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Whooping cough shot seems safe

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Rochester, N.Y. An experimental booster shot designed to protect adults and adolescents from whooping cough proved safe and effective in a study released Thursday, offering a vital new tool for fighting a dangerous resurgence of the disease over the past few years.

The vaccine, developed by Sanofi Pasteur and already widely given to teenagers in Canada, appears likely to win U.S. government approval later this month.

The vaccine is needed “to prevent the disease in teenagers and adults themselves and, secondly, take away their ability to be contagious,” said Dr. Michael E. Pichichero, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has headed clinical trials into the vaccine since 2001. “We’re trying to stop an epidemic.”

Cases of whooping cough, an ancient scourge that effective vaccination of babies and toddlers was meant to wipe out, have quadrupled in the United States over the past three years to 18,957 cases in 2004, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It turns out the vaccine that babies get starts wearing off by adolescence.

Babies find rhythm in rocking, bouncing

Washington Gently bounce a baby while you sing, and you’ll usually get squeals of glee. But it’s not just fun: Feeling the beat helps wire babies’ brains to hear rhythm.

So says new research that tested moms and babies doing what comes naturally – dancing around together.

Everybody knows babies love music. Around the globe, parents sing to their infants in a special way, with a distinctive high pitch that’s soothingly slow for a lullaby and elaborately bright at playtime. Babies catch on quickly, able to perceive aspects of melody and recognize different beats at just a few months of age.

As psychologist Laurel Trainor studied how babies perceive music, she noticed that parents hardly ever sing to them without bouncing or rocking or playing with their feet. She wondered if that movement was important developmentally.

Her research shows it is: Using multiple senses helps the brain learn about rhythm – how we move indeed influences what we hear – Trainor reports in today’s edition of the journal Science. “It’s wiring the sensory system,” said Trainor, of Canada’s McMaster University.

Soviet-built space facility marks 50 years

Baikonur, Kazakhstan Born in Cold War secrecy and the scene of Soviet space triumph and tragedy, the Baikonur cosmodrome marked its 50th anniversary Thursday, hailed by the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan as a technological workhorse on the wind-swept steppes of Central Asia.

Baikonur launched the first satellite and the first man into space, and is now home to the Soyuz rockets that service the international space station, shuttling crucial deliveries, along with Russian cosmonauts and American and European astronauts.

At a ceremony celebrating the cosmodrome’s construction in 1955, a decade after the end of World War II, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed it as “a heroic feat … of the people who had just gone through a devastating war.”

Initially designed as a testing ground for a top-secret Soviet ballistic missile program, Baikonur was a key site in Moscow’s space race with the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and saw many historic firsts in exploration.

Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, blasted off from here in 1957, and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was launched from Baikonur in 1961 – 23 days before the United States sent aloft its first astronaut, Alan Shepard.

Baikonur also sent the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963, and was used for missions that built and maintained the space station Mir in the 1980s and 1990s.

For all the success at Baikonur, there was also disaster: A missile exploded on a launchpad on Oct. 24, 1960, killing 165 workers. The accident was shrouded in secrecy for 30 years.

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