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Living Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International   |   Dec. 28, 2001 at 4:45 AM   |   Comments

SMALLPOX VACCINE

New batches of smallpox vaccine currently on order by the government won't be available until late winter, but citizens are already asking doctors, public health officials and politicians for access to it, according to a Washington Post report.

Even Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has asked that his four granddaughters inoculated.

However, the Bush administration has refused to release the vaccine due to limited supplies and the vaccine's potentially dangerous side effects. "This is a societal question," said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We need to have a national discussion about what the risks are -- of an attack and of the vaccine -- and then make the appropriate decisions."

Smallpox was believed to have been eradicated by 1980. But it is highly contagious and kills 30 percent of its victims, prompting fears that a rogue nation or terrorist group may have gotten its hands on some.

"Of all the agents that could be used, this is the one that worries public health the most," said Fred Edgar Thompson Jr., Mississippi state health officer.

A full vaccination of the entire country would probably lead to 600 to 1,000 deaths due to encephalitis, according to Steven Black, a director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif.

(Thanks to Jim Kling, UPI Science News)


HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS

Missouri has the third-highest percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition in the nation, costing the state's motorists an additional $2 billion a year in extra vehicle operating costs.

That's according to the Road Information Project survey, released Thursday, which found 59 percent of Missouri's roads are in poor to mediocre condition and need repair or improvement. The survey is based on 2000 data just released by the Federal Highway Administration.

According to the report, the top five states with the highest percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition are California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut and Louisiana.

In Missouri, 21 percent of the state's major roads are in poor condition and 38 percent are in mediocre condition.

"We know Missouri's roads need improvement," said Jim Coleman, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation in Jefferson City, Mo. "We have surveyed the public and found it will take an extra billion dollars a year to provide everything that people want, including completing highway widening projects."

The Washington-based TRIP survey found that motorists pay more than $2 billion a year in extra costs to drive on Missouri's poor or mediocre roads compared to driving on those same roads that are in good condition.

"Driving on roads in need of repair costs Missouri motorist more than $520 per motorist a year," said William M. Wilkins, executive director of the transportation research group. "That takes a big bite out of their wallets."

Duane A. Kraft, executive vice president of Associated General Contractors of Missouri, said the report underscores why Missouri needs to increase its investment in state highway funding. "Missouri motorists can save about $245 per driver if we would make the commitment needed greatly to improve our roads," he said.

(Thanks to UPI's Chris Sieroty in Washington)


VIRUS WRITERS

Law enforcement experts say the creators of Internet worms and viruses are an unlikely bunch: they leave clues to their identities everywhere, often proudly, and yet they often go uncaught.

Retired New York City detective Pete Angonasta told Wired News: "Cyber criminals are like idiot Hansel and Gretels, scattering electronic breadcrumbs that lead straight to them. You just don't see this sort of behavior in other criminals. I've never seen a burglar leaving cute notes crediting the crime to himself. And I've never run across a burglar who puts up a self-promotional website or goes into a chat room to discuss the night's activities."

Tracking down such offenders is getting more difficult, however. The wavering tech economy has made it more difficult for law enforcement to get help from security experts, who often are too busy trying to keep their businesses alive to help out law enforcement, according to Wired News.

(Thanks to UPI's Joe Warminsky in Washington)


MOVIE PROJECTORS

Many young people have never seen a movie the way they used to be shown -- with powerful projectors on huge screens. Sound may have gotten better over the years, but screens have gotten smaller as many older theaters have cut up their buildings into multi-cinemas, in a bid to survive financially, giving each theater a screen the size of a wall map.

But, because people are getting used to smaller screens, a new generation of digital projectors is able to fill those screens without looking fuzzy.

The ability to project electronically, rather than through film, is just what Hollywood sees as its future. The technology is still expensive and pictures aren't quite as good. But when the art of electronic projection is finally perfected and film becomes obsolete, just think of the cost savings. No more will huge canisters of film have to shipped around the country. When you hear that a movie is playing in 3,000 theaters, just remember that 3,000 copies of that movie have had to be made and then distributed.

Now, imagine a time when that same movie can be sent up to a satellite and received at each theater and projected electronically.

One other thing. When the technology is perfected, movies that are created digitally will be seen with the same clarity as the original computer-generated version. Special effects will be even more incredible than now. Can a return to 3-D be far away?

(Thanks to UPI Feature Reporter Dennis Daily)

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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