Countries need to take action against tobacco advertising UN health agency says

The call comes ahead of talks among 191 countries in Geneva later this month to negotiate global rules for tobacco control. “Three years ago when we started the process of negotiating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), I said tobacco addiction is a communicated disease – communicated through advertising, promotion and sponsorship,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Director-General of WHO, who is urging countries to remain vigilant and alert about action by tobacco companies. Her word of caution comes as tobacco companies embark on a massive global public relations bid to woo governments away from negotiating strong agreements against the promotion and advertising of tobacco. Specifically, British American Tobacco (BAT) has launched a new global public relations campaign titled “International Tobacco Product Marketing Standards.” Together with rival manufacturers Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco, the companies have agreed to voluntarily adopt measures to prevent marketing activities from being directed at non-smokers, particularly the young. They are calling on governments, UN agencies and the World Bank to put their faith in a “new initiative” that is neither new nor effective, WHO says. “We have seen no evidence that tobacco companies are capable of self-regulation and we need to be alert to any new attempts to persuade us that this new effort will succeed,” Dr. Brundtland said. “We know what works and what doesn’t. Voluntary codes have proved to be a failure. A World Bank/WHO study, on the other hand, found that interventions like comprehensive advertisement bans and price increases have a measurable and sustained impact on decreased tobacco use,” said Joy de Bayer, Tobacco Control Coordinator at the World Bank. Voluntary codes of advertising were first adopted – and found wanting – by the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, according to WHO, which notes that no country has succeeded in designing regulations that eliminate children’s exposure to tobacco advertising while allowing advertising aimed at adult smokers. In 1999, WHO estimated that tobacco killed 4 million people per year. New estimates for the year 2000 put that figure at 4.2 million deaths per year. One billion people will die from tobacco use in this century, about 150 million in the first two decades, with the developing world accounting for seven in ten of those deaths. read more

Technology gives unique voices to those who cant speak

by Holly Ramer, The Associated Press Posted Jul 15, 2016 1:00 pm MDT Last Updated Jul 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Technology gives unique voices to those who can’t speak In this Friday, June 24, 2016, photo, Jessie Levine smiles as she listens to her recorded outgoing phone message on her iPhone in Springfield, N.H. Levine was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS in 2015, and it has caused her speech to become slow and slurred. She is now exploring a new way to restore her voice via speech synthesis, or the artificial production of human speech. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) SPRINGFIELD, N.H. – Jessie Levine smiles and shakes her head when she hears the outgoing voicemail message on her iPhone.“I sound young! And fast!” she marvels. “That person never, ever expected to talk like this.”The message was recorded before Levine was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, in early 2015, and before the progressive motor neuron disease caused her speech to become slow and slurred. But as her ability to talk deteriorates, she’s exploring a new way to restore her voice via speech synthesis, or the artificial production of human speech.The technology has been around for decades, but as devices shrink in size, efforts to customize them are expanding. Multiple companies and research groups are using speech synthesis engines to create voices from spoken samples, usually thousands of recorded sentences.For example, CereProc, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, created a voice for the late film critic Roger Ebert several years before his death in 2013 by mining commentary tracks he’d recorded for movies.But VocaliD, a Belmont, Massachusetts, company, is taking a different approach by creating custom voices using just a small sample from the recipient, even if they can’t speak.Starting with just a tiny snippet of someone’s voice — a few seconds of saying “Ahhhh” — the company matches recipients with a “donor voice” — in Levine’s case, maybe a relative — and then blends the two together. The result is a sound file that can be plugged into any text-to-speech device.“I have two sisters, one of whom has a lisp like I have, which I had before I had ALS. The other one, we all have this stuffiness to our speech,” said Levine, 45, the manager of Sullivan County, New Hampshire. “It never occurred to me that I could use their voices, adapt it to me, and then be able to use that.”Company founder and CEO Rupal Patel is a speech technology professor on leave from Northeastern University. Her research found that people with severe communication disorders preserve the ability to control aspects of their voices, such as pitch and loudness. Those characteristics — what Patel calls the “melody of speech” — are also important for speaker identity, she said.“There is a level of empowerment that comes with having the freedom to be able to communicate in your own voice, and that’s such an important thing, which I think has been overlooked,” Patel said.No one would give a young girl a prosthetic leg meant for a grown man, she said, and voices should be no different.The company delivered its first seven voices late last year and is working on about seven dozen more, which will cost $1,249 each. More than 14,000 people worldwide have donated their voices so far in a process that involves about six hours and 3,500 sentences read aloud.One of the first recipients was 17-year-old Delaney Supple, of Needham, Massachusetts, who was born with cerebral palsy. She had been using a generic computerized voice but didn’t like it much; she makes a gagging gesture when her mother mentions it.Some voice devices are controlled by eye movement or head movement. Delaney Supple types out her words on a tablet touch screen and then taps it to play them back.Delaney likes her new voice. So does her mother, Erica Supple, who said it’s a much better fit.“I love listening to it,” she said, “and it’s funny because when I first heard it … it sounded a little bit like her brother’s voice when he was younger.” read more