build a house of cards.  The improvement of the manipulative capabilities of robotic hands requires advances in a wide range of technologies, including mechanics, actuators, sensors, and artificial intelligence.  Many robots—such as NASA’s Robonaunt—have the dexterity required to perform some of the tasks that we take for granted, but replication of the full manipulative capabilities of the human hand is still years away. Calling the development of tactile sensors “one of the most difficult problems in robotics,” went on to describe how difficult it is to measure slippage while gripping an object.  Though he had praise for the touch-sensitive film invented by Maheshwari and Saraf, he continued to underscore the problems facing robot designers emulating a human hand. To appreciate the advantages of having a single sensor for both slip and texture, it is worth considering how it can be integrated into robotic hands that need to restrain and manipulate a wide range of objects under a wide range of conditions.  To achieve a satisfactory grasp, optimal force control is required.  Any movement of a robotic hand may result in the grasped object slipping and possibly being dropped; hence, the sensors on the hand have to register any slippage and adjust the applied forces to bring the object back to rest…. In short, he wrote, “The problem of defining the required grasp force is crucial and can be posed as an optimization problem.”  The new tactile sensory material is thus only part of a multi-faceted problem that will require mastery of many disciplines.  “The next stage in the development of this sensor is to look at its robustness and performance characteristics over time,” Crowder ended.  “Once these issues are resolved, the sensor can be integrated into a dexterous hand, hopefully leading to an improvement in dexterity.”  Fortunately, robotics designers will have their human sense of touch to aid them in this endeavor. 1Maheshwari and Saraf, “High-Resolution Thin-Film Device to Sense Texture by Touch,” Science, 9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1501 – 1504, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126216. 2Richard Crowder, “Toward Robots That Can Sense Texture by Touch,” Science, 9 June 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5779, pp. 1478 – 1479, DOI: 10.1126/science.1129110. Would you want a robotic hand encircling your neck, with the inventor’s assurance it will only apply the right force to give you a gentle massage?  What if the software, it turns out, needs a patch?     The researchers can be rightly satisfied of their achievement, but use this story as an occasion to consider the wonder of human touch.  Articles like this one on Apologetics Press remind us of the exquisite engineering behind this sense that brings such pleasure and awareness to life.  More than a mere force-sensitive material, human skin is integrated with a powerful processing and feedback apparatus (the central nervous system) with force actuators (muscles) and automatic temperature controls.  In addition, skin is self-repairing, nourished by a circulating network of nutrients, armed with defenses, and able to breathe without leaking.     Inventors can make telescopes stronger than eyes, and machines stronger than muscles, and sensors more precise than nerves.  But let no man boast till he can optimize all capabilities of a human being in a 150-lb package (more or less) and make it all reproduce itself through a cell the size of a pinhead.  Even then, the inventor will not have breathed into his creation the breath of life to make it a living soul.  He will only have underscored the degree of intelligent design it takes to design and optimize integrated, multifunctional systems.     We hope robotics science will continue to advance – not only toward the improvement of our lives, but toward illustrating the principle that integrated, optimized systems do not arise from unguided processes.(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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US fund’s R1.3bn housing boost

first_img9 May 2008USA-based International Housing Solutions (IHS) has raised some US$175-million (about R1.3-billion) in capital from institutional investors for its newly launched South Africa Workforce Housing Fund.In a statement this week, Municipal Mortgage & Equity – commonly known in America as MuniMae – said that its affiliate, the IHS, would use the fund to invest in rental and for-sale housing for low and moderate-income families in the country.IHS provides innovative financial solutions, including debt and equity, to owners and developers of affordable housing projects, opening its Africa head office in Rosebank, Johannesburg, in 2007.MuniMae is widely recognized as a leader in US affordable housing finance, with over $12-billion of affordable housing investments under management for institutional investors.The company also expects several additional investors to commit further capital to the SA Fund, increasing its size to $240-million (about R1.8-billion), enough to fund the construction of an estimated 30 000 homes, and help meet the large and growing demand for housing in South Africa.“We began IHS in order to bring our expertise in financing affordable housing projects to countries around the world,” said MuniMae CEO Michael Falcone. “We now have top-notch teams of investment professionals in South Africa and the UK bringing MuniMae expertise to housing in those markets.”Spurring developmentSouth African property developers had found it difficult to raise capital for large-scale affordable housing developments, IHS SA country director Elize Stroebel told Property24 this week, adding that IHS helped developers finance affordable housing projects in the form of equity.“The equity allows developers to obtain larger loans from the banks at a reduced borrowing cost, which in turn allows them to build bigger developments without having to phase them in or conduct large pre-sales,” she told the website.“As the developers achieve more scale in their projects, they are able to pass the lower costs on to middle income families, in the form of lower rentals and selling prices which in the current South African economic climate is a huge benefit to these families.”The $175-million of capital commitments includes $95-million from a North American pension fund and a US foundation endowment, as well as up to $80-million committed in participating debt from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government-sponsored agency that supports American investments in emerging markets.The company believes the fund will help leverage returns for fund investors while spurring economic and housing development in South Africa.“Our international activities have become increasingly important, as the credit market disruption has impacted fund raising ability for US projects,” said Falcone. “We believe our success in raising this fund demonstrates the confidence these capital partners have in MuniMae.”SAinfo reporter Would you like to use this article in your publicationor on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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