Amazon to open market in second-hand MP3s and e-books






















A new market for second-hand digital downloads could let us hold virtual yard sales of our ever-growing piles of intangible possessions






















WHY buy second-hand? For physical goods, the appeal is in the price – you don't mind the creases in a book or rust spots on a car if it's a bargain. Although digital objects never lose their good-as-new lustre, their very nature means there is still uncertainty about whether we actually own them in the first place, making it tricky to set up a second-hand market. Now an Amazon patent for a system to support reselling digital purchases could change that.












Amazon's move comes after last year's European Union ruling that software vendors cannot stop customers from reselling their products. But without technical support, the ruling has had no impact. In Amazon's system, customers will keep their digital purchases – such as e-books or music – in a personal data store in the cloud that only they can access, allowing them to stream or download the content.












This part is like any cloud-based digital locker except that the customer can resell previous purchases by passing the access rights to another person. Once the transaction is complete, the seller will lose access to the content. Any system for reselling an e-book, for example, would have to ensure that it is not duplicated in the transaction. That means deleting any copies the seller may have lying around on hard drives, e-book readers, and other cloud services, since that would violate copyright.












Amazon may be the biggest company to consider a second-hand market, but it is not the first. ReDigi, based in Boston, has been running a resale market for digital goods since 2011. After downloading an app, users can buy a song on ReDigi for as little as 49 cents that would costs 99 cents new on iTunes.












When users want to sell an item, they upload it to ReDigi's servers via a mechanism that ensures no copy is made during the transfer. Software checks that the seller does not retain a copy. Once transferred, the item can be bought and downloaded by another customer. ReDigi is set to launch in Europe in a few months.












Digital items on ReDigi are cheaper because they are one-offs. If your hard drive crashes and you lose your iTunes collection you can download it again. But you can only download an item from ReDigi once – there is no other copy. That is the trade-off that makes a second-hand digital market work: the risk justifies the price. The idea has ruffled a few feathers – last year EMI sued ReDigi for infringement of copyright. A judge denied the claim, but the case continues.


















Used digital goods can also come with added charm. ReDigi tracks the history of the items traded so when you buy something, you can see who has owned it and when. ReDigi's second-hand marketplace has grown into a social network. According to ReDigi founder John Ossenmacher, customers like seeing who has previously listened to a song. "It's got soul like an old guitar," he says. "We've introduced this whole feeling of connectedness."












It could be good for business too if the original vendors, such as iTunes, were to support resale and take a cut of the resell price. Nevertheless, Amazon's move bucks the industry trend. Microsoft's new Xbox, for example, is expected not to work with second-hand games.












But the market could change rapidly now that Amazon's weight is behind this, says Ossenmacher. "The industry is waking up."












This article appeared in print under the headline "Old MP3, one careful owner"




















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

China gold output up nearly 12% in 2012: report






SHANGHAI: Gold production in China, the world's second largest market for the precious metal, surged nearly 12 percent year-on-year last year despite a slowdown in the domestic economy, state media reported.

Output rose to 403.1 tonnes in 2012, up 11.66 percent from 2011, the official Xinhua news agency said late Saturday, quoting figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

China is the world's second largest consumer of gold after India. A global industry group, the World Gold Council, has put China's consumer demand for gold at 776.1 tonnes last year, flat from 2011.

The council attributed the stable Chinese demand to a slowdown in the domestic economy and consolidation in gold prices which discouraged investors, according to its latest report released this month.

China's economy -- the world's second largest -- grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, expanding 7.8 percent from the year before.

But the economy has been showing renewed vigour since late last year, with growth accelerating in the final three months of 2012 to 7.9 percent, snapping seven straight quarters of weakening expansion.

"The signs of economic improvement bode well for gold demand in China, although the indications are for a steady firming of demand rather than for strong growth," the World Gold Council said.

China's Ministry of Industry said domestic gold prices dropped in December last year as worries over the US "fiscal cliff" caused uncertainty.

US lawmakers clinched a last-gasp deal to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts.

China's gold producers recorded a combined 35 billion yuan (US$5.6 billion) in profits last year, up just 4.0 percent from 2011, the ministry said.

- AFP/ir



Read More..

2 hurt in melee near Ford City Mall









Two people suffered minor injuries and police arrested at least 16 people during a disturbance involving crowds of young people tonight at Ford City Mall on the Southwest Side, authorities said.


About 4:45 p.m., a large group of disruptive teens ran yelling through the mall, which is located at 7601 S. Cicero Ave., according to a mall official.


Officials closed the mall minutes later, but the chaotic scene continued outside, where police found between 100 and 200 people damaging vehicles in the shopping center's parking lot, according to a police report.





Two people were taken to hospitals, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva, a department spokesman.

A CTA bus driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, said Roccasalva, who added he did not know what happened to him.
 
A “kid’’ was also hurt, and that person was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, also in good condition, Roccasalva said.


About 50 police squad cars assigned to multiple South Side districts, including Chicago Lawn, Englewood and Deering, and a helicopter responded to the scene, police said.


Traffic came to a standstill as teenagers jumped on cars, both parked and moving, according to a police report obtained by the Tribune. Many of those involved ignored orders to disperse, and police arrested 16 people, many of them juveniles, according to the report.


Officers did their best to control the disturbance, "trying to get everyone out of there safely," Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala said.


During the disturbance the CTA had to reroute the No. 79 buses, which travel on 79th Street, as well as other buses in the immediate area.


Earlier in the afternoon, members of the teen band Mindless Behavior had appeared at the mall food court from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to promote their new release, "All Around the World," said John Sarama, the mall's senior general manager.

The band's autograph signing drew approximately 1,000 parents and children, primarily mothers and girls between the ages of 6 and 13, Sarama said.

About 45 minutes after the band left, the chaos began, Sarama said.

"A group of older youths came into the mall with the intent of causing havoc and chaos and were running through the mall, screaming, yelling and so forth," he said.

Security staff contacted the police department, and mall officials closed the mall about 5 p.m., Sarama said.

The mall did not sustain any property damage apart from a single broken planter, and it will reopen Sunday at 11 a.m. as usual, Sarama said.

In the meantime, mall officials are at a loss as they try to understand what happened.

"Ford City is a family-oriented mall," he said. "We have not had an incident like this [in the past], and I’m still in a little bit of a state of shock actually.

"What would make these youths comes here to try and cause this kind of commotion and trouble?" he continued. "I don’t know. But they did have a plan in mind."

Tribune reporter Adam Sege contributed.


rsobol@tribune.com





Read More..

Elderly Abandoned at World's Largest Religious Festival


Every 12 years, the northern Indian city of Allahabad plays host to a vast gathering of Hindu pilgrims called the Maha Kumbh Mela. This year, Allahabad is expected to host an estimated 80 million pilgrims between January and March. (See Kumbh Mela: Pictures From the Hindu Holy Festival)

People come to Allahabad to wash away their sins in the sacred River Ganges. For many it's the realization of their life's goal, and they emerge feeling joyful and rejuvenated. But there is also a darker side to the world's largest religious gathering, as some take advantage of the swirling crowds to abandon elderly relatives.

"They wait for this Maha Kumbh because many people are there so nobody will know," said one human rights activist who has helped people in this predicament and who wished to remain anonymous. "Old people have become useless, they don't want to look after them, so they leave them and go."

Anshu Malviya, an Allahabad-based social worker, confirmed that both men and women have been abandoned during the religious event, though it has happened more often to elderly widows. Numbers are hard to come by, since many people genuinely become separated from their groups in the crowd, and those who have been abandoned may not admit it. But Malviya estimates that dozens of people are deliberately abandoned during a Maha Kumbh Mela, at a very rough guess.

To a foreigner, it seems puzzling that these people are not capable of finding their own way home. Malviya smiles. "If you were Indian," he said, "you wouldn't be puzzled. Often they have never left their homes. They are not educated, they don't work. A lot of the time they don't even know which district their village is in."

Once the crowd disperses and the volunteer-run lost-and-found camps that provide temporary respite have packed away their tents, the abandoned elderly may have the option of entering a government-run shelter. Conditions are notoriously bad in these homes, however, and many prefer to remain on the streets, begging. Some gravitate to other holy cities such as Varanasi or Vrindavan where, if they're lucky, they are taken in by temples or charity-funded shelters.

In these cities, they join a much larger population, predominantly women, whose families no longer wish to support them, and who have been brought there because, in the Hindu religion, to die in these holy cities is to achieve moksha or Nirvana. Mohini Giri, a Delhi-based campaigner for women's rights and former chair of India's National Commission for Women, estimates that there are 10,000 such women in Varanasi and 16,000 in Vrindavan.

But even these women are just the tip of the iceberg, says economist Jean Drèze of the University of Allahabad, who has campaigned on social issues in India since 1979. "For one woman who has been explicitly parked in Vrindavan or Varanasi, there are a thousand or ten thousand who are living next door to their sons and are as good as abandoned, literally kept on a starvation diet," he said.

According to the Hindu ideal, a woman should be looked after until the end of her life by her male relatives—with responsibility for her shifting from her father to her husband to her son. But Martha Chen, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University who published a study of widows in India in 2001, found that the reality was often very different.

Chen's survey of 562 widows of different ages revealed that about half of them were supporting themselves in households that did not include an adult male—either living alone, or with young children or other single women. Many of those who did live with their families reported harassment or even violence.

According to Drèze, the situation hasn't changed since Chen's study, despite the economic growth that has taken place in India, because widows remain vulnerable due to their lack of education and employment. In 2010, the World Bank reported that only 29 percent of the Indian workforce was female. Moreover, despite changes in the law designed to protect women's rights to property, in practice sons predominantly inherit from their parents—leaving women eternally dependent on men. In a country where 37 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line, elderly dependent relatives fall low on many people's lists of priorities.

This bleak picture is all too familiar to Devshran Singh, who oversees the Durga Kund old people's home in Varanasi. People don't pay toward the upkeep of their relatives, he said, and they rarely visit. In one case, a doctor brought an old woman to Durga Kund claiming she had been abandoned. After he had gone, the woman revealed that the doctor was her son. "In modern life," said Singh, "people don't have time for their elderly."

Drèze is currently campaigning for pensions for the elderly, including widows. Giri is working to make more women aware of their rights. And most experts agree that education, which is increasingly accessible to girls in India, will help improve women's plight. "Education is a big force of social change," said Drèze. "There's no doubt about that."


Read More..

Las Vegas Strip Shooting Suspect ID'd












Las Vegas police identified a suspect today in a shooting on the strip that caused a Maserati to hit a taxi and burst into flames, killing three people.


Ammar Harris, 26, has been named a suspect in the Thursday skirmish that killed three people, including rapper Kenny Clutch.


The altercation between Harris and Clutch, 27, whose legal name was Kenneth Cherry Jr., is believed to have originated in the valet area of a Las Vegas hotel, police said.


Police said Harris fired several rounds into a Maserati that was being driven by Cherry as both vehicles continued northbound on glitzy Las Vegas Boulevard.


The rapper's expensive sports car careened out of control after he was shot, slamming into several cars, including a taxi. The impact caused the cab to burst into flames, killing the driver, Michael Boldon and a female passenger. Witnesses said it looked like the car exploded.


"He was a number one guy," Carolyn Jean Trimble, Boldon's sister, told ABC News.








California Man's Carjacking Spree Takes 3 Victims Watch Video









Chicago Teen Killed Day of Obama's Anti-Violence Speech Watch Video









Dallas Courthouse Shooting Manhunt Intensify Watch Video





"I looked out my window and I could see one vehicle down here on the corner of the intersection totally engulfed in flames," witness John Lamb told ABC News.


Boldon, 62, and his passenger, who has not yet been identified, were both killed, as was Clutch.


Timble said her brother loved driving his taxi around Vegas.


"He came to live with me in Las Vegas last year to help take care of our mother, and the first day he got here he said, 'I have to get a job.' The second day, I came home from work, and he said he got a job," she recalled.


"He says, 'You'll never guess what it is,' and I said, 'what,' and he said, 'taxi cab driver,' and we both fell out laughing," Trimble said. "He loved that job. He never complained. He'd come home and tell me stories about what happened, who he picked up."


Boldon was a single father who raised a 36-year-old son and was a new grandfather. His grandson was named after him, Trimble said.


"Of all the people to take from this earth," she said. "But I guess the Lord needed him."


A passenger in the Maserati was hit and sustained only a minor injury to his arm. Clutch died at University Medical Center.


His father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., expressed his grief for the loss of his son while speaking with ABC News.


"This is something you never really, really ever want to experience as a parent, to lose a child before you go," he said.


Harris is described as 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Las Vegas Metro Police Department's homicide division.



Read More..

Rusty rocks reveal ancient origin of photosynthesis



































SUN-WORSHIP began even earlier than we thought. The world's oldest sedimentary rocks suggest an early form of photosynthesis may have evolved almost 3.8 billion years ago, not long after life appeared on Earth.











A hallmark of photosynthesis in plants is that the process splits water and produces oxygen gas. But some groups of bacteria oxidise substances like iron instead – a form of photosynthesis that doesn't generate oxygen. Evolutionary biologists think these non-oxygen-generating forms of photosynthesis evolved first, giving rise to oxygen-generating photosynthesis sometime before the Earth's atmosphere gained oxygen 2.4 billion years ago (New Scientist, 8 December 2012, p 12).













But when did non-oxygen-generating photosynthesis evolve? Fossilised microbial mats that formed in shallow water 3.4 billion years ago in what is now South Africa show the chemical fingerprints of the process. However, geologists have long wondered whether even earlier evidence exists.












The world's oldest sedimentary rocks – a class of rock that can preserve evidence of life – are a logical place to look, says Andrew Czaja of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. These rocks, which are found in Greenland and date back almost 3.8 billion years, contain vast deposits of iron oxide that are a puzzle. "What could have formed these giant masses of oxidised iron?" asks Czaja.


















To investigate, he analysed the isotopic composition of samples taken from the oxidised iron. He found that some isotopes of iron were more common than they would be if oxygen gas was indiscriminately oxidising the metal. Moreover, the exact isotopic balance varied subtly from point to point in the rock.












Both findings make sense if photosynthetic bacteria were responsible for the iron oxide, says Czaja. That's because these microbes preferentially oxidise only a small fraction of the dissolved iron, and the iron isotopes they prefer vary slightly as environmental conditions change (Earth and Planetary Science Letters, doi.org/kh5). His findings suggest that this form of photosynthesis appeared about 370 million years earlier than we thought.












It is "the best current working hypothesis for the origin of these deposits", says Mike Tice of Texas A&M University in College Station – one of the team who analysed the 3.4-billion-year-old microbial mats from South Africa.












William Martin at the University of Düsseldorf, Germany, agrees. "Anoxygenic photosynthesis is a good candidate for the isotope evidence they see," he says. "Had these fascinating results been collected on Mars, the verdict of the jury would surely remain open," says Martin Brasier at the University of Oxford. "But [on Earth] opinion seems to be swinging in the direction of non-oxygen-generating photosynthesis during the interval from 3.8 to 2.9 billion years ago."












This article appeared in print under the headline "Photosynthesis has truly ancient origins"




















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.









































































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

Taiwan ex-president's prison term extended






TAIPEI: Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian, jailed for corruption in 2009, has had his prison term extended by 18 months to 20 years due to a further bribery conviction.

Chen, 62, was already serving an 18 1/2-year term for corruption and money-laundering convictions relating to his 2000-2008 presidency -- charges he says stem from a vendetta by the current Beijing-friendly government.

The high court ruled Friday that Chen should serve the extra time for taking bribes from businessmen in a high-profile financial merger case. He was convicted of the offences in December.

Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen also saw her jail term extended to 20 years, although she has been spared from serving her sentence due to poor health.

The couple were also ordered to pay a total fine of Tw$450 million (US$15 million), the court said in a statement.

They face further charges in other cases, but legal experts say their sentences are unlikely to be extended again as individuals can only serve a maximum of 20 years in jail unless a life term is imposed.

Chen's supporters have urged the government to grant him parole for medical treatment saying he is suffering from depression and other health problems. He has been undergoing treatment in a Taipei public hospital since September.

Chen and his family have been accused of laundering millions of dollars by sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, and taking kickbacks on government contracts.

Chen insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta carried out by Taiwan's current government in retaliation for his eight years in power, when he promoted Taiwan's independence from China.

-AFP/fl



Read More..

Hawks make NHL history









The shot was low and hard and cemented the Blackhawks' spot in the history books.


When Brandon Saad rifled the puck past goaltender Antti Niemi early in the third period Friday night at the United Center, the rookie propelled the Hawks to a 2-1 victory over the Sharks and continued a streak for the ages.


Viktor Stalberg also scored and Ray Emery was impressive in goal again as the Hawks finished their 17th consecutive game to start the season without a regulation loss, the longest such streak in league history.








"It's a great feeling," said Stalberg, who scored late in the second period to pull the Hawks into a 1-1 tie and energize the crowd of 21,670. "We've had a great run here. (This) maybe wasn't our best game but we're finding a way to win.


"We want to keep this going and see how far we can take this. It's kind of crazy to think you're not going to lose a game in regulation for the first 17 games. It's a cool thing to be a part of."


The Hawks also pulled into a tie for third in NHL history for longest overall points streak at 23 games over parts of two seasons — matching the 1975-76 Flyers and '40-41 Bruins.


Emery made 26 saves, allowing only a late first-period goal to Patrick Marleau as he out-dueled Niemi. The Hawks moved to 14-0-3 overall and 6-0-1 at home this season and continued their assault on the Western Conference standings with their 31st point of a possible 34.


"Our group has had a great year so far so we don't expect anything less," Saad said.


After a sluggish first period for both teams, Marleau put the Sharks ahead with his 11th goal of the season as the clock ticked down. After a Joe Thornton shot, Marleau batted at the rebound and the puck trickled under Emery's pad and across the line.


Late in the second, Stalberg awakened a subdued crowd with his fourth goal of the season. The winger had been without a point in five consecutive games but found the scoresheet when he banked a shot from behind the goal line off Niemi and into the net.


The Sharks entered the third period on the power play but it was the Hawks who cashed in when Saad notched this third goal of the season. The rookie winger rifled a shot from the left circle that sailed past Niemi to the glove side. It was the Hawks' first short-handed score of the season and gave them life as they marched toward history.


"It was a huge goal for us," Saad said. "I just took him wide and tried to get a shot off and luckily I beat him."


After that, the defense tightened and Emery turned aside whatever offense the Sharks could manage.


"It's special to do something as a group," said Emery, who improved to 7-0-0 with a .930 save percentage this season. "The start of the year is the worst time to do it I think, you'd rather do it at the end but it's great in a short year to get off to a good start and we couldn't ask for more. At the same time we can't be complacent."


The only negative on a night when the Hawks had Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Daniel Carcillo back in the lineup after missing time with injuries, was Dave Bolland suffering an upper-body injury in the second period and not returning to the game. Coach Joel Quenneville said the center was "day-to-day."


Otherwise, it was all smiles in the Hawks dressing room for team that will look to extend the streak to 18 games Sunday night when it faces the Blue Jackets at the United Center.


"The guys should be proud of the achievement and the accomplishment," Quenneville said. "I just think that we shouldn't be happy with where we're at. We just want to keep trying to get better.


"I like the demeanor and the approach and just looking forward to the next game, trying to make a contribution to your linemates or your defense partner or your fellow goalie. It has been a nice environment for the guys and they keep pushing one another."


ckuc@tribune.com


Twitter @ChrisKuc





Read More..

Space Pictures This Week: Space Rose, Ghostly Horses








































































































');
















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































 $'+ doc.ngstore_price_t +'';
html += ' $'+ doc.ngstore_saleprice_t +'';
} else {
html += ' $'+ doc.ngstore_price_t +'';
}
html += '
';

$("#ecom_43331 ul.ecommerce_all_img").append(html);




o.totItems++;

}// end for loop
} // end if data.response.numFound != 0

if(o.totItems != o.maxItems){
if(o.defaultItems.length > 0){
o.getItemByID(o.defaultItems.shift());
} else if(o.isSearchPage && !o.searchComplete){
o.doSearchPage();
} else if(!o.searchComplete) {
o.byID = false;
o.doSearch();
}
}// end if
}// end parseResults function

o.trim = function(str) {
return str.replace(/^\s\s*/, '').replace(/\s\s*$/, '');
}

o.doSearchPage = function(){
o.byID = false;

var tempSearch = window.location.search;
var searchTerms ="default";
var temp;

if( tempSearch.substr(0,7) == "?search"){
temp = tempSearch.substr(7).split("&");
searchTerms = temp[0];
} else {
temp = tempSearch.split("&");
for(var j=0;j 0){
o.getItemByID(o.defaultItems.shift());
} else if(o.isSearchPage){
o.doSearchPage();
} else {
o.doSearch();
}

}// end init function

}// end ecommerce object

var store_43331 = new ecommerce_43331();





store_43331.init();
































































Great Energy Challenge Blog













































































































Read More..

Cyberattacks Bring Attention to Security Reform











Recent accusations of a large-scale cyber crime effort by the Chinese government left many wondering what immediate steps the president and Congress are taking to prevent these attacks from happening again.


On Wednesday, the White House released the administration's Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets as a follow-up to the president's executive order. The strategy did not outwardly mention China, but it implied U.S. government awareness of the problem.


"We are taking a whole of government approach to stop the theft of trade secrets by foreign competitors or foreign governments by any means -- cyber or otherwise," U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel said in a White House statement.


As of now, the administration's strategy is the first direct step in addressing cybersecurity, but in order for change to happen Congress needs to be involved. So far, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is the most notable Congressional legislation addressing the problem, despite its past controversy.


Last April, CISPA was introduced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. The act would allow private companies with consumer information to voluntarily share those details with the NSA and the DOD in order to combat cyber attacks.






Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images







The companies would be protected from any liabilities if the information was somehow mishandled. This portion of the act sounded alarm bells for CISPA's opponents, like the ACLU, which worried that this provision would incentivize companies to share individuals' information with disregard.


CISPA passed in the House of Representatives, despite a veto threat from the White House stemming from similar privacy concerns. The bill then died in the Senate.


This year, CISPA was reintroduced the day after the State of the Union address during which the president declared an executive order targeting similar security concerns from a government standpoint.


In contrast to CISPA, the executive order would be initiated on the end of the government, and federal agencies would share relevant information regarding threats with private industries, rather than asking businesses to supply data details. All information shared by the government would be unclassified.


At the core of both the executive order and CISPA, U.S. businesses and the government would be encouraged to work together to combat cyber threats. However, each option would clearly take a different route to collaboration. The difference seems minimal, but has been the subject of legislative debates between the president and Congress for almost a year, until now.


"My response to the president's executive order is very positive," Ruppersberger told ABC News. "[The president] brought up how important information sharing is [and] by addressing critical infrastructure, he took care of another hurdle that we do not have to deal with."


Addressing privacy roadblocks, CISPA backers said the sharing of private customer information with the government, as long as personal details are stripped, is not unprecedented.


"Think of what we do with HIPAA in the medical professions; [doctors do not need to know] the individual person, just the symptoms to diagnose a disease," Michigan Gov. John Engler testified at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in an attempt to put the problem into context.






Read More..

Mood-sensing smartphone tells your shrink how you feel








































PEOPLE with anxiety, depression or stress are often asked to record their mood changes throughout the day, helping psychologists fine-tune their treatment. But they often forget, recording only sparse information at best. Now an emotion-sensing smartphone app that automatically generates someone's "mood diary" could give psychologists all the data they need.













It's the brainchild of Matt Dobson and Duncan Barclay, founders of speech recognition firm EI Technologies, based in Saffron Walden, UK. Instead of relying on people writing diaries, the app, called Xpression, listens for telltale changes in a person's voice that indicate whether they are in one of five emotional states: calm, happy, sad, angry or anxious/frightened. It then lists a person's moods against the times they change, and automatically emails the list to their psychologist at the end of the day.












To work, the app has to be always on, listening out for the user's voice once every second, whether they are talking to family, friends, colleagues or even pets. It also listens in on phone calls. If the user is silent, the app does nothing. Crucially for the users' privacy, it doesn't record their words, instead seeking out telltale acoustic features – like pitch – that are indicative of emotional state.











This kind of emotion recognition via voice pattern already works well and is a "hot area" of research, says Stephen Cox, head of the speech processing lab at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, who is scientific adviser for the firm.













Initially, Xpression will send 200-millisecond-long acoustic snapshots to a remote server where a machine-learning system will work out a person's emotional state before sending it back to the app for storage. Factors like voice loudness, intensity, changes in pitch and speaking pace allow the system to accurately estimate somebody's emotional state. "We extract acoustic features and let the machine-learning system work it out," says Cox. This ability will be built into the app itself eventually, says Dobson.












There's a strong need for this kind of technology, says Adrian Skinner, a clinical psychologist with the UK's National Health Service in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. "With conditions like depression, people tend to stop doing things like filling in mood diaries. If this app gives us more complete diaries it could help us better find the day-to-day triggers that raise or lower a patient's mood," he says.


















The firm is a finalist in a UK government competition to identify the nation's top mobile tech company, to be judged on 26 February. An insurance company has already expressed an interest in using the app to ensure the workplace stress therapy it pays for is effective. Clinical trials are due to take place later this year.












This article appeared in print under the headline "We know how you really feel"




















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








Read More..

Man charged with outraging modesty of girl






SINGAPORE: A man has been charged with outraging the modesty of a 16-year-old girl.

Toh Boon Cheong, 52, is accused of rubbing his groin area against the girl's hip on board the MRT train travelling from Choa Chu Kang station to Bukit Gombak station.

The alleged incident occurred on 15 January, at about 6:50am.

If convicted, Toh faces up to two years' jail and caning.

- CNA/ck



Read More..

Retired general: National Guard could help curb Chicago violence









To reduce the homicides and shootings plaguing Chicago streets, elected officials should consider calling on the state and federal governments for help, even the National Guard if necessary, said a retired Army lieutenant general who spearheaded the military response after Hurricane Katrina.

"Just like we do with any disaster. When the tornado comes, or the floods come, the federal government comes in to help," Russel L. Honore said Thursday at a news conference in Chicago.






"Let's not let this be about pride. 'We are big ol' Chicago, we are too proud, we can handle this.' Maybe you can't handle it. If you need help, get the federal government here. But let's control the streets so children and elderly people can be in a safe community."

Honore, known for his no-nonsense leadership, was in Chicago as part of The HistoryMakers project to record and archive the stories of African-American military leaders. The nonprofit organization houses the largest collection of recorded histories of African-Americans.

As part of his visit, Honore met with high school students to discuss his career.

At the news conference at the Chicago Military Academy in the Bronzeville neighborhood, Honore spoke out against the gun violence that affects the lives of so many of the students.

Honore was mild in his tone and fell short of demanding action. Instead he suggested a strategy he thinks could work.

To tackle the violence here, Honore said, the state police and other law enforcement agencies could lend a hand to local police. And the National Guard could take over routine duties, patrolling the streets and handling traffic, while police concentrate their efforts on solving crimes and increasing their presence in troubled neighborhoods.

Last year, Chicago homicides exceeded 500 for the first time since 2008, a 16 percent jump from 2011. And January saw the most homicides for that month since 2002. In addition, the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton has placed an international spotlight on the random violence in Chicago because the 15-year-old honors student with so much promise was killed less than a mile from President Barack Obama's home.

To reduce the violence, more attention needs to be paid to poor communities infested with drugs, Honore said.

"Trust me, we can tap this down," Honore said of the shootings. "It would take a commitment, and it's not going to be popular. Many people are going to say why are you bringing that to my community? (But) do you want law enforcement or do you want people shooting day and night and destroying the lives of innocent people like the little girl who lost her life here a few weeks ago?"

Rondell Freeman, a 17-year-old junior at Prologue Early College High School who was among the students to hear Honore's remarks, said he feels afraid on the streets or even visiting the local park in his Garfield Park community. Honore's suggestion to bring in state police and National Guard seems radical, but it may be necessary, he said.

"We should do whatever it takes to end the violence, so we won't have to feel scared," he said. "These kids have guns. We need experienced people that can stop them."

When he's not working as a Chicago police officer, Richard Wooten said he's in the neighborhoods — Auburn Gresham, West Chesterfield and Chatham — helping residents develop neighborhood watch groups.

"Crime in Chicago is just running rampant," said Wooten, who does community work as part of his own organization, the Gathering Point Community Council. He attended Honore's news conference.

"This is going to require more than just the Chicago Police Department," he said. "We are in a state right now where we need not only to get the community activated and mobilized and dealing with the issues in their community, but somewhere along the way, we're going to have to tap into some federal funding."

lbowean@tribune.com



Read More..

Oldest Known Wild Bird Hatches Chick at 62



Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird, has yet another feather in her cap—a new chick.


The Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)—62 years old at least—recently hatched a healthy baby in the U.S. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, her sixth in a row and possibly the 35th of her lifetime, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) North American Bird Banding Program. (Related: "51-Year-Old Albatross Breaks N. American Age Record [2003].")


But Wisdom's longevity would be unknown if it weren't for a longtime bird-banding project founded by USGS research wildlife biologist Chandler Robbins.


Now 94, Robbins was the first scientist to band Wisdom in 1956, who at the time was "just another nesting bird," he said. Over the next ten years, Robbins banded tens of thousands of black-footed albatrosses (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan albatrosses as part of a project to study the behavior of the large seabirds, which at the time were colliding with U.S. Navy aircraft.


Robbins didn't return to the tiny Pacific island—now part of the U.S. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—until 2002, when he "recaptured as many birds as I could in hopes that some of them would be the old-timers."


Indeed, Robbins did recapture Wisdom—but he didn't know it until he got back to his office at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, and checked her band number in the database.


"That was real exciting, because we didn't think the chances of finding one that old would be that good," Robbins said Wednesday in an interview from his office at the Patuxent center, where he still works.



Chandler Robbins counts birds.

Chandler Robbins counts birds in Maryland's Patuxent Research Refuge.


Photograph by David H. Wells, Corbis




Albatrosses No Bird Brains


Bigger birds such as the albatross generally live longer than smaller ones: The oldest bird in the Guinness Book of Animal Records, a Siberian white crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus), lived an unconfirmed 82 years. Captive parrots are known to live into their 80s. (See National Geographic's bird pictures.)



The Laysan albatross spends most of the year at sea, nesting on the Midway Atoll (map) in the colder months. Birds start nesting around five years of age, which is how scientists knew that Wisdom was at least five years old in 1956.



Because albatrosses defend their nests, banding them doesn't require a net or a trap as in the case of other bird species, Robbins said—but they're far from tame.


"They've got a long, sharp bill and long, sharp claws—they could do a job on you if you're not careful how to handle them," said Robbins, who estimates he's banded a hundred thousand birds.


For instance, "when you're not looking, the black-footed albatross will sneak up from behind and bite you in the seat of the pants."


But Robbins has a fondness for albatrosses, and Wisdom in particular, especially considering the new dangers that these birds face.


Navy planes are no longer a problem—albatross nesting dunes were moved farther from the runway—but the birds can ingest floating bits of plastic that now inundate parts of the Pacific, get hooked in longlines meant for fish, and be poisoned by lead paint that's still on some of Midway Atoll's buildings. (Also see "Birds in 'Big Trouble' Due to Drugs, Fishing, More.")


That Wisdom survived so many years avoiding all those hazards and is still raising young is quite extraordinary, Robbins said.


"Those birds have a tremendous amount of knowledge in their little skulls."


"Simply Incredible"


Wisdom's accomplishments have caught the attention of other scientists, in particular Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, who said by email that Wisdom is a "symbol of hope for the ocean." (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)


Earle visited Wisdom at her nest in January 2012, where she "appeared serenely indifferent to our presence," Earle wrote in the fall 2012 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.


"I marveled at the perils she had survived during six decades, including the first ten or so years before she found a lifetime mate. She learned to fly and navigate over thousands of miles to secure enough small fish and squid to sustain herself, and every other year or so, find her way back to the tiny island and small patch of grass where a voraciously hungry chick waited for special delivery meals."


Indeed, Wisdom has logged an estimated two to three million miles since 1956—or four to six trips from Earth to the moon and back, according to the USGS. (Related: "Albatross's Effortless Flight Decoded—May Influence Future Planes.")


Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program, called Wisdom's story "simply incredible."


"If she were human, she would be eligible for Medicare in a couple years—yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean," he said in a statement.


Bird's-Eye View


As for Robbins, he said he'd "love to get out to Midway again." But in the meantime, he's busy going through thousands of bird records in an effort to trace their life histories.


There's much more to learn: For instance, no one has ever succeeded in putting a radio transmitter on an albatross to follow it throughout its entire life-span, Robbins noted.


"It would be [an] exciting project for someone to undertake, but I'm 94 years old," he said, chuckling. "It wouldn't do much for me to start a project at my age."


Read More..

Arias Challenged On Pedophilia Claim












Accused murderer Jodi Arias was challenged today by phone records, text message records, and her own diary entries that appeared to contradict her claim that she caught her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, looking at pictures of naked boys.


Arias had said during her testimony that one afternoon in January 2008, she walked in on Alexander masturbating to pictures of naked boys. She said she fled from the home, threw up, drove around aimlessly, and ignored numerous phone calls from Alexander because she was so upset at what she had seen.


The claim was central to the defense's accusation that Alexander was a "sexual deviant" who grew angry and abusive toward Arias in the months after the incident, culminating in a violent confrontation in June that left Alexander dead.


Arias claimed she killed him in self-defense. She could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.


Catching Up on the Trial? Check Out ABC News' Jodi Arias Trial Coverage


Today, prosecutor Juan Martinez, who has been aggressive in questioning witnesses throughout the trial, volleyed questions at her about the claim of pedophilia, asking her to explain why her and Alexander's cell phone records showed five calls back and forth between the pair throughout the day she allegedly fled in horror. Some of the calls were often initiated Arias, according to phone records.








Jodi Arias Doesn't Remember Stabbing Ex-Boyfriend Watch Video









Jodi Arias Murder Trial: Testimony About Ex's Death Watch Video









Arias on Ex-Boyfriend's Death: 'I Don't Remember' Watch Video





She and Alexander also exchanged text messages throughout the afternoon and evening at a time when Arias claims the pedophilia incident occurred. In those messages they discuss logistics of exchanging one another's cars that night. Alexander sends her text messages about the car from a church social event he attended that night that she never mentioned during her testimony.


Arias stuck by her claim that she saw Alexander masturbating to the pictures, and her voice remained steady under increasingly-loud questioning by Martinez.


But Martinez also sparred with Arias on the stand over minor issues, such as when he asked Arias detailed questions about the timing and order of events from that day and Arias said she could not remember them.


"It seems you have problems with your memory. Is this a longstanding thing? Since you started testifying?" Martinez asked.


"No it goes back farther than that. I don't know even know if I'd call it a problem," Arias said.


"How far back does it go? You don't want to call them problems, are they issues? Can we call them issues? When did you start having them?" he asked in rapid succession. "You say you have memory problems, that it depends on the circumstance. Give me the factors that influence that."


"Usually when men like you or Travis are screaming at me," Arias shot back from the stand. "It affects my brain, it makes my brain scramble."


"You're saying it's Mr. Martinez's fault?" Martinez asked, referring to himself in the third person.


"Objection your honor," Arias' attorney finally shouted. "This is a stunt!"


Timeline of the Jodi Arias Trial


Martinez dwelled at one point about a journal entry where Arias wrote that she missed the Mormon baptism of her friend Lonnie because she was having kinky sex with Alexander. He drew attention to prior testimony that she and Alexander used Tootsie Pops and Pop Rocks candy as sexual props.


"You're trying to get across (in the diary entry) that this involved a sexual liaison with Mr. Alexander right?" he asked. "And you're talking about Tootsie Pops and Pop Rocks?"


"That happened also that night," Arias said.


"You were there, enjoying it, the Tootsie Pops and Pop Rocks?" he asked again, prompting a smirk from Arias.


"I enjoyed his attention," Arias said.






Read More..

Higgs may spell doom, unless supersymmetry saves us



Lisa Grossman, physical sciences reporter


higgs-cern-nologo.jpg

(Image: CERN)

Is the Higgs boson a herald of the apocalypse? That's the suggestion behind a theory, developed more than 30 years ago, that is back in the headlines this week. According to physicists, the mass of the Higgs-like particle announced last summer supports the notion that our universe is teetering on the edge of stability, like a pencil balanced on its point.


"It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable," Joseph Lykken, of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, said on Monday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "At some point, billions of years from now, it's all going to be wiped out."





Physicists have been wringing their hands about this scenario since 1982, when theorists Michael Turner and Frank Wilczek published a paper about it in Nature, NBC News points out. The pair showed that the vacuum of space can be in different energy states, and it will be most stable at its lowest energy. Trouble arises if we're not there yet, and we're inhabiting a temporarily stable state that should ultimately collapse.


"The universe wants to be in a different state, so eventually to realize that, a little bubble of what you might think of as an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us," Lykken said at AAAS.


Enter the Higgs boson, the particle form of the field that gives mass to several fundamental particles. The Higgs field permeates the vacuum of space, which means the mass of the boson and the stability of the vacuum are closely intertwined. Theory predicted that if the Higgs boson is heavier than about 129 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), the universe should be on safe footing.


But in July 2012 physicists at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland announced that a particle closely matching the Higgs had been found by experiments in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The much celebrated particle has a mass of about 126 GeV - light enough to raise fears of instability.


There is still hope for the universe as we know it. Some theorists pointed out that the relationship between the Higgs mass and the vacuum of space depends on the mass of a particle called the top quark. If the top quark's mass is different than we think it is, stability might reign.


There are also anomalies with the Higgs measurement, like the fact that it decays into photons more often than predicted. That hints we may yet find particles from the theory of supersymmetry, which says each ordinary particle has heavier "superpartners". If the Higgs has such a relative, it might save us from destruction. But some of these predicted particles, particularly the superpartners of the top quark, can push the universe back into instability.


The worries may remain unconfirmed for a while. The LHC is shutting down for a two-year break so engineers can prepare the machine to shoot higher-energy particle beams, which are needed to probe for superpartners.




Read More..

Del Piero signs for second season Down Under






MELBOURNE: Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero has signed on for a second season in Australia's A-League as his Sydney FC side push for a play-off place.

"I'm very happy about this news," the Juventus and Italy legend told a press conference after agreeing to activate the second year of a reported US$2 million-a-season contract.

"For sure it's a great moment for me, for Sydney FC," he said, thanking the club for trusting him.

The 38-year-old said he would not carry on if he could not play at a high level.

"In my age, I want to be very honest. We have to see year by year."

Del Piero has already scored 11 goals in 18 matches, a record haul by a Sydney FC player in a single season and been a hit off the pitch too, helping to boost crowds, shirt sales and television ratings.

Sydney FC has fought back from the bottom of the league to fifth place -- within reach of qualification for the playoffs, largely thanks to Del Piero's goals.

"We have a good position but it's not enough, we have six games remaining but we have to push our energy to take a play-off," he said.

"We want to improve for the next year and do better and better every week," he added.

The team's charge for the finals gathered steam, with a 2-1 win over Adelaide United following the signing of Socceroos captain Lucas Neill on Saturday.

An early-season collapse was halted by the December arrival of former Australia coach Frank Farina, quickly turning Sydney FC into the form team.

- AFP/sf



Read More..

Tribune exclusive: 'We were just regular parents who were slapped in the face'




















The parents of slain teen Hadiya Pendleton talk about her life and death and the issues raised after she died. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune)




















































Hadiya Pendleton’s parents haven’t had much time to reminisce about their daughter’s life and death before Wednesday, when they sat down for an exclusive interview for the Tribune.


Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton recalled getting the phone call on Jan. 29 that her 15-year-old daughter had been shot, and rushing to the hospital only to find out it was too late, her daughter was dead.


A whirlwind of activity followed as Hadiya became a national symbol of gun violence and her parents traveled to Washington for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech.








“I’m not going to be extremely political, but if I can help someone else not go through what we’ve gone through, then I have to do what I can,” Cowley-Pendleton said. “These are the cards we have been dealt. If these are the shoes I need to walk in, I don’t mind walking in them.”


To read the full story, you must be a digitalPlus member.






Read More..

NASA's Mars Rover Makes Successful First Drill


For the first time ever, people have drilled into a rock on Mars, collecting the powdered remains from the hole for analysis.

Images sent back from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Wednesday confirmed that the precious sample is being held by the rover's scoop, and will soon be delivered to two miniature chemical labs to undergo an unprecedented analysis. (Related: "Mars Rover Curiosity Completes First Full Drill.")

To the delight of the scientists, the rock powder has come up gray and not the ubiquitous red of the dust that covers the planet. The gray rock, they believe, holds a lot of potential to glean information about conditions on an early Mars. (See more Mars pictures.)

"We're drilling into rock that's a time capsule, rocks that are potentially ancient," said sampling-system scientist Joel Hurowitz during a teleconference from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

A Place to Drill

The site features flat bedrock, often segmented into squares, with soil between the sections and many round gray nodules and white mineral veins.

Hurowitz said that the team did not attempt to drill into the minerals or the gray balls, but the nodules are so common that they likely hit some as they drilled down 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters).

In keeping with the hypothesis that the area was once under water, Hurowitz said the sample "has the potential of telling us about multiple interactions of water and rock."

The drill, located at the end of a seven-foot (two-meter) arm, requires precision maneuvering in its placement and movement, and so its successful initial use was an exciting and welcome relief. The rover has been on Mars since August, and it took six months to find the right spot for that first drill. (Watch video of the Mars rover Curiosity.)

The flat drilling area is in the lower section of Yellowknife Bay, which Curiosity has been exploring for more than a month. What was previously identified by Curiosity scientists as the dry bed of a once-flowing river or stream appears to fan out into the Yellowknife area.

The bedrock of the site—named after deceased Curiosity deputy project manager John Klein—is believed to be siltstone or mudstone. Scientists said the veins of white minerals are probably calcium sulfate or gypsum, but the grey nodules remain something of a mystery.

Triumph

To the team that designed and operates the drill, the results were a triumph, as great as the much-heralded landing of Curiosity on the red planet. With more than a hundred maneuvers in its repertoire, the drill is unique in its capabilities and complexities. (Watch video of Curiosity's "Seven Minutes of Terror.")

Sample system chief engineer Louise Jandura, who has worked on the drill for eight years, said the Curosity team had made eight different drills before settling on the one now on the rover. The team tested each drill by boring 1,200 holes on 20 types of rock on Earth.

She called the successful drilling "historic" because it gives scientists unprecedented access to material that has not been exposed to the intense weathering and radiation processes that affect the Martian surface.

Mini-laboratories

The gray powder will be routed to the two most sophisticated instruments on Curiosity—the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin).

SAM, the largest and most complex instrument onboard, operates with two ovens that can heat the sample up to 1,800°F (982°C), turning the elements and compounds in the rock into gases that can then be identified. SAM can also determine whether any carbon-based organic material is present.

Organics are the chemical building blocks of life on Earth. They are known to regularly land on Mars via meteorites and finer material that rains down on all planets.

But researchers suspect the intense radiation on the Martian surface destroys any organics on the surface. Scientists hope that organics within Martian rocks are protected from that radiation.

CheMin shoots an X-ray beam at its sample and can analyze the mineral content of the rock. Minerals provide a durable record of environmental conditions over the eons, including information about possible ingredients and energy sources for life.

Both SAM and CheMin received samples of sandy soil scooped from the nearby Rocknest outcrop in October. SAM identified organic material, but scientists are still trying to determine whether any of it is Martian or the byproduct of organics inadvertently brought to Mars by the rover. (See "Mars Rover Detects Simple Organic Compounds.")

In the next few days, CheMin will be the first to receive samples of the powdered rock, and then SAM. Given the complexity of the analysis, and the track record seen with other samples, it will likely be weeks before results are announced.

The process of drilling and collecting the results was delayed by several glitches that required study and work-arounds. One involved drill software and the other involved a test-bed problem with a sieve that is part of the process of delivering samples to the instruments.

Lead systems engineer Daniel Limonadi said that while there was no indication the sieve on Mars was malfunctioning, they had become more conservative in its use because of the test bed results. (Related: "A 2020 Rover Return to Mars?")

Author of the National Geographic e-book Mars Landing 2012, Marc Kaufman has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including the past 12 as a science and space writer, foreign correspondent, and editor for the Washington Post. He is also author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth, published in 2011, and has spoken extensively to crowds across the United States and abroad about astrobiology. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife, Lynn Litterine.


Read More..