JustAnswer is just another scam.
I have a sick cat; he has had Calicivirus and has been sick with it for two months. It was a Saturday, the vet’s office was closed and I was tossing and turning about what to do because he looked worse. My options were to take him to Vet ER again (another $150). As I agonized what to do, I realized that the ER room was probably where he got the virus in the first place. A friend who works at clinics says the animals are brought into a ‘holding room’ in their carriers and wait there until they are seen by a vet. In ER, due to volume, that could be two hours. More than enough time for a sick cat to sneeze and for the droplets to carry and infect other cats. So, instead, I thought to call an online service and speak to a vet that way. I found JustAnswer and at first it looked to be $5; that was just to log in. Then it was another $28 to talk to the vet. I did that, got hold of the vet, she gave me a lot of good tips. By Monday morning, I was on the phone with my regular vet and requesting additional meds that I received.
So far, so good. Then today, eleven days later, a $50.00 charge pops up on my bank balance that I don’t recognize from JustAnswer. I contact them and they advise me that the $5 was for a trial membership and here is the important part, if I did not cancel the membership within 7 days, I would be charged a membership fee ($50). Apparently, someone at JustAnswer has been to law school and found out about the strength of unilateral contracts. (I would love to hear from some attorneys from the readership.)
Anyway, after making enough noise about the fee, and telling them they should be ashamed of this behavior, the fee was cancelled and I guess I get my $50 back. The CEO of JustAnswer is Andy Jurtzig, who looks like a nice guy from his photos. The company is making 100 million per year which probably means Andy is making at least 1 million per. More and more, we see companies like this one and Amazon, pulling with all their might, customers into ‘membership’ programs. They have clearly learned that steady ‘membership’ fees are far more lucrative than individual sales.
Years ago I worked as a cashier at a huge furniture retailer. Customers would routinely come in and buy $2000 worth of furniture and then make $10 a month payments. Since the stuff was junk, the furniture would easily break and wear out long before the loan was paid off. Businesses over and over again seek to lure customers into financing schemes which of course, with interest, earn way more revenue than just the simple retail sales. At Macys I have been asked as many as three times during one such purchase if I wouldn’t like to sign up for their credit card. No, no thank you.
I can only say, that people contacting JustAnswer for Vet, MD, or attorney advice probably do so in desperate times. The frantic pet owner or frantic whomever is not likely to focus on the small print. So, you just enjoy your cocktails there in Silicon Valley, Andy, I am just hoping more people will get wise to this racket.
ALIENS COME HOME!!!!!!
There are now two promising potential COVID vaccines. This is what we know about them.
Nearly seven months after Operation Warp Speed was created, Americans are finally starting to get answers about the candidate vaccines that could potentially slow the coronavirus pandemic.
Operation Warp Speed, the White House-led task force on coronavirus vaccine treatment and development, was created on May 15. Since then, vague and contradicting timelines made by both the Trump administration and leading scientists have muddled predictions about when a COVID-19 vaccine would be available to the public.
However, two big companies leading the race for a vaccine have released promising results from their Phase 3 trials.
Here’s what we know about both trials and what they might mean for the future of the pandemic.
What are the leading COVID-19 candidate vaccines?
Pfizer and the German biotechnology company BioNTechdeveloped one of the candidate vaccines. They announced early findings of their vaccine, BNT162b2, on Nov. 9.https://6926b6316bce5dd601f0850aef7a054e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Moderna, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, released data early Monday on its candidate vaccine, mRNA-1273, which was developed in collaboration with the U.S. government.
Both results are preliminary, with final results expected in as soon as a few weeks.
How effective are the candidate vaccines and what does that mean?
Pfizer released interim results that showed its candidate vaccine was more than 90% effective, after 94 patients developed COVID-19 – the vast majority of whom received the placebo.
Out of Pfizer’s 44,000 volunteers, half the participants received a placebo and half the vaccine, so the new data shows that more people who received the placebo than the vaccine came down with COVID-19.
They were protected a week after the second dose of the vaccine. The two doses are given 21 days apart. Pfizer/BioNTech will do a final check of effectiveness when 164 study participants have fallen ill.
Moderna’s vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective against the disease, after 95 people out of the 30,000 volunteers came down with COVID-19, 90 of whom received the placebo. Eleven people – all in the placebo group – developed “serious” cases of the disease.
A final analysis is expected to include 151 trial volunteers, by which point, statistically, the company can be 90% sure that its findings will hold true.
Are there any side effects to the Moderna, Pfizer vaccines?
Both candidate vaccines reported mild or moderate side effects, mostly pain at the injection site, fatigue and aching muscles and joints for a day or two.
“A sore arm and feeling crummy for a day or two is a lot better than COVID,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of health policy and of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
What makes Pfizer, Moderna candidates different from others?
The Chinese government publicly released the genetic sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2, in mid-January, a few weeks after recognizing an outbreak was underway. Scientists focused on the sequence for the so-called “spike protein” found on the surface of the virus, which allows the virus to attach itself to host cells to infect them.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are based on delivering strands of genetic material to turn people’s cells into spike protein factories. The spike proteins created by the body aren’t dangerous because the rest of the virus isn’t present, however, the body now sees the protein and designs immune soldiers to fight it upon future exposure.
What a vaccine volunteer has to say:I volunteered for Moderna’s COVID vaccine trial. Here’s why I think I got the vaccine, not a placebo
This technology has never been used before in an approved vaccine, and other vaccines have taken 15-20 years to develop and test. The mRNA technology was chosen this time because scientists knew it could be developed quickly. Other COVID-19 vaccine candidates being supported by the U.S. government target the spike protein via a carrier virus or tiny particle.
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Before the companies can apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for authorization to provide their vaccine to the public, they must clear several more hurdles.
About half the trial participants must be two months past their second shot, to prove that the candidate vaccines are safe. If someone were to develop a severe vaccine reaction, it’s likely to happen within six weeks of receiving it. Pfizer will pass that safety milestone this week. Moderna will take longer because it took longer to enroll trial participants.
The final hurdle concerns production. Both companies will have to show that they can safely produce their vaccine at scale. Pfizer said it will provide the FDA that information before this week, but it’s not clear when Moderna will complete this process.
Finally, the FDA will take some time to review each application, as will an independent committee. While no one knows how long this will take, the regulatory agency is expected to an issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year.
President Donald Trump has promised that vaccine would be distributed within 24 hours of an FDA authorization. It would first go to front-line health care workers.
Moderna said Monday it will have 20 million doses available by the end of this year and another 500 million to 1 billion next calendar year. Pfizer has said it will have as much as 50 million doses of its vaccine manufactured by the end of this year, and another 1.3 billion next year.
While the gears have been oiled up to start cranking out vaccines, scientists have predicted vaccines won’t be available to the general public until summer or fall of 2021.
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez and Karen Weintraub on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT @kweintraub
What monoclonal antibodies are – and why we need them as well as a vaccine
November 16, 2020 8.24am EST
- Rodney E. RohdeProfessor Clinical Laboratory Science, Texas State University
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- When President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, one of the cutting-edge experimental therapies he received was a mixture of monoclonal antibodies. But now a vaccine may soon be available. So are other therapies necessary or valuable? And what exactly is a monoclonal antibody?
Over the past few months, the public has learned about many treatments being used to combat COVID-19. An antiviral like remdesivir inhibits the virus from replicating in human cells. Convalescent plasma from the blood of donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may contain antibodies that suppress the virus and inflammation. Steroids like dexamethasone may modify and reduce the dangerous inflammatory damage to the lungs, thereby slowing respiratory failure.
The FDA issued emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody, called bamlanivimab, and Regeneron is waiting for FDA’s green light for its antibody treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are particularly promising in therapy because they can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and block its ability to infect a cell. This might be a lifesaving intervention in people who are unable to mount a strong natural immune response to the virus – those over 65 or with existing conditions that make them more vulnerable.
I’ve worked in public health and medical laboratories for decades, specializing in the study of viruses and other microbes. Even when a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, I see a role for monoclonal antibody therapy in getting the pandemic under control.
Why should we care?
Until a large percentage of a population has immunity to an infectious disease – either through a vaccine or the unchecked spread through a community – the world must rely on other weapons in our war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the previously mentioned therapies, monoclonal antibodies can offer us another tool to neutralize the virus once it causes an infection.
These man-made antibodies offer the world the possibility of immunotherapy similar to the use of convalescent plasma but with a more targeted and accurate action. While a vaccine will ultimately help protect the public, vaccination will not be an instantaneous event, delivering vaccine to 100% of the population. Nor do we know how effective it will be.
The impact of a vaccine also isn’t instantaneous. It takes several weeks to generate a powerful antibody response. In the interim, monoclonal antibodies could help mop up virus that is multiplying in the body.
An antibody is a Y-shaped protein naturally produced by our body’s immune system to target something that is foreign, or not part of you. These foreign bodies are called antigens and can be found on allergens, bacteria and viruses as well as other things like toxins or a transplanted organ.
A monoclonal antibody treatment mimics the body’s natural immune response and targets foreign agents, like a virus, that infect or harm people. There are also monoclonal antibodies that pharmaceutical companies have designed that target cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are one of most powerful types of medicine. In 2019 seven of the top 10 best-selling drugs were monoclonal antibodies.
For President Trump, the experimental treatment made by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron included two antibodies.
Typically the spike protein on the coronavirus fits perfectly into the ACE2 receptor on human cells, a protein common in lung cells and other organs. When this connection happens, the virus is able to infect cells and multiply inside them. But monoclonal antibodies can slow or halt the infection by attaching to the viral spike protein before it reaches the ACE2 receptor. If this happens, the virus becomes harmless because it can no longer enter our cells and reproduce.
How are monoclonal antibodies created?
Monoclonal antibodies that neutralize the coronavirus are complicated to manufacture and produce. They must be made inside cells taken from a hamster’s ovary and grown in gigantic steel vats. The antibodies that these cells manufacture must then be extracted and purified. Unfortunately these monoclonal antibodies, which have been used for other illnesses for years, are often quite expensive.
Regeneron’s two antibodies are targeted to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 – the protrusions on the surface of virus that give it a crown-like look and are critical for infecting human cells.
One of Regeneron’s two antibodies is a replica, or clone, of an antibody harvested from a person who recovered from COVID-19. The second antibody was identified in a mouse that was biologically engineered to have a human immune system. When this mouse was injected with the spike protein, its human immune system generated antibodies against it. One of the most effective mouse antibodies was then harvested and used to form part of this therapy.
Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody therapy, bamlanivimab, was identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from COVID-19.
Both companies have in place large-scale manufacturing with robust, global supply chains in place to produce the monoclonal antibodies, with many global manufacturing sites to ramp up supply. Eli Lilly has received FDA approval, and Regeneron is still awaiting approval. Unfortunately, there will likely be a shortage of the antibodies in the early going of approvals.
Monoclonal antibodies plus a vaccine
Monoclonal antibodies will be able to complement vaccines by offering rapid protection against infection. When they are given to an individual, monoclonal antibodies provide instantaneous protection for weeks to months. Vaccines take longer to provide protection since they must challenge the immune system. But the advantage of a vaccine is that they usually provide long-term protection.
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Regeneron’s and Eli Lilly’s products are both delivered by intravenous injection, after which the patient must be monitored by health care professionals. Since they offer immediate protection, the implications to treat or provide protection to high-risk populations is immense.
These medicines have the potential to treat infected patients or prevent infection of essential health care and public health professionals on the front line of this pandemic. Monoclonal antibodies could also be useful for older people, young children and immunocompromised people for whom vaccines either don’t work or can be dangerous.
What can I say?
Sammy Hagar has survived the break-up of Van Halen and has gone on to do well for himself. Sammy is originally from my turf, San Bernardino County – the city of Fontana. He played in and around the area for sometime. Unfortunately, I can’t say ‘I knew him when.’
You can see more of Sammy on his: http://www.redrocker.com/news site where he smooches with his wife, Kari. They are a cute couple.
Will follow up with a little more on Nancy Wilson of Heart and Van Halen.
Just bought an MP3 – Living in a Blue Dream – Joe Satriani. wow!
I think I have bought two of his Surfing with the Alien albums. This character is based on the Silver Surfer character from Marvel Comics. I loved Joe when he still had hair, but…..the music is just as great as ever. CW
- Robots Are Not Taking Over Teachers’ Jobs Connect with Noah Dougherty
Feb 6, 2019
There is a scene from the recent Star Trek movie reboot of a young alien named Spock at school. Spock and his classmates each stand in their own semi-circular pod, surrounded by screens while an automated “teacher” prompts them with questions. This eerie scene is what some fear will be the future of schooling. Students staring at screens, by themselves, while an artificial intelligence program delivers content and assessments. There is no doubt that digital programs, particularly adaptive ones, can be powerful tools in the classroom. However, that is all a digital program will ever be – a tool. A computer program can never replace a teacher. If anything, technology is making the role of teachers even more important and their job more complex.
Advances in artificial intelligence have been significant, as evidenced by the recent victory of Google’s AlphaGo program over a top human Go player in China. However, computers have only been able to beat humans at the one task they are designed for. That same program could not beat a human at Monopoly, or write a better poem, or even begin to mentor a child through the college application process. Teaching, in contrast, is a job that is multi-layered and complex. Teachers are instructors, coaches, analysts, therapists, designers, mediators, and performers. They are tasked with the most human of jobs – to help raise their community’s children. What job is more human, and more difficult, than teaching?
Only teachers can create the learning experiences that build knowledge, skills, and a love of learning.
Great lessons require planning and performance. Teachers must design a rigorous learning experience and execute it in a way that engages and supports every student. The list of requirements to do either of these tasks is so long, no computer program could even begin to do one, let alone both, of these. If anything, technology is making the job of the teacher more complex than before. Instead of having one set of textbooks, teachers must navigate an array of online and offline curricula while managing devices and building digital citizenship.
Critical thinking skills require the asking and answering of a wide array of questions, something only humans can do.
Teachers most often build their students’ critical thinking skills through careful questioning. This involves the planned and spontaneous asking and answering of questions. It requires a teacher to pivot their approach based on the needs, interests, and strengths of individual students. More and more, it also requires teachers to help their students responsibly consume information and identify unreliable sources. Anyone who has tried to ask an artificial intelligence program a question more difficult than, “What’s the weather today?” will immediately see the limitations of a computer in this work.
No computer can build a relationship with a student, or serve as their role model.
The teachers who adults remember were the ones who inspired them. They saw their potential and coached and challenged them to reach it. Great teachers help students learn about the world around them and about themselves. They are role models and mentors. One reason that districts and states are seeking a more diverse teaching staff is to ensure that every student can see a model of themselves in the adult leading their classrooms. It is difficult to imagine an algorithm serving this role.
A child’s development requires human guidance.
An excellent education develops the whole child. Great schools work in partnership with their families and communities to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to successfully navigate life. Teachers provide guidance, give students feedback, facilitate conflict-resolution, and support students to learn from their mistakes. Technology has, in many ways, opened up the world to students. And teachers are at the forefront of helping to guide, and at times, protect students as they navigate this world. What parent would entrust this job to a computer?
Spock is part of an alien race that values logic and reason, entirely separating themselves from emotion. Perhaps an artificial intelligence built on those same principles would be an effective teacher for them. But humans are uniquely emotional beings, particularly children. Great teachers use emotion to inspire their students, engage them in work, help them through challenges, and model self-control over those emotions. We teach students to be better versions of ourselves. Teaching is a distinctly human endeavor, one that no algorithm can come close to mimicking.
Join us at the PL Summit 2019 for more inspiration and learning around the challenges educators face and how to tackle them effectively and innovatively.
About Noah Dougherty Noah Dougherty is a Senior Design Principal at Education Elements. He previously worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, instructional coach, and school leader. He began his teaching career in Prince George’s County, Maryland with Teach For America and continued with KIPP DC. He has taught middle school social studies, 8th grade ELA, English 12, AP Literature, high school journalism, and DC History. While at KIPP DC he wrote the middle school social studies curriculum, designed a blended professional development course on writing instruction, and supported personalized learning. As a school leader he coached eleven teachers on the ELA and social studies teams, leading to a 13-point gain in students earning a 4+ on the PARCC, more than doubling the portion of students passing the PARCC, more than doubling the portion of students passing from the previous year. Noah has also worked for DC Public Schools and LearnZillion on curriculum development initiatives. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Noah grew up in Syracuse, NY and now lives in Washington, DC.