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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Apple might relax its iPhone trade-in rules to accept phones with cracked screens

If you’ve ever cracked your iPhone screen, broken its camera, or damaged its buttons, you know that Apple doesn’t accept those banged-up devices as part of its iPhone trade-in program, which gives you credit to use toward the purchase of a new iPhone. But the company is reportedly softening its stance and will soon start accepting trade-ins of broken iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus units.

So what’s with Apple’s change of heart? According to 9to5Mac, if people can trade in their cracked iPhones for upgraded models, they’ll be less likely to settle for repairs, which run between $109 and $149 without AppleCare+. Apple will likely peg trade-in values for damaged models at $50 for a 5s, $200 for a 6, and $250 for a 6 Plus, 9to5Mac reported. You might be able to get more by selling your phone on eBay, but Apple’s trade-in program is risk-free and requires minimal effort.

To keep your screen from getting banged up in the first place, it looks like Apple is partnering with screen protector manufacturers like Belkin to install screen protectors in-store. The company is rolling out those Belkin machines at its stores in Japan first, according to Japanese blog MacOtakara. If you’ve ever tried to apply a screen protector to your iPhone, you know what a pain it can be—and just when you think you’ve done it right, you discover specks of dust under the protector. Apple and Belkin will make that process less infurating for less than $40, and will soon be bringing machines to Apple Stores in the States.

Why this matters: Screen protectors mainly prevent your display from scratching, a problem I rarely have these days as the Corning Gorilla Glass Apple uses for the iPhone gets stronger and more resistant to scratches. But screen damage both insignificant and major is a huge issue for iPhone owners, and it’s reassuring to see Apple notice this and not penalize you for it.

I’ve reached out to Apple to confirm changes to the Reuse and Recycling Program and will update this story if or when I receive a response.

Source: Mac World

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02-06-2016 Politics
First Read: The Democratic Race's Most Combative Debate Yet

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Well, we told you there were profound differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — on their views on what it means to be a progressive/Democrat, how to create change, what the next president's job should be — and they delivered on those differences at last night's debate. In fact, it was the most combative two hours of the Democratic presidential race so far. And the only question we have is if we start seeing this combat now play out in the form of TV ads. Some of the sharpest exchanges from last night:

On what it means to be a progressive CLINTON: "Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not progressive because he supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not progressive because she supports the trade pact. Even the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone would not fit this definition because he voted for DOMA... I don't think it was particularly progressive [of Sanders] to vote against the Brady Bill five times. I don't think it was progressive to vote to give gun makers and sellers immunity. I don't think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy's immigration reform."

SANDERS: What we need to do is to stand up to the big money interests, and the campaign contributors. When we do that, we can, in fact, transform America.

On establishment vs. outsiders CLINTON: "I'm very proud and grateful to have the support of so many elected Vermonters and former officials. Three, two former governors, a current governor, the current other senator, I really appreciate that. And I think it's because they've worked with me, they've seen what I do, they know what kind of a colleague I am, they want me as a partner in the White House, and that's exactly what I will do."

SANDERS: "Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans, and by the way, who are not all that enamored with the establishment."

CLINTON: "Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman President as exemplifying the establishment. And I've got to tell you that it is, it is really quite, it's really quite amusing to me."



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Source: NBC News

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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Facebook Celebrates Its 12th Anniversary: Here's What The Site Looked Like In Its Early Days

Everyone's favorite social media platform is one year older today.

On Thursday, Facebook celebrates its 12th anniversary, and we can't believe just how fast the time has gone. Facebook has seen quite a few changes since its humble beginnings, evolving from a site created just for college students to now being one of the most popular websites around the world.

Mark Zuckerberg first launched the site on Feb. 4, 2004 at Harvard University. Called "Thefacebook," it was described as an "online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges."

The idea was to allow users to search for and connect with other people who attend the same school, as well as expand their social circle to connect with friends of friends. Users could also "see a visualization of your social network," which was a feature that literally showed maps of friends and how they were connected.

After being limited to just Harvard students, Thefacebook then launched at 34 different colleges and universities, such as MIT, Boston University, CUNY Hunter and Columbia University, in the spring of 2004.

In order to sign up for an account, the user needed to use their college email address that ended in ".edu."

By the fall of 2004, "the Wall" was introduced, which was the early version of the Timeline as we know it. The Wall was the place where users could write their friend a message, and it could only be seen when clicking on that specific user's profile. To view a conversation, users would have to look "wall-to-wall," meaning they would have to click on the first person's profile to see what they wrote and then the others to see the response.

The group feature also existed back then and was very popular. However, users could only join groups that were within their college network.

Thefacebook continued to grow in popularity among the college crowd, reaching its one million registered users on Dec. 30, 2004.

It was then time for expansion. The site finally started accepting high school students in the fall of 2005, followed by employees at companies like Apple and Microsoft, and international universities to join.

It was around this same time that the site introduced a feature that would change it as users knew it: photos. Users would be able to share photos and "tag" their friends without needing permission from the friends featured in the photo. The only photos that existed up until this point were users' profile images.

This was the age when Facebook looked more like MySpace than any other time, where users could enter their personal information, like what they were looking for (friendship, dating), their politic views, and tastes and interests. In 2005, the social networking site finally dropped the "the" to be known simply as "Facebook."

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Source: Tech Times

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02-06-2016 Religion
In Historic Move, Pope to Meet With Leader of Russian Orthodox Church

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will make a surprise trip to Cuba on Feb. 12 for a historic meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first meeting between a pope and the Russian patriarch since the eastern and western branches of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago, the Vatican announced on Friday.

For Francis, the meeting is the result of delicate and sustained diplomacy, some of which began decades ago under Pope John Paul II, and it is another important milestone in his efforts to reconcile the Roman Catholic Church with Eastern Orthodox churches.

The breakthrough also highlights Francis’s ties to Cuba, as President Raúl Castro “was involved in organizing the meeting,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, at a news conference.

“The encounter has been under preparation for a long time — it wasn’t improvised,” Father Lombardi said.

He said discussions had been underway “for at least two years,” and the fact that both leaders planned to be in Latin America created the possibility of a “neutral place” for a meeting. Francis was already planning to travel to Mexico next Friday for a six-day visit. Now, his plane will stop at José Martí International Airport in Havana, where the pope and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, are expected to hold a private, two-hour meeting.

The two men will then release a joint declaration before Francis continues to Mexico City. Patriarch Kirill was already scheduled to be in Cuba for an official visit.

The pace of reconciliation between Russia, the largest country in the world, and the Vatican, the smallest, has been swift. The two agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations only at the end of 2009, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met Francis in June 2015, in what was seen as a break of Russia’s isolation from the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of his papacy in 2013, Francis has worked to reconcile divisions in Christianity that trace to the Great Schism of 1054, which formally divided the Eastern and Western churches. Francis already has ties to other Orthodox leaders, especially with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, considered the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

But the Russian Orthodox Church has long resisted overtures from the Vatican. John Paul II tried but failed to arrange a meeting with its leaders, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, also did not meet the patriarch.



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Source: The New York Times

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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Mozilla Firefox OS Closing Up Shop in May

Just in case you missed the memo: Mozilla's Firefox OS is officially dead.

In a Thursday announcement, head of Core Contributors George Roter said the company is turning its attention to the Internet of Things. The move is "an intent to pivot from 'Firefox OS' to 'Connected Devices' and to a focus on exploring new product innovations in the IoT space," a company email said.

Mozilla is ending development on Firefox OS for smartphones after version 2.6 is released in May. The team will be shuffled to "other product initiatives across Connected Devices and other Mozilla teams," a spokesman told PCMag.

The Connected Devices team, meanwhile, has been testing a new product innovation process: Three products have already passed the first "gate," and "many more" are in the pipeline, the company said. "Having multiple different product innovations in development will be the approach moving forward."

"The main reason [these decisions] are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the Web to IoT," Mozilla said.

In a separate blog post, Ari Jaaksi, senior vice president of Connected Devices at the Mozilla Foundation, lamented the end of Firefox OS for smartphones.

"Our team and community made an awesome push and created an impressive platform, but the circumstances were not there for Mozilla to win in the commercial smartphone game," he wrote.

All hope is not lost, though: The existing OS stack will be used for smart TVs and potentially other devices in the future. "Our platform is open, as always, to volunteers, contributors, and enthusiasts to improve on and submit patches for further advancement of the OS stack," Jaaksi said.

Firefox OS emerged from Mozilla's Boot to Gecko project in July 2011. A year later, Mozilla revealed the Firefox OS moniker and TCL Communication Technology and ZTE as its first manufacturing partners.

We got a look at the phones at Mobile World Congress 2013; the first arrived in Spain later that year, and in the U.S. shortly thereafter.

In an attempt at differentiation, Firefox OS was a Web-based operating system, providing Internet apps instead of native options. The idea was novel and, according to Mozilla, scalable—allowing it to run on a wide range of devices.

The goal was to break the grip that Android and iOS have on the mobile market; Mozilla played up its open-source component, which would rely on the community to help improve the operating system.

Ultimately, however, Firefox OS proved to be far less popular among consumers than the company expected. Mozilla attempted to update the operating system with more features and functionality as time went on, but it never truly got off the ground.

Source: Pc Mag

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02-06-2016 Health
Brazilian lab detects Zika virus in saliva, urine

(CNN)Active Zika virus has been detected in saliva and urine, a Brazilian public health institute said Friday, posing new questions for researchers trying to understand how the virus could spread.

"It was known that the virus could be present in both urine and saliva. This is the first time we've demonstrated that the virus is active [in those fluids], with the potential to cause infection," Fiocruz researcher Myrna Bonaldo said.

The discovery opens "new paradigms for understanding the transmission routes of the Zika virus," she said.

But it doesn't necessarily mean you can get sick from contact with an infected person's saliva or urine, said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"People have already shown that it can spread to bodily fluids other than blood, so this isn't entirely surprising," he said. "Presence of virus in saliva doesn't mean that it's necessarily transmissible that way."

Health officials had previously reported isolated instances of the virus being passed via blood transfusions and sexual contact, including a U.S. case reported this week.

Other labs, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must now confirm the Fiocruz finding, Gupta said.

Five things you need to know about Zika

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a public health emergency over the Zika virus and increased reports of birth defects and a serious neurological condition that could be linked to it.

The mosquito-borne virus has spread to at least 29 countries. As many as 3 million to 4 million people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in the next year, WHO has estimated.

Zika challenge similar to AIDS for medical community

While most people have mild symptoms at worst, health officials say the virus is suspected of having a link to an alarming spike in babies born with abnormally small heads -- a condition called microcephaly -- in Brazil and French Polynesia.

Reports of Guillan-Barre Syndrome, a neurological conditon that can lead to paralysis, have also risen in areas where the virus has been reported.

The CDC is warning pregnant women against travel to affected areas, and health officials in several of the affected countries are telling women there to avoid becoming pregnant.

Source: CNN

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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Android Wear Updates Hands-Free Options To Include Gestures, Voice And Speaker Controls

There are times when you'd like to fire off a text message or answer a call, but your hands are just too tied up at the moment. Happens all the time, right?

Well, Google realizes that, and on Thursday, introduced an update to Android Wear's hands-free options, now enabling users to navigate their watches with gestures, send messages by voice and make and take calls and listen to messages with speaker support.

The improvements will be made available to all Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, Google says, including new watches such as the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch and the Huawei Watch for Ladies.

The new gestures option will allow users to expand a card, bring up their apps or return to their watch face home screen with a push, lift or shake of the wrist. Simple enough, right? It also keeps your smartphone in your pocket.

Sending messages is just as easy with Android Wear's update to its hands-free options, as users can simply use their voice to send messages on their watch via apps such as Google Hangouts, WeChat and WhatsApp. It's as easy as saying, "OK Google, send a WhatsApp message to Nathan — I'll be right there," Google cites as an example.

The update also allows customers to use speaker support to make and take calls via Bluetooth, while even listening to audio/video messages with the help of apps like Glide. There's one disclaimer with this, though. Not all Android Wear watches tout speaker support.

Still, there's no doubt that Google just made Android Wear more functional, especially during times when you're on the run with your hands tied.

Source: Tech Times

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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Humans have a hand in spreading bee virus, scientists say. Is it too late?

The bees have had it bad for some time now. But the latest blow was dealt directly by mankind, scientists say.

Global bee populations have been hit increasingly hard by the spread of Varroa destructor mite, which researchers have linked to "colony collapse disorder" that is devastating honey bee populations around the globe.

The decline of bee populations could have severe ecological and economic consequences. Plant populations generally suffer as a result of colony collapse – some depend entirely on honey bees to produce fruit. Moreover, honey bees are the primary pollinators of most human food crops. Without them, global food production could experience a drastic collapse.

Researchers found that the vast majority of infected hives, regardless of geographic location, could be traced back to one source – Apis mellifera, the European honey bee. The study, which was led by University of Exeter scientists, appeared Thursday in the journal Science.

If Varroa were spreading naturally, transmission would occur between countries that are geographically close. But researchers found that New Zealand’s infected population, for example, originated in Europe. In other words, the international shipment of non-native bee colonies has hastened the effects of colony collapse on a global scale.

"Bees, and especially queen bees, are traded as a commodity to improve stock quality or to start up new colonies," lead author Lena Bayer-Wilfert says. "Whole hives have also been moved as part of a kind of developmental aid – this is actually a great thing, but historically has contributed to the rapid spread of Varroa."

"We will not be able to eliminate Varroa or introduce resistant honey bees at a short time scale, but constant control of Varroa and good beekeeping practices will limit the negative effects and the spread of these diseases between honey bees and to wild pollinators," Dr. Bayer-Wilfert says.

"At a larger scale, the international regulations on honey bee movements should be maintained and adhered to. This is not a case of ‘Well, the genie is out of the bottle now…’ This work really highlights the risks we incur when moving animals and plants outside their native ranges."

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Apple might relax its iPhone trade-in rules to accept phones with cracked screens

If you’ve ever cracked your iPhone screen, broken its camera, or damaged its buttons, you know that Apple doesn’t accept those banged-up devices as part of its iPhone trade-in program, which gives you credit to use toward the purchase of a new iPhone. But the company is reportedly softening its stance and will soon start accepting trade-ins of broken iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus units.

So what’s with Apple’s change of heart? According to 9to5Mac, if people can trade in their cracked iPhones for upgraded models, they’ll be less likely to settle for repairs, which run between $109 and $149 without AppleCare+. Apple will likely peg trade-in values for damaged models at $50 for a 5s, $200 for a 6, and $250 for a 6 Plus, 9to5Mac reported. You might be able to get more by selling your phone on eBay, but Apple’s trade-in program is risk-free and requires minimal effort.

To keep your screen from getting banged up in the first place, it looks like Apple is partnering with screen protector manufacturers like Belkin to install screen protectors in-store. The company is rolling out those Belkin machines at its stores in Japan first, according to Japanese blog MacOtakara. If you’ve ever tried to apply a screen protector to your iPhone, you know what a pain it can be—and just when you think you’ve done it right, you discover specks of dust under the protector. Apple and Belkin will make that process less infurating for less than $40, and will soon be bringing machines to Apple Stores in the States.

Why this matters: Screen protectors mainly prevent your display from scratching, a problem I rarely have these days as the Corning Gorilla Glass Apple uses for the iPhone gets stronger and more resistant to scratches. But screen damage both insignificant and major is a huge issue for iPhone owners, and it’s reassuring to see Apple notice this and not penalize you for it.

I’ve reached out to Apple to confirm changes to the Reuse and Recycling Program and will update this story if or when I receive a response.

Source: Mac World

Browse our directory of newspapers from United States

02-06-2016 Religion
In Historic Move, Pope to Meet With Leader of Russian Orthodox Church

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will make a surprise trip to Cuba on Feb. 12 for a historic meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first meeting between a pope and the Russian patriarch since the eastern and western branches of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago, the Vatican announced on Friday.

For Francis, the meeting is the result of delicate and sustained diplomacy, some of which began decades ago under Pope John Paul II, and it is another important milestone in his efforts to reconcile the Roman Catholic Church with Eastern Orthodox churches.

The breakthrough also highlights Francis’s ties to Cuba, as President Raúl Castro “was involved in organizing the meeting,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, at a news conference.

“The encounter has been under preparation for a long time — it wasn’t improvised,” Father Lombardi said.

He said discussions had been underway “for at least two years,” and the fact that both leaders planned to be in Latin America created the possibility of a “neutral place” for a meeting. Francis was already planning to travel to Mexico next Friday for a six-day visit. Now, his plane will stop at José Martí International Airport in Havana, where the pope and Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, are expected to hold a private, two-hour meeting.

The two men will then release a joint declaration before Francis continues to Mexico City. Patriarch Kirill was already scheduled to be in Cuba for an official visit.

The pace of reconciliation between Russia, the largest country in the world, and the Vatican, the smallest, has been swift. The two agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations only at the end of 2009, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met Francis in June 2015, in what was seen as a break of Russia’s isolation from the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of his papacy in 2013, Francis has worked to reconcile divisions in Christianity that trace to the Great Schism of 1054, which formally divided the Eastern and Western churches. Francis already has ties to other Orthodox leaders, especially with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, considered the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

But the Russian Orthodox Church has long resisted overtures from the Vatican. John Paul II tried but failed to arrange a meeting with its leaders, and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, also did not meet the patriarch.



Read full story

Source: The New York Times

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02-06-2016 Health
Brazilian lab detects Zika virus in saliva, urine

(CNN)Active Zika virus has been detected in saliva and urine, a Brazilian public health institute said Friday, posing new questions for researchers trying to understand how the virus could spread.

"It was known that the virus could be present in both urine and saliva. This is the first time we've demonstrated that the virus is active [in those fluids], with the potential to cause infection," Fiocruz researcher Myrna Bonaldo said.

The discovery opens "new paradigms for understanding the transmission routes of the Zika virus," she said.

But it doesn't necessarily mean you can get sick from contact with an infected person's saliva or urine, said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"People have already shown that it can spread to bodily fluids other than blood, so this isn't entirely surprising," he said. "Presence of virus in saliva doesn't mean that it's necessarily transmissible that way."

Health officials had previously reported isolated instances of the virus being passed via blood transfusions and sexual contact, including a U.S. case reported this week.

Other labs, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must now confirm the Fiocruz finding, Gupta said.

Five things you need to know about Zika

The World Health Organization on Monday declared a public health emergency over the Zika virus and increased reports of birth defects and a serious neurological condition that could be linked to it.

The mosquito-borne virus has spread to at least 29 countries. As many as 3 million to 4 million people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in the next year, WHO has estimated.

Zika challenge similar to AIDS for medical community

While most people have mild symptoms at worst, health officials say the virus is suspected of having a link to an alarming spike in babies born with abnormally small heads -- a condition called microcephaly -- in Brazil and French Polynesia.

Reports of Guillan-Barre Syndrome, a neurological conditon that can lead to paralysis, have also risen in areas where the virus has been reported.

The CDC is warning pregnant women against travel to affected areas, and health officials in several of the affected countries are telling women there to avoid becoming pregnant.

Source: CNN

Browse our directory of newspapers from Brazil

02-06-2016 Science&Technology
Android Wear Updates Hands-Free Options To Include Gestures, Voice And Speaker Controls

There are times when you'd like to fire off a text message or answer a call, but your hands are just too tied up at the moment. Happens all the time, right?

Well, Google realizes that, and on Thursday, introduced an update to Android Wear's hands-free options, now enabling users to navigate their watches with gestures, send messages by voice and make and take calls and listen to messages with speaker support.

The improvements will be made available to all Android Wear watches over the next few weeks, Google says, including new watches such as the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch and the Huawei Watch for Ladies.

The new gestures option will allow users to expand a card, bring up their apps or return to their watch face home screen with a push, lift or shake of the wrist. Simple enough, right? It also keeps your smartphone in your pocket.

Sending messages is just as easy with Android Wear's update to its hands-free options, as users can simply use their voice to send messages on their watch via apps such as Google Hangouts, WeChat and WhatsApp. It's as easy as saying, "OK Google, send a WhatsApp message to Nathan — I'll be right there," Google cites as an example.

The update also allows customers to use speaker support to make and take calls via Bluetooth, while even listening to audio/video messages with the help of apps like Glide. There's one disclaimer with this, though. Not all Android Wear watches tout speaker support.

Still, there's no doubt that Google just made Android Wear more functional, especially during times when you're on the run with your hands tied.

Source: Tech Times

Browse our directory of newspapers from United States

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02-02-2016 Politics
Trump, Clinton cautiously optimistic ahead of Iowa caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa--Real estate mogul Donald Trump and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton each spoke with cautious optimism Monday morning as the first nominating contest of the 2016 election approached in Iowa, finding common ground on one unified message: Get out and vote.

“You have to be a little bit nervous, and you know I like to win,” Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show on Monday morning. “This is actually my first election night. I’ve gone through many election nights, but it was always for somebody else.” “This is a little bit different for me,” he added. With a massive winter storm looming for the Hawkeye State on Monday night, the campaigns in both parties have closely monitored weather conditions to estimate how voter turnout might be affected. The two front-runners and their rivals are counting on their supporters to push them over the edge in Monday evening’s caucuses, which will come just hours before a massive winter storm is expected to descend on the state.

“We’ve got such a great campaign organization. We’ve got thousands of volunteers. We knocked on 125,000 doors this weekend. There’s just so much excitement,” Clinton said on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning. “We hope that even though it’s a tight race, a lot of the people who are committed to caucusing for me will be there and standing up for me. And I will do the same for them in the campaign and in the presidency.”

Republican officials predicted that regardless of the weather there would a record turnout on their side, fueled in part by Trump’s appeal to voters who have not traditionally caucused. Jeff Kaufmann, who chairs the Iowa Republican Party, said his office has been receiving five to six times as many calls compared to past years.

“The phone calls at the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters are absolutely unprecedented. I mean, we’re looking at 100 an hour, literally,” he said. “Now, obviously, not all of that is tied to Donald Trump. There’s also a lot of these calls that are going to a variety of candidates. But I think that’s a sign of the enthusiasm.” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) echoed that assessment in an interview, saying Trump has “turned out bigger crowds than we’ve ever seen before.”

“I know everybody is saying, ‘Are they just coming for curiosity?’ But I think they’re for real; they’re committed and will show up for caucuses. I do,” Branstad said. “I’ve been pretty impressed with what they’ve done.



Read full story

Source: Washington Post

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02-01-2016 Science&Technology
Google Tells Feds Project Loon Tests Will Be Harmless To Humans, Environment

Google tells federal regulators that its Project Loon does not pose any risk to the environment or humans.

Project Loon is a research and development project, which is being developed by Google X. The project is aimed at providing Internet access to remote and rural areas. Project Loon uses high-altitude balloons, which are placed in the stratosphere for creating an aerial wireless network with speeds as fast as 4G LTE.

However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received informal objections about Project Loon. Some objections are related to harmful effects of the project on humans and the environment. Some companies have also objected that Project Loon may interfere with their wireless operations.

Google sent a letter to the FCC assuring that Project Loon does not pose any risk to humans or environment. Google says that some parties worry that radio frequency (RF) from Project Loon testing will harm plants, animals and humans, who are in the vicinity where the test is conducted.

"The proposed experimental operations in fact present vastly less risk from RF exposure than other transmissions the Commission routinely authorizes. Thus, although we respect that the commenters' concerns are genuinely held, there is no factual basis for them," says Google.

The balloons are designed to float at a height of about 60,000 feet over areas, which has limited or no Internet Service Providers (ISP). The balloons will be receiving and sending signals from antennas that will be ground-based.

The filing to FCC also suggests that antennas will be pointing to the sky and not towards the ground for receiving and sending signals. Moreover, signals sent from balloons located at a distance of 60,000 feet will hardly be of any risk to humans.

"Even if an airborne transmitter were aimed precisely at a person on the ground directly below it, the signal strength received on the ground would be millions of times weaker than FCC limits," says Google.

While Google has been working on Project Loon since 2013, the company has not confirmed any plans of deploying it anywhere in the world. Google's Project Loon started as a pilot experiment in June 2013 and the company launched 30 balloons in New Zealand in coordination with local authorities.

The project is ongoing and Google is planning to send hundreds of more balloons in the stratosphere in an attempt to test Internet connectivity in remote areas of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile. Project Loon's success may see thousands of balloons flying in the stratosphere in the near term.

Source: Tech Times

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02-01-2016 Politics
China Strongly Condemns US for Sending Warship Near Island

China strongly condemned the United States after a U.S. warship deliberately sailed near one of the Beijing-controlled islands in the hotly contested South China Sea to exercise freedom of navigation and challenge China's vast territorial claims.

The missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel chain "to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands," without notifying the three claimants beforehand, Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright said Saturday in Washington..

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from ships transiting what they consider their territorial waters. The latest operation was particularly aimed at China, which has increased tensions with the U.S. and its Southeast Asian neighbors by embarking on massive construction of man-made islands and airstrips in contested areas.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said that Vietnam respects "innocent passage" of ships through territorial waters in line with international law. State media quoted Binh as reiterating Vietnam's sovereignty over the Paracels and Spratlys and calling on nations to actively and practically contribute to peace and stability in the South China Sea.

In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the nearby Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built one of seven artificial islands.

Wright said the attempts to restrict navigational rights by requiring prior notice are inconsistent with international law. U.S. officials said that such ship movements would be regular in the future.

China responded swiftly. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement saying the U.S. action "severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region' s peace and stability," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

According to Yang, Chinese troops on the island and navy vessels and warplanes took actions immediately, identified the U.S. warship and "warned and expelled it swiftly."

He said that the U.S. operation was "very unprofessional and irresponsible for the safety of the troops of both sides, and may cause extremely dangerous consequences." Chinese armed forces will take whatever measures "necessary to safeguard China's sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the U.S. side may take," Yang said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said separately that the Chinese side conducted surveillance and "vocal warnings to the U.S. warship."



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Source: abc News

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02-01-2016 Health
More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus

More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country's national health institute said on Saturday, as the disease continues its spread across the Americas.

The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents fetus' brains from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment.

There are 20,297 confirmed cases of the disease in Colombia, the national health institute said in a epidemiology bulletin, among them 2,116 pregnant women.

There are so far no reported cases of microcephaly or deaths from the virus in Colombia.

The institute said 37.2 percent of pregnant women with Zika live in Norte de Santander province, along the eastern border with Venezuela.

Earlier figures from the health ministry showed 560 pregnant women had the disease, out of more than 13,500 infections.

Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Nearly half of Colombia's Zika cases have been reported in the country's Caribbean region, the bulletin said. More than 60 percent of those infected are women.

The health ministry has said Zika infection falls within the health requirements women must meet to get abortions in the country, which restricts the procedure unless patients are victims of rape, have significant medical problems or the fetus is fatally deformed.

Many women, especially those living far from large cities, struggle to find abortion providers even when they meet the legal requirements and illegal abortions are widespread.

The government has urged women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months to avoid potential infection. Officials expect up to 700,000 cases.

Brazil is the country hit hardest by the disease. It has reported around 3,700 cases of microcephaly strongly suspected to be related to Zika.

The World Health Organization has said as many as 4 million people in the Americas may become infected.



Source: Reuters

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