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10-07-2015 Politics
Pentagon calls Afghan hospital strike a mistake, seeks accountability

The U.S. military took responsibility on Tuesday for a deadly air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, calling it a mistake and vowing to hold people accountable.

Saturday's strike on an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), killed 22 people and deeply angered the medical charity. MSF officials have blamed the United States, demanding an independent investigation into an attack it called a war crime.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon "deeply regrets" the loss of life. "The U.S. military takes the greatest care in our operations to prevent the loss of innocent life, and when we make mistakes, we own up to them. That's exactly what we're doing right now," Carter, who was traveling in Europe, said in a statement.

"We will do everything we can to understand this tragic incident, learn from it, and hold people accountable as necessary," he said.

Earlier in Washington, the American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, called the strike a mistake made within the U.S. chain of command.

The comments by Carter and Campbell were the most direct acknowledgement yet by the U.S. government that the strike on the hospital was carried out by U.S. forces. On Monday, Campbell said only that U.S. forces had responded to a request for support from Afghan forces.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell also made clear he favored a rethink of a plan to withdraw almost all U.S. troops by the end of next year. He said rising threats in Afghanistan from the Islamic State and al Qaeda were among factors informing his recommendations to the White House on future troop levels.

Campbell said U.S. forces had responded to a request from Afghan forces and provided close air support as they engaged in a fight with Taliban militants in Kunduz, a provincial capital that the Taliban captured late last month.

"To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command," Campbell said. He added that U.S. special forces nearby were communicating with the aircraft that delivered the strikes.

"A hospital was mistakenly struck," Campbell said. "We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."

President Barack Obama expected steps to be taken to prevent such an incident from recurring, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani, heavily dependent on Washington for military support and far less critical of the United States than his predecessor Hamid Karzai, has held back from directly criticizing the United States.

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Source: Reuters

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10-07-2015 Science&Technology
Curved new Microsoft Band blends sensor-laden hardware with cloud-based smarts

The first-gen Band didn’t exactly set the world on fire in a world deluged with Apple Watches and Android Wear and dirt-cheap activity trackers galore, but Microsoft isn’t quietly killing off its Windows wearable.

During the company’s big device launch on Tuesday, Microsoft revealed a second-gen Band sporting some slick generational improvements over the original and a strong emphasis on the smarts provided by the cloud.

The new Band is “optimized for the individual who goes to work and works out,” said Microsoft’s Lindsey Matese.

The most notable fresh feature is the Band’s curved Gorilla Glass 3 display, which hugs your wrist in a much more eye-pleasing fashion than its predecessor. Plus, it’s more scratch-resistant and more responsive to touch commands, and the Band’s band breathes easier around your wrist.

“We kept grinding to push the product... no rigidity in any direction, no uncomfortable shoulders, no hard edges, and above all it must curve nicely around the wrist,” said Matese. Beyond the aesthetic upgrade, the new Microsoft Band now features enhanced Cortana integration—the digital assistant can now reschedule workouts that you miss—as well as a new barometer sensor so you can track your elevation in real time.

So why would you opt for a Microsoft Band over, say, an Apple Watch or Fitbit? Matese repeatedly stressed the personalized “big data” that the Microsoft Health app provides, especially when paired with the sensor-laden Band. Calorie tracking, stair climbing, GPS, guided workouts, sleep tracking, calorie tracking, notifications—Microsoft’s blend of the Band hardware and the cloud-bolstered Health app software does it all, Matese said. And the combo enables capabilities that no other fitness wearable offers, she said, such as measuring VO2 max (the maximum oxygen volume an athlete can use) and the ability to discern whether you’re practicing your golf swings or crushing long balls down the fairway.

Curious? You’ll be able to preorder the new Microsoft Band for $250 today, and the wearable’s expected to hit store shelves on October 30.

Source: Pc World

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10-07-2015 Science&Technology
EU Court Says Data-Transfer Pact With U.S. Violates Privacy

The European Union’s highest court on Tuesday struck down a trans-Atlantic pact used by thousands of companies to transfer Europeans’ personal information to the U.S., throwing into jeopardy data traffic that underpins the world’s largest trading relationship.

In a victory for privacy advocates, the European Court of Justice ruled that national regulators in the EU can override the 15-year-old “Safe Harbor” pact used by about 4,500 companies, including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, because it violates the privacy rights of Europeans by exposing them to allegedly indiscriminate surveillance by the U.S. government.

The decision now sets off a costly effort by companies and privacy lawyers to preserve companies’ ability to transfer Europeans’ personal data to the U.S. before regulators move in with fines or orders to suspend data flows. Hanging in the balance is billions of dollars of trade in the online advertising business, as well as more quotidian tasks such as companies’ ability to store human-resources documents about European colleagues.

Many large technology companies, including Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., say they have already set up backup legal mechanisms in a bid to avoid clashes with regulators. EU law provides for other ways to transfer personal data legally, but they are more time-consuming to implement than the method the court invalidated because they often require prior approval from regulators. The ruling could also hit large U.S.-based providers of cloud services, many of which store data on behalf of European companies. In the wake of the ruling, those companies could seek EU-based cloud providers rather than taking on new legal risk by keeping data with U.S. companies, lawyers and executives say.

“Losing Safe Harbor would be hugely disruptive to all sorts of businesses,” said an official at a U.S.-based tech company that provides cloud services. “It would disrupt our products for customers. That’s the bottom line.”

In force since 2000, the data framework has until now allowed companies based in the U.S. to store personal data about Europeans—for instance, a social-media profile or payroll information—on U.S.-based computer servers without running afoul of Europe’s strict privacy rules. In return, the companies pledge to abide by a series of EU principles, enforced by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Tuesday’s decision doesn’t order an immediate end to those personal-data transfers. But it rules that national regulators have the right to investigate them and suspend them if they don’t provide sufficient protections, creating new legal risks for companies.

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Source: The Wall Street Journal

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10-07-2015 Science&Technology
Roku adds 4K video, remote finder to its most powerful streamer yet

Watch out, Apple TV. There's a new contender for "best streamer that costs more than $100."

Roku, makers of my favorite streaming sticks, boxes and Smart TVs, has a new product to beam your favorite TV shows, movies and music from the Internet to your TV. Called the Roku 4 and shipping later in October for $129, it's the company's most-expensive box to date, and the most capable.

In addition to its squatter, wider shape, the Roku 4 differs from less-expensive Roku boxes by adding 4K video streaming capability. The 4K movies, TV shows and videos available from providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-Go and YouTube promise better video quality compared to current HD or 1080p streams (Vudu's 4K content will also be available on the Roku 4 at launch, the first we've heard of it). To take advantage of it, you'll need a 4K TV and a fast Internet connection, and in the case of Netflix, the most-expensive subscription plan. Roku 4's other main feature has me even more excited, however: a remote finder. Press a button on the unit and the remote beeps. It's a feature so simple and useful (and one I've been asking for for years) that I can't believe other manufacturers haven't done it already.

In addition to a faster processor and more connectivity, the Roku 4 gets all of the features of the step-down $99 Roku 3. And since it's a Roku, it benefits from the most apps, the best search and the simplest, most customizable interface around. Roku is also rolling out an update to its software, which will be available on recent-vintage Roku boxes and all Roku TVs, that expands the novel "My Feeds" concept beyond just new movie releases. With it you can receive notifications for when certain TV shows, movies and even actors and directors become available to stream, complete with pricing information.

The software update also adds the ability (already available on Amazon Fire TV devices) to connect to certain hotel and dorm Wi-Fi networks that require a web page to sign in. Roku is also improving its mobile app for iOS and Android, adding better My Feeds integration and improved "casting" of photos from your phone to the TV. The cure for RLS (remote-loss syndrome) 4K, schmore-kay. The coolest feature of the Roku 4 has nothing to do with resolution, unless you mean the resolution of a search for a lost remote.

Unbeknownst to yours truly and my doughty CNET coworkers, Roku's representatives had planned a cute demo of the remote finder capability for our meeting. A one point Matthew Anderson, Roku's Chief Marketing Officer, pretended to lose the remote he'd been using to control the device.

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Source: CNet

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10-07-2015 Science&Technology
New Human Ancestor Walked Like Us, Climbed Like an Ape

The mysterious human ancestor called Homo naledi was primed for success in a prehistoric triathlon, new research shows—if the challenges were walking upright, climbing trees, and handily wielding tools.

Based on fossils retrieved from South Africa’s Rising Star cave, two teams reconstructed the locomotor habits of Homo naledi, reported Tuesday in Nature Communications. With funding from National Geographic, one took a close look at 107 foot bones, the other at 26 bones from a nearly complete right hand.

(Read about the recent discovery of Homo naledi.)

In most respects, the H. naledi foot looks surprisingly like a modern human’s. Its ankle joint, parallel big toe and wide heel bone belong to a striding biped, a creature fully adapted to efficiently walking upright on two legs. But its lower arch and curved toe bones are more ape-like. The hand, with its curved fingers, indicates that H. naledi were strong climbers—and yet the long, strong thumb and shock-absorbing wrist could also have been capable of manipulating tools (though no tools have been found yet).

(Read Human Evolution 101.)

It’s a mix of features scientists hadn't seen clearly yet in the genus Homo, to which modern humans belong, particularly when it comes to H. naledi’s pronounced arboreal proclivities.

“H. naledi had a unique form of locomotion for a member of the genus Homo,” says study author William Harcourt-Smith of CUNY’s Lehman College.

Why It Matters When, in the course of human evolution, did our ancestors climb down from the trees and begin striding across the land?

It’s hard to say. Lucy and other very early human ancestors, known as australopithecines, walked upright at least four million years ago, yet were certainly climbers and may have also been using stone tools. But evidence for tree-climbing within the Homo lineage is scarce. Scientists suspect that Homo habilis, the "handy man," may have retained climbing abilities around two million years ago—but that view is based on just a few fragmentary fossils. Now, the hands of H. naledi tell us that despite its incredibly modern foot and striding gait, the species also retained ape-like tree-climbing abilities.

For most of human evolution, our ancestors mixed walking and climbing prowess, and this was part of what made them so successful at adapting to change, says Stony Brook University’s Bill Jungers. “H. naledi is no exception.”

The Big Picture Because the bones from Rising Star have yet to be dated, it’s still not clear where H. naledi fits into the bigger picture of human evolution. Based on its morphology alone, it appears to be near the base of the Homo genus.

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Source: National Geographic

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10-07-2015 Cars
Tesla Model X Comes With Added Self Driving Features

The Tesla model X is the first all electric crossover SUV offered by the California based automaker. The car was showcased at the company’s San Francisco bay area factory last week and everyone appreciated the features the Tesla offered in the electric car.

The most attractive feature in electric Tesla that swept everyone off their feet was the Falcon wing rear doors. During the launch a few of the selected customers were offered the new Tesla model X cars. The car has been a long time in the making and Tesla is still adding updates to the crossover to make it exceptional.

The most noticeable update on the Tesla Model X will be the self driving features that are incorporated in the vehicle. The Tesla model X SUV will now come with self parking features and it can change lanes automatically. The car will now feature independent door control that can be accessed remotely. Apart from this update, the Tesla model X will now offer five different ride options for various seat heights.

There are new cold weather controls also on offer on this attractive model X cross- over. The controls added are steering wheel heating, defrosters, seat heating and wipers. The car also gets graphics improvements on the dashboard.

The chief of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk was really happy to show off the model X to the public. The first version deliveries of the model X were done for six customers. The Model X 90 D SUV will offer a mileage of 257 miles on a single charge, which is an outstanding figure. It even bettered Tesla’s popular Model S sedan’s mileage.

Elon Musk announced the price of the car during its launch. The model X crossover will cost $5,000 more than the model S sedan. So, the model S SUV would be offered to you at a price between $ 80,000 and $ 110, 000. The high-end founder’s series trims of the model X crossover SUV was delivered to the customers during the launch. This car comes at a price of $132,000 and more.

If you want the Ludicrous Speed option in Model X then you will have to shell out at least $ 10,000 more than the original price of the vehicle. This speed package will boost the speed of the SUV like anything. The model X SUV will rocket from 0-60miles / hour in just 3.2 seconds.

Source: Thrasher Backer

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10-07-2015 Environment
After the floods in S.C.: Sun shines, but devastation remains

The sun peeked out, floodwaters began to recede, and the power was back on Tuesday across battered South Carolina.

"We are seeing sun for the first time in 10 days," said Mike Proud, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Columbia. "There are still some clouds, but as long as it doesn't rain, it's a good day.

The death toll rose to 14 and damage has been estimated at more than $1 billion across the state from the storm that Gov. Nikki Haley and others have termed a 1-in-1,000-year event. Two additional deaths were reported in North Carolina.

Most of the fatalities have involved vehicles. Haley cited multiple instances of people driving around barricades and urged residents to stay off closed roads.

"We are doing this to protect you, we want to make sure every bridge and every road is safe," she said. "Please help us help you."

WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue estimated the state was blasted with almost 6 trillion gallons of rain over the past week — enough water to fill the Rose Bowl stadium to the top more than 65,000 times. Proud said most of South Carolina's rivers had crested. Floodwaters from upstate are rushing down toward the state's Lowcountry, but he said reservoirs should help curb additional flooding. Dry weather, finally, also should help, he said.

"Down state will still have problems," Proud said. "But we are looking at most rivers receding below flood stage by Wednesday or Thursday."

State insurance director Ray Farmer said his department hopes to have preliminary damage estimates later this week. Steve Bowen, a meteorologist with the global insurance firm Aon Benfield, said economic losses to the state should surpass $1 billion. In Columbia, Mayor Steve Benjamin said he expected damages to be "in the billions of dollars." Flood damage to homes and businesses is typically not covered by standard homeowner polices. Those policies are sold through the federal National Flood Insurance Program, but not all property owners are required to buy them.

“So hopefully people in affected areas are going to have it,”Farmer said.

Mark Browne, a professor of risk management at St. John's University in New York, said many residents and businesses don't realize flooding is not covered in standard insurance policies.

"One part of the bill for a disaster like this that a lot of people don't think of is business disruption," Browne told USA TODAY. "That will be a sizeable amount." Hundreds of roads and bridges remained closed. At least nine dams breached or failed completely, state emergency management officials said.

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Source: USA Today

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10-07-2015 Health
More U.S. women may get IUDs right after giving birth

Reuters Health) - For new mothers in the U.S. who receive government-sponsored health insurance, it’s becoming easier to get intrauterine devices (IUDs) implanted immediately after giving birth, a study found.

“Immediate insertion is associated with more women who want an IUD implant actually getting it, higher use at three months postpartum, and lower rates of unplanned rapid repeat pregnancies within 12 to 24 months of delivery,” said lead study author Dr. Michelle Moniz of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in email to Reuters Health. “Furthermore, multiple analyses suggest that this strategy is cost-effective.”

Just three years ago, no state Medicaid programs paid for these contraceptive devices to be implanted right after delivery. But over the past three years, Medicaid has added coverage for IUDs inserted right after birth in at least 19 states, the study found.

The shift reflects mounting evidence that providing IUDs during hospitalizations for delivery is a safe and effective way to increase contraceptive use among new mothers and discourage pregnancies in rapid succession that pose health risks to women and their babies, said Moniz.

Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, pays for roughly half of U.S. births – and an even greater proportion of deliveries at most safety-net hospitals that treat many of the nation’s poor and uninsured patients. States jointly finance the program with the federal government and have wide latitude to determine who qualifies for benefits and what services to cover.

For the current study, Moniz and colleagues interviewed Medicaid representatives from 39 states and the District of Columbia in 2014 and 2015. Officials in the remaining eleven states either declined to participate or didn’t respond to interview requests.

Researchers asked about coverage for IUDs, which like many prescription contraceptives are generally available through a doctor visit rather than as part of a hospital stay.

IUDs are T-shaped devices about the size of a quarter that are inserted into the uterus. The devices can be used for several years, and can prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching fertilized eggs.

Doctors generally recommend inserting IUDs either right after the delivery of the placenta at the end of the birthing process or waiting until a postpartum visit at least six weeks later, Moniz said.

While placing the device immediately after birth carries a slightly increased risk that it may loosen and fall out, the risks of other complications, such as infections, are small and similar to the odds of side effects from an IUD placed later in the doctor’s office.

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Source: Reuters

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10-06-2015 Science&Technology
Facebook will bring free Internet to sub-Saharan Africa with a satellite

Facebook just put some serious satellite oomph behind its initiative, which aims to bring basic Internet access to developing countries.

The company has partnered with French-based satellite operator Eutelsat in an attempt to deliver free Internet to sub-Saharan Africa using an AMOS-6 satellite, Eutelsat announced Monday. Facebook and Eutelsat signed a multi-year agreement with Israel-based satellite operator Spacecom; they plan to utilize the "entire broadband payload" of the satellite. AMOS-6 is scheduled to become operational in the second half of 2016. The AMOS-6 is a geostationary satellite whose Ka-band spot beams will provide broadband Internet to individual users and communities using affordable equipment.

Though widely publicized since its launch in 2013, was only present in only a handful of countries in Africa, including Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. The new initiative should significantly increase that spread; a release from Eutelsat states the coverage will include "large parts of sub-Saharan Africa".

“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa,” Chris Daniels, VP of said in a statement. came under criticism earlier this year, when a group of companies withdrew their support for the project in India. Critics asserted that violates net neutrality principles by prioritizing content from partners, while Mark Zuckerberg defended the project, claiming that it's "better to have some access than none at all."

Facebook is not the first company to have the idea of delivering Internet access directly to users via satellites. In November 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a plan to launch a "constellation" of satellites to deliver free Internet access across the globe. And in June 2014, a report claimed Google is planning to invest $1 billion to bring Internet access to remote parts of the world via satellites.

Source: Mashable

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10-06-2015 Politics
NATO Warns Russia After Warplane Enters Turkish Airspace

MADRID — NATO officials issued a warning to Russia on Monday, and the United States began what officials called urgent consultations with Turkey, after Turkish fighter jets intercepted a Russian warplane that entered its airspace over the weekend.

Russia’s actions were “an unacceptable violation” of Turkish airspace, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said after meeting with the Turkish foreign minister, Feridun Sinirlioglu. Mr. Stoltenberg added, “Russia’s actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region.”

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, speaking in Madrid during a news conference with his Spanish counterpart, said that American officials were conferring with Turkish counterparts over next steps.

“I don’t believe this was an accident,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to comment publicly.

“Along with quite a bit of Russia’s behavior, this just affirms our deep concern over what they’re doing,” the official said, adding that Russia’s behavior “raises questions about basic safe conduct in the skies.”

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Turkey told the Russian news service Interfax on Monday that the Russian Ministry of Defense had conceded a mistaken crossing into Turkish airspace and provided an explanation to the Turkish military attaché in Moscow.

But Russia, which began its air campaign in Syria last Monday, showed no sign that it was backing down. In fact, Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the armed forces committee in Russia’s Parliament, told news services that pro-Russian veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine side will most “likely” start showing up as a volunteer battalion in Syria.

The episode in Turkish airspace occurred on Saturday, in the Hatay region close to the Syrian border, when a Russian warplane “exited Turkish airspace into Syria after being intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force, which was conducting patrols in the region,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador to Ankara, demanded that the violation not happen again and said that Russia would be responsible for any further escalation, Turkish officials said.

Russia’s air campaign threatens to undermine Turkey’s Syria policy, which had long sought the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and the establishment of a “safe zone” free of Islamic State militants, to which some Syrian refugees could return in the future.

“The steps Russia is taking and the bombing campaign in Syria are quite unacceptable to Turkey,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport on Sunday. “Unfortunately, Russia is making a grave mistake.”

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Source: The New York Times

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10-06-2015 Science&Technology
Australian researchers make quantum computing breakthrough, paving way for world-first chip

Australian scientists have discovered a way to put quantum computing technology into silicon computer chips, paving the way for the first commercial manufacture of the holy grail in superfast computing. For decades scientists have been trying to turn quantum computing — which allows for multiple calculations to happen at once, making it immeasurably faster than standard computing — into a practical reality rather than a moonshot theory. Until now, they have largely relied on "exotic" materials to construct quantum computers, making them unsuitable for commercial production. But researchers at the University of New South Wales have patented a new design, published in the scientific journal Nature on Tuesday, created specifically with computer industry manufacturing standards in mind and using affordable silicon, which is found in regular computer chips like those we use every day in smartphones or tablets.

"Our team at UNSW has just cleared a major hurdle to making quantum computing a reality," the director of the university's Australian National Fabrication Facility, Andrew Dzurak, the project's leader, said. "As well as demonstrating the first quantum logic gate in silicon, we've also designed and patented a way to scale this technology to millions of qubits using standard industrial manufacturing techniques to build the world's first quantum processor chip." While regular computing reads data as binary bits (represented as either a 0 or a 1), a quantum bit ("qubit") can exist in both states at once, allowing multiple computations to happen simultaneously. A working quantum computer could take days to answer questions that a regular one might take millions of years to resolve. UNSW's patented design modifies the transistors found in regular computer chips to store the binary code of 0 or 1 on the "spin" of a single electron, which works like a tiny compass needle. It builds on previous research that produced the first quantum computing transistor of this type. However, this is the first time scientists have succeeded in getting two silicon-based transistors to talk to each other to perform calculations through what's known as a "quantum logic gate". Quantum logic gates have been demonstrated previously using complicated materials such as ions floating in a vacuum, superconducting systems or particles of light (photons), Professor Dzurak said. "What we've done is demonstrated for the first time that we can do the first quantum calculation on a silicon chip working with two of these quantum bits," he said.

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Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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10-06-2015 Science&Technology
Scientists discover furry new post-apocalyptic critter that survived demise of the dinosaurs

Sixty-six million years ago, a chunk of space rock the size of a mountain slammed into the Earth. The planet would never be the same.

Debris from the impact went flying into the air, forming clouds so thick they blocked out the sun. Earthquakes shook the ground and sent massive tsunami waves roiling toward shorelines. At the same time — maybe unrelated to the impact, maybe exacerbated by it — a vast flow of lava was flooding across India, oozing ash and noxious gases that caused the climate to fluctuate like a yo-yo and may have helped kill off anything that survived the initial cataclysm. It was not a good time to be alive, and most species made a swift exit from the global stage: Vegetation withered. Ocean life gasped for air and energy, then collapsed. Gone were the fearsome Tyrannosaurus, the winged Pterosaurs, the massive Triceratops with its three horns and bony neck frill. The dinosaurs’ 100 million-year reign had ended. And when the smoke cleared, a new hero had taken over.

It was buck-toothed and furry and had the goofy appearance of a character from a children’s cartoon. Instead of Earth-shaking stomps, it likely moved with a rodent’s fearful scurry.

Its name is Kimbetopsalis simmonsae, scientists say in a paper published Monday in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. And although it was only about three feet long and no more intimidating than a beaver, it was one of the largest animals around. If Tyrannosaurus was the king of the Cretaceous, Kimbetopsalis was early royalty during the millennia that followed — an era we now call the “Age of the Mammals.” Kimbetopsalis, which was recently discovered among the shifting sands and spooky rock formations of New Mexico’s badlands, was something of an evolutionary dark horse. First born in the Jurassic period, the fuzzy creature (creatures really — Kimbetopsalis represents a whole new genus) bided its time for a million centuries while dinosaurs tromped about.

After the meteorite-induced apocalypse, “all this ecological space became available and the mammals went a bit nuts,” explained Sarah Shelley, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and a co-author on the paper.

Almost no one went more nuts than Kimbetopsalis, which grew from tiny proportions to the size of a very large beaver over the course of just 500,000 years — a mere blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Paleontologists believe it had a beaver’s broad face and chunky frame as well, though it lacked a paddle-like tail. Though it looks like a rodent, Kimbetopsalis has no living descendants. But it is one of the longest-living groups of mammal in history: its 160-million-year run is longer than that of any mammal species alive today.

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Source: Washington Post

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10-01-2015 Cars
First drive: Tesla Model X is an awesome way to spend $132,000

FREMONT, Calif. -- Even having arrived with high expectations, Tesla's new Model X electric SUV succeeds in a way that is likely to turn to the world of luxury SUVs on its cushy little ear.

It's powerful, yet whisper quiet. It has has cool, power-lift "falcon doors" over the second row. By now, all the world knows that. But taken together, the raft of innovations in Tesla Model X creates something entirely new. Competitors are left looking like they are wallowing in complacency.

From Munich to Tokyo to Detroit, we suspect two predictable events are happening this week. One is a sense that that brilliant but crazy, Mars-loving Elon Musk has gone overboard, that he has built a vehicle with far more complexity than his plant workers will be able to handle. Second, and far more telling will be a sense of "why didn't we think of that?"

The Model X is loaded -- and we're not being overdramatic here -- with features that just seem beyond the pale of anything the traditional auto industry seemed to care about or would be willing to try. There's so much new stuff that talking about the electric drivetrain and its 250-mile range, which no other automaker can touch at the moment, seems passe.

For instance, the rear seats sit on pedestals, allowing underseat storage. We've seen that on concept cars at auto shows. But when it comes to producing those same cars for the public, major automakers always turn back to their traditional ways. Yes, some of the new Model X borders on overkill. One of the most spectacular elements of the Model S sedan was the way that the door handles present themselves to owners by pulling away from their flush positions. The Model X takes that idea further. The front doors can open as the driver approaches. It's cool, but it is an answer to a question that no one asked.

With so many amazing elements going on in the Model X when it is standing still, it's easy to forget that it's actually a vehicle. It is supposed to move and carry lots of people.

While we were able to thoroughly go over the Model X before its debut Tuesday night here south of San Francisco, our drive of the vehicle was limited to little more than access roads around a sprawling plant and a cone course. That's not much more driving than a valet parker would experience. But it was an exhilarating few minutes. The Model X bolts off the line just like its corporate sibling, the Model X sedan. Your eyes don't exactly roll back in their sockets when you press the accelerator, but it's still quite a sensation. There's no engine roar -- just a little whoosh of the wind going by.

It becomes the first electric vehicle being touted for its towing ability -- 5,000 pounds.

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Source: USA Today

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10-01-2015 Politics
Russia begins airstrikes in Syria; U.S. warns of new concerns in conflict

MOSCOW — Russian warplanes began airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, adding an unpredictable new element to a multi-layered war that has already drawn in the United States and allies, created millions of refugees and expanded the reach of the Islamic State.

Washington quickly criticized the airstrikes — warning that they bring added risks to Syria — but said Moscow’s moves would not change a U.S.-led air campaign targeting Islamic State strongholds in Syria.

The Russian strikes also sharply raised the stakes over competing visions for Syria outlined earlier this week at the United Nations, with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin insisting that Syria’s embattled government is the key to stability, and President Obama saying the “status quo” cannot stand after more than four years of bloodshed.

The introduction of Russian air power — just hours after Russia’s parliament authorized the use of military force — is certain to deepen American concerns over possible escalations on Syrian battle fronts.

In addition, Russia now gives bolstered firepower to its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are fighting both the Islamic State and rebel factions, including some backed by the West.

Assad’s forces are blamed for crackdowns and attacks that have forced more than 4 million people to flee the country, many of whom are now joining a wave of asylum seekers and migrants flooding Europe.

Addressing the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State John F. Kerry drove home Obama’s message, saying the answer to Syria’s civil war cannot be found in a military alliance with Assad.

“But it can be found .?.?. through a broadly supported diplomatic initiative aimed at a negotiated political transition” that would “unite all Syrians who reject dictatorship and terrorism,” he said.

Kerry further put Russia on notice, saying the United States would have “grave concerns” if Russian airstrikes “should strike targets where [Islamic State] and affiliated targets are not operating,” and instead hit U.S.-backed moderate opposition forces fighting Assad.

He called on Russia and others to “support a U.N. initiative to broker a political transition” in Syria.

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Source: Washington Post

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09-30-2015 Politics
Obama presses Cuban president to respond to U.S. moves

UNITED NATIONS — With two rounds of regulatory reform since December, President Obama has expanded opportunities for American to travel, spend money and set up businesses in Cuba. So far, Cuba seems to have done little beyond reopening its Washington embassy.

In a meeting here Friday with Cuban President Raul Castro, held on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly, Obama intended to press for a more energetic Cuban response, according to senior administration officials.

The administration provided no immediate details of the morning session, the second face-to-face meeting between the two this year, following a spring sit-down in Panama. It began with a handshake and a broad smile from Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Susan E. Rice, his national security adviser.

Prior to the meeting, officials said that if Cuba wants progress on its demand that Congress lift the long-standing U.S. embargo, it must demonstrate that it is prepared to reciprocate U.S. gestures by moving to open its economy and demonstrate progress on human rights.

[Havana’s hottest spot is a crowded ramp to WiFi bliss]

Lawmakers who are supporting bills against the embargo, which the Republican leadership has thus far declined to bring to the floor, “are desperate for gestures” from Cuba, “and they aren’t getting those gestures,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss administration thinking. “There’s been no real give at all” from Havana.

“At the beginning, we were saying ‘You don’t have forever’ to make progress,” the official said. While the Cubans may think they are on a schedule pegged to Castro’s stated intention to depart from office in 2018, “they’re really on a schedule for Obama’s stepping down” in January 2017.

Opponents of the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement, first announced by Obama and Castro on Dec. 17, have repeatedly noted that Cuba’s detentions of political dissidents have only increased since then. Some dissidents were blocked in attempts to see Pope Francis during his recent visit there. While most detentions do not result in arrest and dissidents are usually released within hours, many have been roughed up by security forces with the aim of disrupting any attempt at political assembly or public expression. Another way to demonstrate human rights progress, the official said, would be to allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has never been permitted to visit Cuban prisons.

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Source: Washington Post

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09-30-2015 Environment
Scientists discover 'glowing' sea turtle

In late July, deep sea divers made a glowing discovery: a sea turtle that reflected light.

Marine biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Gruber of City University of New York, says he discovered the animals while he was filming bioflouresence in small sharks and coral reefs in the Solomon Islands.

Gruber told National Geographic that during a crocodile hunt one night, "there came out of nowhere this fluorescent turtle. It looked like a big spaceship gliding into view, an alien craft with a patchwork of neon green and red all over its head and body.”

The turtle, identified as the hawksbill sea turtle, is on the critically endangered list. It is the first reptile to reflect blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it it as a different color, also known as bioflourescence.

Source: Fox News

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Top 100 World Newspapers (*)

No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country
1 The New York Times / United States 2 The Guardian / United Kingdom 3 The Daily Mail / United Kingdom 4 The Wall Street Journal / United States
5 The Washington Post / United States 6 The People's Daily / China 7 The Daily Telegraph / United Kingdom 8 USA Today / United States
9 Los Angeles Times / United States 10 El Mundo / Spain 11 La Repubblica / Italy 12 The Times of India / India
13 Bild / Germany 14 Corriere della Sera / Italy 15 The Examiner / United States 16 The Independent / United Kingdom
17 El País / Spain 18 The Financial Times / United Kingdom 19 The Sydney Morning Herald / Australia 20 Daily News / United States
21 Chicago Tribune / United States 22 Le Monde / France 23 Marca / Spain 24 Hürriyet / Turkey
25 Die Welt / Germany 26 Asahi Shimbun / Japan 27 The Sun / United Kingdom 28 New York Post / United States
29 The Age / Australia 30 Gazeta Wyborcza / Poland 31 The Philadelphia Inquirer / United States 32 The Washington Times / United States
33 Die Zeit / Germany 34 Yomiuri Shimbun / Japan 35 The New Zealand Herald / New Zealand 36 The Onion / United States
37 Milliyet Gazetesi / Turkey 38 Il Sole 24 Ore / Italy 39 The Chicago Sun-Times / United States 40 Al-Ahram / Egypt
41 Le Figaro / France 42 Süddeutsche Zeitung / Germany 43 The Hindu / India 44 Houston Chronicle / United States
45 The Seattle Times / United States 46 Libération / France 47 The Globe and Mail / Canada 48 De Standaard / Belgium
49 The Irish Times / Ireland 50 The Toronto Star / Canada 51 Le Nouvel Observateur / France 52 Mercury News / United States
53 The Australian / Australia 54 The Denver Post / United States 55 The Christian Science Monitor / United States 56 The Dong-a Ilbo / Korea
57 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / United States 58 Aftonbladet / Sweden 59 Kommersant / Russia 60 Bangkok Post / Thailand
61 Star Tribune / United States 62 The Hollywood Reporter / United States 63 Daily Mirror / United Kingdom 64 Dawn / Pakistan
65 El Universal / Mexico 66 The Miami Herald / United States 67 Mladá fronta Dnes / Czech Republic 68 DNA - Daily News & Analysis / India
69 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / United States 70 Sports Nippon / Japan 71 L'Equipe / France 72 Die Presse / Austria
73 Detroit Free Press / United States 74 Neue Zürcher Zeitung / Switzerland 75 Clarín / Argentina 76 Chosun Ilbo / Japan
77 The Sacramento Bee / United States 78 China Daily / China 79 Nihon Keizai Shimbun / Japan 80 AS / Spain
81 The Baltimore Sun / United States 82 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Germany 83 La Gazzetta dello Sport / Italy 84 Mainichi Shimbun / Japan
85 Boston Herald / United States 86 The Dallas Morning News / United States 87 The Times / United Kingdom 88 Newsday / United States
89 Orlando Sentinel / United States 90 St. Louis Post-Dispatch / United States 91 Taipei Times / Taiwan 92 The Hindustan Times / India
93 The Economic Times / India 94 Kompas / Indonesia 95 The Observer / United Kingdom 96 Jornal de Notícias / Portugal
97 South Florida Sun-Sentinel / United States 98 ABC / Spain 99 Le Soir / Belgium 100 The Kansas City Star / United States

(*) Selected by 4International Media & Newspapers

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