Autism - Myths and Facts

"If you've heard the stories about autism..."

Myth: "Autism or ASD is the result of bad parenting."
Fact: Although autism is a recognized mental disorder it is still badly understood by the majority of people. Despite the fact that the causes of autism aren't fully understood, it is clear that a strong genetic basis may be involved. The condition on the increase and occurs all over the world. Autism occurs in one in 250 babies and four out of five children with autism or ASD are boys. Autistic spectrum disorder affects more children than cancer, cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis combined.

Myth: "All children with autism have learning problems"
Fact: Autism manifests in different ways in different people. The disorder's symptoms can vary significantly and although some children have severe learning problems, others are very intelligent and can cope extremely well with difficult learning materials and often do well in subjects such as maths. Children with Asperger's syndrome for instance, often do well at school and develop into independent adults.

Myth: "Autism is the result of childhood vaccination."
Fact: Between 2000 and 2001, three expert reviews unanimously concluded that the data that were available at the time of these claims did not support this association. A large-scale study in 2002 also reported no association. Expert review panels also reached similar conclusions with regard to thimerosal exposure or the mercury-containing preservative used in childhood vaccines, although fewer data are available.

Myth:"Children with autism need special foods."
Fact: It is true that many children with autism suffer from intolerance to certain foods such as dairy products or foods containing gluten. Other foods, such as sweets or foods containing lots of sugar or acids, may affect the child's behaviour. It is important to discuss nutrition with healthcare professionals, as altering your child's diet may improve your child's wellbeing and behaviour.

Myth: "Children with autism can't go to school as they behave badly."
Fact: Provided suitable programmes are developed for a child with autism, it is often possible for a child with autism to function in a classroom as their behaviour can be improved. In some cases children can even cope in conventional schools. On the whole children with autism will benefit tremendously from being integrated in classroom life. Only the severest cases won't be able to cope in a classroom setting or their behaviour may be harmful to other children.

Myth: "It's simple; once a child with autism is prescribed medication, it will be cured."
Fact: To date there is no treatment that cures autism and medication is only prescribed to treat a number of the associated symptoms of autism. Medication will also be prescribed if the child suffers from other mental disorders. However, the best outcome will be achieved when a developmental programme is developed that focuses on the child's strengths and weaknesses and that is complemented by medication where symptoms can't be treated with psychotherapy and developmental programmes alone. To date not much scientific research is available to demonstrate the benefits of medication in children with autism. Parents and caregivers should be closely involved in the decision to use medication.

Myth: "It's just a phase, he'll grow out of it."
Fact: Children with autism will never be cured. However, many children with milder forms of autism such as Asperger syndrome will be able to end up living independent lives provided they have been given appropriate support and education. Other children with more severe forms of autism will always require help and support and won't be able to live fully independent lives. This causes considerable worry to parents, especially when they realize that they might not be around to support their child throughout adult life. It is important that you discuss this with your local support teams as an appropriate solution will need to be found for your child if s/he won't be able to live an independent life in adulthood."

Myth: "Autism never occurs more than once in a family."
Fact: Although no exact cause is known for autism, there are clear indicators that genetic factors play a role. Studies have revealed that autism is likely to affect both identical twins or that siblings of a child with autism are at an increased risk of having autism.

Myth: "My child has autism. I can cope by myself and don't need any help."
Fact: Dealing with an autistic child poses a very heavy burden on parents and the rest of the family. Left untreated, your child's condition is likely to worsen and it is important to seek a diagnosis as early as possible. This will improve your child's outcome as the right programme can be developed for your child. Your child's wellbeing will improve and you will get the support you need to deal with your child at home as well as get quality time with the rest of the family and the other children. Trying to deal with your child on your own will not only deteriorate your child's wellbeing, but your life and that of the rest of the family will become increasingly stressful and get out of control. Seeking help and having your child diagnosed will improve the wellbeing of the whole family and ensure that the necessary support is available when required.

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VLC Player Not Safe !

Among all the media players that are available on the market, VLC is known to be one of the best for two reasons. First, it comes with a wide variety of video codecs, thus being the ideal tool for opening any file format, and second, it is free. Some philosopher from olden days said wine should have three qualities: it should come in large quantities, it should be good and it should be free. The analogy needs not be written.

The ‘perfect’ status of the player is, however, flawed, because of the security liabilities it was discovered to have in its latest versions. The vulnerabilities can be exploited by remote parties and leave the PC running VLC open to arbitrary code running, according to Secunia’s Luigi Auriemma.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the problem occurs whenever a subtitle file is loaded into the player, this action causing a buffer overflow easily exploited by mal intended individuals. Don’t be comfortable behind your Mac or Linux screen, used to most of the problems affecting the Windows Operating System, this vulnerability is platform independent, so beware!

The liability was first reported with the 0.8.6d version and the developers took it onto themselves to patch it up right away. Or at least that was the plan, the 0.8.6e version was supposed to be bug-free but it actually isn’t, although work was clearly done. Two fixes have come, first the format string error in the web interface listening on port 8080/tcp was resolved, and the "ParseMicroDvd()" boundary error was removed, but there are two other similar left and they’re rated Highly Critical by Secunia. Boundary errors in the "ParseSSA()", and "ParseVplayer()" functions when handling subtitles can be exploited to cause stack-based buffer overflows.

The solution, Luigi Auriemma says, is that everybody update to 0.8.6e and do not process untrusted subtitles using the VLC player.


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Vitamins and Healthy Sperm

Mexican men know the secret of the chili. It's about folate, a vitamin abundant in liver, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, sunflower seeds and legumes (beans and their relatives). It may sound more familiar to you that women of child-bearing age must have proper levels of folate (vitamin B9) in their diet for delivering healthy babies, but a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction and carried out by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals that what the father eats counts too. And guess what? Folate levels in male diet appears to have the same importance. Low levels of this vitamin have been connected to sperm chromosomal abnormalities.

"Our study is the first to look at the effects of diet on chromosomal abnormalities in sperm. These abnormalities would cause either miscarriages or children with genetic syndromes if the sperm fertilized an egg," said co-author Suzanne Young, at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.

Folate is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins during cell division. It also controls the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid which can cause heart issues when overcoming a certain threshold.

Low levels of folate in women just before and during pregnancy (less than 400 mg daily) has been connected to greatly increased risk of embryos developing neural tube malformations, like spina bifida or anencephaly (undeveloped brain). Many countries (US started from 1998) require the addition of folate to breads, cereals and other grain products. Follow-ups connected this measure with a drop in the cases of neural tube birth defects.

Sperm health and diet

1 to 4 % of a healthy male's sperm displays abnormal chromosome numbers (aneuploidy), a result of defective meiosis. Eggs fertilized by such a sperm develop into an embryo prone to miscarriage or a fetus with aneuploidy, translated to severe conditions (for example, an extra chromosome 21 is the cause of Down syndrome while an extra X chromosome in boys triggers Klinefelter syndrome).

The research was made on a poll of 97 men, aged 22 to 80, current or ex-employees of a government research laboratory. The subjects were chosen after excluding smokers and subjects with already known fertility issues. Questionnaires assessed average intake of dietary and supplemental nutrients. One week later, semen samples were collected. The team considered factors like age, alcohol use and medical history.

Subjects having the highest consume of folate had 19 % less aneuploid sperm cells than those with moderate folate consume, and 20 % lower rates compared to subjects consuming low levels of folate.

"Increasing folate intake can be as simple as taking a vitamin supplement with at least 400 micrograms of folate or eating breakfast cereal fortified with 100% of the RDA [recommended daily intake] for folic acid. In addition, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, can have up to 100 micrograms of folate per serving," said Young.

Various nutrients in the diet were taken into account.

"The results of the different analyses were different, which gave us some confidence that we could look at the effect of these micronutrients separately. The definitive way to answer this question would be with a randomized control trial with folate supplementation," said Young.

The team did not find a connection between sperm aneuploidy and the other nutrients, like zinc, calcium, beta-carotene and other vitamins. Researchers warn that momentarily this is just a connection, as the cause-and-effect relationship has not been investigated.

"We did come up with enough evidence to justify a larger, clinical and pharmacological trial in men to examine the causal relationships between dietary folate levels and chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm. This information will help us set dietary folate levels that may reduce the risk of miscarriage or birth defects linked to the fathers," said lead researcher Andrew Wyrobek, chair of the Radiation Biosciences Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

So, did you get your daily 400 mg of folate?

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Microsoft Slashes Prices for Windows Vista SP1

Service Pack 1 is not the only evolution of Windows Vista on the immediate horizon, that has been cooking over in Redmond. Microsoft announced that it had been baking a price cut for the retail stand-alone versions of the Windows operating system. Throughout 2007, Microsoft has been testing the waters across various markets around the world, via Vista promotions. The company explained that it had test driven a few marketing strategies involving the stand-alone versions of the platform at lower price points.

As a direct consequence of the success of the promotions implemented in the past year, Microsoft has taken the decision to revamp the Vista pricing structure in order to make the operating system more appealing to a broader range of consumers worldwide once Vista SP1 hits the shelves. "These price changes will take effect globally with the retail release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 later this year, though some markets will see reduced prices sooner as a result of promotions many of our partners already are driving," revealed Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Product Marketing at Microsoft.

The Redmond company sells the vast majority of its Windows operating systems pre-loaded on the machines delivered by its OEM partners. Microsoft specified that the Vista SP1 price slash will impact exclusively the stand-alone retail versions of the platform. With in excess of 80% of the Microsoft Client division's revenue coming from original equipment manufacturers, the market for retail versions of Windows does present opportunities for growth, but not even close as with the OEM PCs. However, it it clear that the Redmond company has identified a demand.

Microsoft will tailor the new price cuts in accordance to developed and emerging markets. As far as developed countries go, the company will lower the price of the upgrade retail versions of Vista SP1 for the Home Premium and Ultimate SKUs. This will mean that Vista Ultimate upgrade version will go for as little as an estimated retail price of $219, down from from $299, while Premium will fall from $159 to $129. In emerging markets, there will no longer be full and upgrade versions of Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium, as the upgrade variants will be melted away into the full package. But for developed countries, Microsoft has yet to specify the price cuts.

"Today we announced a variety of price reductions for copies of Windows Vista sold on retail shelves. In developed markets, the price changes will most notably impact upgrade retail versions of the new editions we introduced in 2007 -- Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions. In emerging markets, we are combining full and upgrade Home Basic and Home Premium versions into full versions of these editions and instituting price changes to meet the demand we see among first-time Windows customers who want more functionality than is available in current Windows XP editions. In addition, we are also adjusting pricing on Windows Vista Ultimate in emerging markets to be comparable to price changes developed market customers will see," Brooks added.


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What’s New in Microsoft Land: 25–29 February 2008

The Redmond based company decided that it couldn't wait for an answer from Yahoo! any longer, or for the alternative hostile takeover to finalize all of its proceedings that haven't even started yet. With Google as a target, on Monday Microsoft announced that it will tend to its own advertising program and platform rather than standing around and hopping for the best. The best could only come in half size, as the most talented people are leaving the SUnnyvale based company, like rats do from a sinking ship, after their packages vested early in February.

The new Engagement Mapping that Microsoft brought forth at the very beginning of the week is specially tailored to overhaul the process of managing and measuring the effectiveness of online campaigns. The "last ad clicked" standard, the one currently in use when connecting with customers relating to the success of the online advertising campaign, is obsolete, according to Microsoft. With Engagement Mapping, the measuring is not done by solely taking into account the last ad clicked, but an array of other variables, such as the online touchpoints and interactions associated with a specific user, that ultimately lead to a sale. "The 'last ad clicked' is an outdated and flawed approach because it essentially ignores all prior interactions the consumer has with a marketer's message," said Brian McAndrews, senior vice president of the Advertiser & Publisher Solutions (APS) Division at Microsoft. "Our Engagement Mapping approach conveys how each ad exposure - whether display, rich media or search, seen multiple times on multiple sites and across many channels - influenced an eventual purchase. We believe it represents a quantum leap for advertisers and publishers who are seeking to maximize their online spends." Google, beware!

IBM and Microsoft Corp. have come together on Tuesday and announced that they will be delivering a powerful Windows Embedded-based plug-and-play solution to help make it faster and easier for retailers and hospitality organizations to deliver information and services to time-conscious, empowered consumers. It will be fairly easy to get your hands on Microsoft's Windows Embedded for Points of Service operating system, as it will come pre-loaded on IBM point-of-sale, self-checkout and self-service kiosks offerings.

"This is about helping our clients win in the marketplace by providing them a choice of solutions to enable them to more efficiently manage their businesses, and better serve increasingly demanding consumers," said Alan Outlaw, business line executive, IBM Point-of-Sale Solutions. "Windows Embedded for Point of Service gives us yet another option for clients who want to add Windows as part of their IT infrastructure." The WEPS has its platform based on Microsoft Windows technologies that have been optimized for the retail industry. What makes it special is that it is the very first point-of-service operating system that provides plug-and-play functionality for retail device peripherals.

"Retail and hospitality organizations globally are keenly focused on making the in-store shopping experience compelling for consumers while also looking for ways to drive down costs through improved efficiencies," said Ilya Bukshteyn, director of marketing for Windows Embedded at Microsoft. "This demand signals the need for technology solutions that deliver a smart, connected service-oriented experience. Microsoft’s collaboration with IBM is a terrific example of the positive response to our embedded point-of-service retail and hospitality strategy."

Wednesday was both a glory and troublesome day for the Redmond based company. It brought forth from its labs the next generation of infrastructure and application platform products, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 being the jewels of its crown. The domains targeted with this so-to-say update are varying from security, web and virtualization to business intelligence, all improved with the latest versions of the all-so-popular by now products. The event thrown in the launch's honor had a "Heroes happen here" theme, and highlighted the outstanding work that IT professionals, developers and partners do every day to create solutions and cutting-edge applications that keep global commerce and industry running.

"IT professionals and developers tell us they spend too much time and money managing existing systems and not enough investing in new capabilities that create strategic advantage," Ballmer said. "That feedback is at the core of the innovations in this new wave of products. Already, the overwhelming response from thousands of IT professionals and developers around the world is that this is the most secure enterprise platform we have ever delivered, and that it will simplify management and enable them to focus more on driving their businesses forward."

But then again, when everything was looking pink and fuzzy for Microsoft, the European Union slapped a $1.4 billion fine against the Redmond based company for failing to comply with previous directions. The story is as old as Matusalem and has very well been documented so i won't give further detail. Nevertheless, that must have cut into the bidding money, should Tahoo! decide on a whim to accept.

Who likes a sale? Everybody does, including Microsoft, as it reduced the price on several retail stand alone versions of Windows Vista. Because the company wants the transition from Windows XP to Vista to happen as soon as possible and as quick as possible, the finance people decided to make it less expensive to buy the latest operating system on retail, in an attempt to double the rate at which the change is happening. Windows Vista was primarily made available to customers via the sale of new PCs, with the stand-alone market being almost unattended to.

"Windows Vista has been on the market for more than a year now, with more than 100 million licenses sold in its first year. While this is great progress, we see an opportunity to grow our business even more with some of the new editions we introduced with Windows Vista. Today, the vast majority of Windows licenses are sold with PCs; retail stand-alone sales, in contrast, have been primarily from customers who value being early adopters and those building their own machines. We’ve observed market behavior, however, that suggests an opportunity to expand Windows stand-alone sales to other segments of the consumer market," Brad Broks, corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Product Marketing, said.

The price-cut will be available for everyone to benefit from as soon as Windows Vista SP 1 hits the market, later this year.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 was announced as a fact on Friday, when the Redmond based company officially confirmed that testers have already begun joining the limited technical beta program for the browser. The invitations started flying last week. While knowing that IE8 is just around the corner, most likely the whole wide world will be able to catch a glimpse of it at MIX08 next week, where it is said to be the star product. What good will leaking screenshots and information about the browser will now do? A Microsoft spokesperson told Softpedia, via email, that "We are beginning to invite testers into the IE8 TechBeta program. We will also be opening IE8 Beta 1 to the public in the future, but have no more information on that at this time." Luckily, it won't be a long wait.


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Opera Mobile Abandons Yahoo and Embraces Google

Opera announced that it has made Google the default search engine for its mobile browsers, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. From now on, mobile users that work with Opera can access Google's search engine directly from the browser's start page, for a quick and easy way to get the information they need.

The new mobile collaboration between Opera and Google covers all global territories except Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (no idea why is that), and includes all of Opera's standard mobile browsers.

Opera might have chosen the G-search-engine over Yahoo (which was made the default search engine on Opera's mobile browsers a year ago) following countless complaints from consumers who were unhappy they couldn't make Google the default browser page. Moreover, Google has been the default search option on Opera's desktop browser for many years, so it's somehow natural that it now became the default for mobile browsers too.

"Google and Opera have established a valuable relationship over the years and we look forward to continued collaboration on mobile products," said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera. "With 2008 poised to be the year the mobile Web goes mainstream, Google and Opera are extending this collaboration to give our users immediate access to the quality and convenience of Google's search results. We're excited to extend this productive relationship and we hope that the nearly 100 million people using our mobile products will agree."

Opera Mini and Opera Mobile are the most popular mobile browsers in the world, being used on more than 100 million handsets. Opera Mini users, for example, browse more than 1.7 billion pages monthly. Both Opera's mobile browsers offer advanced features, specially adjusted for cell phones, including Opera Zoom, Opera Link and Speed Dial.

While Google recently introduced a new and improved search engine for mobile phones, Yahoo doesn't seem to care too much about the mobile side of the Web. Should we say "too bad", or should we be happy that Google won another pseudo-battle with Yahoo?


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Google Players Better Than Yahoo's and Microsoft’s

The first ever SMX Search Bowl took place last night and had teams from Google, Yahoo!,, Live Search and the SEM All Star Team line up at the starting line. A fierce battle they fought, dodging trick questions prepared by Search Engine Land, but in the end the cup was all the teams wanted and everything else was just insignificant. Sort of.

Like the title says, Google won, and did that by a landslide. At the other end of the dais was the SEM All Star Team that at one point had a negative score. 50 questions were asked, and all were more or less difficult (mostly more), and the first team that buzzed had a chance to answer. In case they got it right, points were awarded, else they were subtracted from the total.

Google's team consisted of Matt Cutts and Paul Haahr, Senior Staff Software Engineer. Microsoft's team was made up of Nathan Buggia, Lead Program Manager, and Natala Menezes, Product Manager at adCenter. had Peter Linsley, Senior Product Mgr, Search Technology, and Gary Price, Director of Online Resources. The SEM team had Todd Friesen and Ian Lurie.

Here are a couple of questions, as were posted on Search Engine Land:

The Sunday Times sent a legal request for which news search engine to stop crawling its content:
a) Excite NewsTracker
b) News Index – the right answer
c) Wired Newsbot

Which search engine first sold sponsored links?
a) GoTo
b) Open Text – the right answer
c) Excite

Don’t be fooled that they have b) as a correct answer, it wasn’t that easy. Too bad the final results weren’t posted, I really would have enjoyed seeing the exact difference, as the search engines sent their best qualified people at the event. I guess it was a measure of the employees’ levels of knowledge about their own companies as well as the others’. Glad to see Google coming first, else they couldn’t really justify their dominant position on the market.


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Yahoo Buzz Leaker Dealt With

Yahoo! Buzz was launched on Monday with a lot of buzz. Being leaked information about on repeated occasions, everybody had their hopes high about the Yahoo! branded Digg clone. It turns out that negative publicity isn’t all that constructive. I remember reading at some point in college a quote saying that bad publicity is still publicity, and having the name being heard is better than having it surrounded in silence.

Buzz’s situation is quite the opposite of that. Being waited for by the online community as the savior of Yahoo!’s dark gray standing at the moment, it failed. Not only failed, it did that miserably. The feature it was leaked as being its strong point, namely the option to buzz up some piece of news that you enjoyed and consider relevant and interesting, is a letdown. Valleywag quotes AllThingsD’s John Paczowski saying that "posted a story 90 minutes ago, and readers are telling me they can't buzz it up." It was unflattering to Yahoo!, maybe that’s why.

A commenter on the article, claiming to have some inside information from Yahoo!, said that General Counsel Michael Callahan hunted the man responsible for the public’s expectations about the newly launched site and "sent out a note saying that the person who leaked Buzz had been found and dealt with." That sounds like some medieval punishment occurred, or some Omerta breaking was involved.

You might remember Michael Callahan from the scandal in which he involved Yahoo! in October – November last year, after turning in a dissident to the Chinese government. In a way, one might say that the poor fellow now in jail has also been dealt with, but the terms there were completely different.

Will Buzz be Yahoo!’s savior? Not likely, by the way it looks right now it’s more like a nail in its coffin.


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Yahoo Is Not the Only Item on Microsoft’s Shopping List

Yahoo is not, even by far, the only item on Microsoft’s shopping list. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made it clear that, although he gave his blessing for the acquisition of Yahoo, a strategy cooked by Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, the Sunnyvale Internet giant wouldn't become the company's exclusive focus in its race after Google. And while Yahoo will undoubtedly shorten the distance which separates Microsoft from the incontestable leader of the
search engine and online advertising markets, by a consistent share, the Redmond company continues to climb its way toward Google slowly, through its own efforts, but also via additional acquisitions.

Of course that in comparison with the $44.6 billion price tag that Microsoft stuck to Yahoo, all other take-overs seem anodyne. Case in point: YaData, a developer of tools designed to identify unique customer segments. The financial details of the acquisition have not been made public, but it is reported that Microsoft paid between $20 and $30 million.

"The purchase of YaData brings the Israeli R&D center into the field of online advertising, which is undoubtedly one of Microsoft’s most strategic fields," said Moshe Lichtman, President of the Microsoft Israel R&D Center. "This is a great example of how Israeli technology has considerable value that is contributing to our most important areas of development. In recent months, I have become familiar with YaData's top quality personnel, and I am convinced that their contribution to the Israeli R&D center and to Microsoft globally will be significant."

Microsoft's Israel R&D center in Herzliya will grow with the addition of the YaData team, and the technology will be added to the Microsoft’s Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group. "YaData fully believes in the potential of behavioral targeting to enhance the value of online advertising for publishers, advertisers and users," said Amir Peleg, chief executive officer of YaData. "Microsoft has the resources to unlock the potential in YaData’s technology and create a truly innovative online advertising solution. We’re excited to see what the future holds."


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