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Mobile Technology News, March 27, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Get A Crowd Sourced Opinion Fast with Hammer for iPhone

    Americos Technologies’ co-founders Gaurav Khanna and Amit Khanna have found their popular quick opinion no-cost app Hammer for iPhone has been selected to the App Store’s What’s Hot section. Hammer, which was released in late 2013 for iOS, Android and as a web app, has been called “insanely […]

    The post Get A Crowd Sourced Opinion Fast with Hammer for iPhone appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • NPR Now on iTunes Radio

    As it continues to grow, iTunes Radio is continually adding content but until this week, news and information wasn’t there.  Now you can listen to all of the great news and content on NPR through iTunes radio.  The new addition is full streaming of NPR content to your iPhone, iPad, Mac or […]

    The post NPR Now on iTunes Radio appeared first on AlliOSNews.

  • Tim Armstrong: AOL Launches "ONE," an Automated Ad Platform for Brands and Advertisers
    SAN FRANCISCO –  AOL announced today the creation of ONE, a platform for both buyers and sellers of digital media to transact.  We sat down with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong after he presented the news as a keynote at the AdTech conference here.

    He speaks about the “mechanization” of the advertising and media business and the new role of AOL.   He speaks about the alliance with IPG Mediabrands, which will us the new platform as the charter agency.

    Earlier we published this interview about ONE with Kristi Argyilan, President of IPG Mediabrand’s Magna Global unit.

    You can find this post on Beet.TV.

  • IBM's Watson And The Human Genome
    One of the great scientific triumphs of our time has been mapping the human genome.

    Completed in 2003, the Human Genome Project identified and mapped all 20,500 genes that control human development and described the function of each. And thanks to advances in technology, we can now calculate, in just a few minutes for under $1,000, what once took $1 billion and two decades.

    However, despite these significant advances, only a few patients have benefitted from the power of genomic information. The DNA map is so large and detailed that it’s hard to follow in any logical direction. As a result, doctors today are struggling to use DNA insights in treatment.

    The difficulty of using genomic information is tragic for individuals diagnosed with life-threatening diseases like cancer. Genome sequencing can let doctors compare healthy cells in the patient’s body to cancer cells, and allows them to identify the specific genetic mutations driving the growth of the cancer. But that doesn’t automatically tell them what to do next.

    For example, if a patient has glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer with a five-year survival rate under 10 percent, doctors might spend months trying to correlate the genetic drivers of the disease with relevant treatment options after sifting through medical literature, drug databases and clinical studies. Not only is this process expensive and time-consuming, but it is available to very few patients. Instead, most glioblastoma patients will receive the standard of care: brain surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

    Now, some of the world’s leading cancer centers are working together to pioneer new, helpful technologies. Along with the New York Genome Center, we announced last week that NYGC will use cognitive computing to evaluate the genetic information in individual cancer cases and then comb the literature and databases of treatment options, enabling doctors to offer more personalized treatment plans.

    A new prototype of the IBM Watson cognitive computer has been designed specifically for genomic analysis and will power the project. The New York Genome Center is going to take advantage of Watson’s ability to understand human language from journals and lab notes, and test its ability to help doctors find relevant information.

    The result could lead to personalized cancer treatment at a level and scale we’ve never seen before. Watson could aid oncologists as they make treatment decisions that target genetic drivers of disease.

    The New York Genome Center says that Watson offers the hope and promise for advancing DNA-based treatment. These types of systems have the power to revolutionize how doctors practice genomics, speed up the opportunity for personalized care and improve outcomes for patients with some of the most challenging diseases.

    My company also believes that Watson will continue to play an increasingly important role in making sense of the amazing DNA map at our fingertips, allowing doctors to make better healthcare decisions in partnership with their patients. As biology grows more complex, we will require increasingly sophisticated information science tools to sift through evidence.

    We are eager to move forward with Watson and genomics. Cognitive computing just may be the answer we’ve been looking for to translate genomic insights into smarter care.

  • GoPro Over A Waterfall With Dane Jackson As He Kayaks Down Mexico's La Tomata
    If “going over a waterfall” is on your bucket list but you don’t want to get wet, here’s the next best thing.

    Kayaker Dane Jackson went over the 60-foot La Tomata waterfall in Veracruz, Mexico, and the whole thing was caught on tape from multiple angles. Jackson even wore a GoPro camera on his helmet to give you the soaking-wet first-person perspective.

    The video was posted to YouTube earlier this week by the company that makes the camera.

  • NYT CEO: We Have to Get Back to Ad Growth
    The New York Times must halt its digital advertising decline as a priority, says CEO Mark Thompson, even as he launches another paid digital service.

    Advertising, which historically has only ever grown since digital media are themselves growing platforms, fell again by a small amount during the publisher’s last quarter.

    “We are absolutely determined to get digital advertising back to growth,” Thompson tells Beet.TV. “We launched our native advertising product back in January – we have a number of contracts already signed – it could build, over time, to be a significant revenue source for us. We will be innovating elsewhere in digital advertising.”

    Thompson says “custom solutions” like page takeovers and native advertising are “the highest-value inventory” in the NYT’s ad arsenal, but “routine banner advertising” is increasingly being sold by programmatic algorithms because “data is king.”

    Thompson also unveiled an “express,” mobile-only news app, NYT Now, due to launch on April 2 at $8 per month.

    He was interviewed by Beet.TV at the FT Digital Media Conference.

    You can find this post on Beet.TV.

  • Tweeting astronaut on Space tech
    What’s it like to tweet from Space?
  • Hula, The STD App, Managed To Offend All Of Hawaii
    It’s a good time to be an awkward spring breaker. After all, there’s an app that helps you get laid in any situation. There’s Grindr for gay hook-ups, Tinder for straights, 3ndr for threesomes, and Pure for making sweet love. There’s even an app to find out if you’re good at sex at all.

    And now, after you try them all out, there’s an app that helps you get tested for STDs.

    That app is called Hula, because, according to an earlier version of its marketing, “it helps you get lei’d.” By connecting users to various STD testing facilities and providing a Yelp-like platform to review them, Hula allows users to make their results public, thus taking out some of the awkwardness and secrecy surrounding HIV and STD discussions.

    CEO Ramin Bastani explains on the company’s website that, “I started the company in 2010 because a girl slapped me in the face after I asked if she’d been tested … There has to a better way to have this conversation.”

    While Bastani’s intentions — promoting better sexual health — are hard to argue with, he has recently come under attack by many who think the app’s name is offensive. Hula, after all, is a traditional Hawaiian dance considered by many indigenous Hawaiians to be sacred, and many Hawaiians have expressed anger that hula would be used to promote sex.

    Dr. Diane Paloma, the director of the Native Hawaiian Health Program at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, told the Huffington Post that “The biggest offense to me was the inappropriate use of hula and a vital piece of Hawaiian culture and the use of ‘getting lei’d’.”

    Paloma also pointed to the inherent irony of the name, since the native Hawaiian population experienced considerable demise after westerners introduced infectious diseases — such as venereal disease — to the islands.

    But Bastani swears Hula is not a hook-up app and that the company meant no harm. (The “getting lei’d” phrase has since been removed from the website and all marketing materials.) “The vertical we’re interested in is sexual health,” he told the Huffington Post. “Our initial thought behind the name was based on its popular cultural association. Anything Hawaiian — palm trees, luau, lei — represents a sense of beauty and being relaxed. Those two feelings are the opposite feelings that most people have around healthcare and health in a bad position.”

    While Bastani has been consulting with Paloma to better understand Native Hawaiian concerns, he says he has no plans to change the name.

    But pressure is mounting. After various local media outlets in Hawaii covered the story, a petition on change.org demanding the name be changed has picked up steam. Petitioners say that the use of hula in this way “harms native Hawaiians everywhere.”

    The petition is still far from its goal of 100,000 signees, but perhaps Bastani just needs a good alternative name to edge him along. Something that addresses his app’s do-good intentions, sexual innuendo, and venereal disease focus all in one neat package.

    Might we suggest ‘Missionary’?

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the change.org petition had a goal of 10,000 signees. It is 100,000.

  • 200 Girls Learning How to Code in One of the Oldest Indian Cities in the World
    Over the past few years, Iridescent has been growing and I dont have as much contact with participants as I did before. I miss that fuel. But thankfully, every few weeks, some stories of people come through — that just make me stop and stare in amazement.

    Like this one.

    Senthil Kumar is an engineer at Qualcomm in Bangalore. His sister, Mani Mala, is an educator in Madurai, one of the oldest cities in the world (actually 2500 hundred years old).

    They learned about Technovation and took it upon themselves to bring Technovation to the young women of Madurai.

    The logistics of this undertaking are what makes this story of grit so inspiring. It really brings perspective to first-world petty griping! Some background on Madurai. It is famous primarily for its old, old, old, beautiful temples. People grow rubber and the city is known for its cultural traditions.


    That is from a tourist’s point of view. But what about its youth? They aspire just as young people all over the world. And that is the story of Senthil. I did a quick interview with him trying to understand how he became so driven and motivated. Listen and be inspired!

    Senthil and Mani Mala wanted to provide more opportunities to the young women in Madurai and recruited more than 200 women from two local universities to meet on the weekends and work through the Technovation curriculum.

    They dont have internet, but that doesn’t stop them.
    Senthil takes the night bus every Friday night from Bangalore (a 10 hour bus journey), reaches Madurai on Saturday morning. Teaches the girls. They work around the internet issue using an offline version of App Inventor. Senthil downloads the girl’s code on flash drives. He does the 10 hour night journey on Sunday night and goes straight to work on Monday.


    He has been doing this for weeks. (The Technovation program lasts 12 weeks).

    Their biggest need right now is for mentors who can help ease the load on Senthil and Mani and support the young women towards completion of their apps and business plans.

    Imagine if these young women came to Silicon Valley to present their technology solutions for a better world! It would change the baseline and horizons for the young women of Madurai.
    A step towards Empowering the Third Billion.

    Photos courtesy of Mani Mala

  • Bills Banning Online Gambling Introduced In Congress

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers from both parties introduced legislation in the House and Senate on Wednesday aimed at banning online gambling, setting the stage for an uncertain battle in Congress.

    The measures are aimed at reversing a 2011 decision by Attorney General Eric Holder that a 1961 law used in recent years to curb Internet gaming only barred sports betting. The bills introduced Wednesday would broaden the prohibition to where it stood before Holder’s ruling.

    Three states have legalized online gaming since the Justice Department’s 2011 ruling: Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. Others have been considering doing so in an effort to find lucrative new sources of revenue.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chief Senate sponsor, is running for re-election this year and has been seeking to shore up conservative support for the June GOP primary. The House version is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Both sponsor’s states have histories of curbing gambling.

    Graham said that because of the Justice Department decision, “Virtually any cellphone or computer can again become a video poker machine. It’s simply not right.”

    Chaffetz said restoring the earlier interpretation of the 1961 law would be “putting the genie back in the bottle.”

    Each bill has co-sponsors from both parties, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who controls his chamber’s agenda, has supported legalizing online poker.

    Nevada’s other senator, Republican Dean Heller, favors Internet poker in Nevada and wants to let states decide whether to permit poker online. He also thinks a major expansion of online gambling would be “bad for Nevada and for the country,” Heller spokeswoman Chandler Smith said.

    Sheldon Adelson, a major financial backer of GOP candidates and a casino owner, has said he will spend money to try halting online gambling.

  • Yik Yak App Makers Do the Right Thing
    2014-03-25-YikYak1.png

    When I wrote about Yik Yak recently, this new social app was making headlines for being used inappropriately, and dangerously, by high school students across the country. Incidences of cyberbullying in Chicago and Georgia, followed by an anonymous bomb threat at my daughter’s school, in San Clemente, CA, quickly placed Yik Yak at the top of every parent’s and educator’s “Least Favorite App” list.

    My 18-year-old daughter, who, like many, downloaded the app after it became an overnight sensation, told me that within 24 hours of the lockdown, kids trying to use the app anywhere on or near the school could not. Curious about this, I contacted Yik Yak and spoke to co-founder Brooks Buffington.

    “We were naïve,” Buffington told me. “We designed the app primarily for college students. Using the app the way we intended it to be used requires a certain amount of maturity and responsibility, we were idealistic about who possessed that.”

    When Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, two recent graduates of Furman University, created Yik Yak last fall, their vision was to make a “virtual bulletin board,” or a messaging system that would serve as a blank slate for random thoughts or postings. Its anonymity is a major feature, says Buffington, “because that guy in the back row of your science class might be the funniest guy you never hear.”

    The other feature that makes Yik Yak unique is that the app uses GPS location data to bring comments to a user’s feed from other users nearby. In other words, it enables and encourages communities to share information within a geographical boundary, like a college campus or sporting event. A story Buffington likes to tell about the app’s “ideal” use happened last winter break when a college freshman missed his flight home and returned to school to find his dormitory locked. He posted his predicament on Yik Yak, and was quickly offered a couch to crash on by an upperclassman.

    Unfortunately, as we have learned from Yik Yak’s predecessors — including Ask.fm, Kik, and Snapchat — social apps tend to gain notoriety not for the ways they bring people together for good, but rather for how they enable users to communicate hurt or harm. Our knee-jerk, and normal, reaction to learning about the nefarious use of an app to label it “bad” and then counsel our kids to delete it from their phones. But this is a short-term solution, for as sure as the day is long, a new app will come along to take the place of every app they delete.

    That’s why what Buffington and Droll did next is worth knowing about.

    After finding out how Yik Yak was being used by watching the news, the pair immediately contacted Apple and requested an expedited review for their new app, which they were granted; this enabled them to quickly change the app’s age rating to 17+ (parents take note: you can place restrictions on under-17-year-old children’s phones that block them from downloading apps based on this rating).

    When some Chicago-area high schools made the news for reported incidences of cyber bullying on Yik Yak, the pair blocked the entire city of Chicago from using the app. Then Buffington spent an entire day manually, and painstakingly, applying “geo-fences” — or virtual geographic perimeters — around every school in Chicago by using their GPS coordinates. This effectively blocked students from being able to use the app when on or near a school.

    2014-03-25-YikYak2.png

    Once they saw this worked, the Yik Yak team conducted a Google search to look for a company that could help them geo-fence middle and high schools across the country. That’s how they found Maponics.

    Maponics, based in Vermont, is a company that “builds and defines geographic boundaries,” primarily to offer rich data on school attendance zones, information that strongly influences real estate valuation. According to Will Marlow of Maponics, “Yik Yak reached out to us to see if Maponics’ “location data'” could be used to prevent elementary, middle and high school students around the country from accessing the app.”

    It turned out that Maponics’ had already “mapped” nearly 85 percent of the U.S. high school population, so they were able to effectively help Yik Yik, still in its bootstrapping phase (read: cash-poor), place “geo-fences” or virtual walls around schools, thus blocking kids from using the app. (Schools not yet mapped by Maponics can contact Yik Yak directly and one of its owners will manually input the school’s location.)

    “It’s disheartening to see our app being used in an unintended way,” says Buffington. “We don’t want to see negative events become the face of the company. Every social app has its growing pains, we want to be the ones that are still around in two years or more.”

    Because that anonymous kid in the back row just might be the funniest kid you don’t know.

    What Parents and Educators Can Do To Monitor Social Apps:

    1. Prevent your under-17-year-old from downloading apps rated 17+. If they have an iOS device: Go to “Settings,” select “General” and tap “Enable Restrictions.” You can set restrictions for “Installing Apps” and “In-App Purchases” here (the slider should read off.)
    2. Since kids are really good at getting around #1 (above), a better solution is to talk to your kids, set rules, and then get familiar or cyber-wise about what they’re up to online so you can see if your rules are being followed. If you need a little help with this (especially with younger kids) you might consider installing software, like SpectorSoft, that records and replays all of your child’s Internet activity and provides a detailed report.
    3. Even better than #1 or #2 is to advocate for digital literacy or “cyber civics” lessons to be taught at your school. Understanding how (and why) to be safe and respectful online is an indispensable skill in our networked world. Besides, the best Internet block or filter in the world is the one kids carry around between their ears. Let’s teach them how to use it!
  • To Land a Job, Know How Employers Use Technology to Hire
    Effective job search strategies began changing in the mid-1990s with the appearance of the Internet. In the last few years, the widespread use of search engines and the growth of social media have changed recruiting in ways that are transparent to most job seekers. Not understanding those technological changes makes job hunting more challenging (and discouraging).

    What Has Changed About Effective Job Search?

    Recently, employers have turned to technology to help them manage the increasingly large numbers of applications and resumes they receive, an average of 250 responses for each job posting. That volume of resumes, combined with the more widespread use of search engines and social media, has created technology “traps” that job seekers need to understand in order to avoid them.

    New Technology Used by Employers.

    Employers are using technology in three major ways that are transparent to job seekers:

    1. Social media provides “social proof.”
      Employers compare the resumes and applications submitted by job seekers with what social media shows them. Do the dates, employers, job titles, education, etc, agree with the application or not? Do the other social media activities (LinkedIn groups, etc.) support the expertise and accomplishments claimed on the resume? Applicants who lack online validation of the “facts” on their resumes have a handicap. This is why LinkedIn and Google Plus Profiles can be a job seeker’s best friend.
    2. Search engines provide fast/cheap “background checks.”
      A 2010 study by Microsoft revealed that 80% of employers used search engines to discover information about job applicants. Beyond “social proof” of the resume or application, this research is a quick and cheap version of a background check. Searching through social media can help a job seeker by impressing the employer with positive information about activities and accomplishments. Or it can hurt the job seeker by uncovering potential problems and bad behavior.
    3. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) manage resumes.
      Resumes submitted to many employers, particularly large employers, are often stored in a database known as an applicant tracking system. Use of an ATS makes the keywords used in resumes even more important than in the past. A resume which doesn’t contain the “correct” keywords (those the recruiter is using to search through the ATS for qualified applicants) will not be displayed to the recruiter by the ATS. Consequently, without the appropriate keywords in your resume, your resume will not be seen, no matter how “perfectly qualified” you are for the job.

    How Job Seekers Can Climb Out of Those Technology Traps

    Job seekers can improve the probability of landing a job through their use of technology. Employers expect job seekers to intelligently use current technology as a demonstration of technical savvy and also as a demonstration of appropriate technical skills for today’s workplace. Not leveraging these technologies makes a job seeker look out-of-date, lazy, or both.

    • Use LinkedIn and Google Plus to be findable.
      Be sure potential employers find good information about you when they do their research! This is where LinkedIn and Google Plus can be your best friends. Employers hire “sourcers” to search the Internet for qualified candidates, so create robust LinkedIn and Google Plus Profiles to ensure that a sourcer’s Google search on terms like your job title or key skills finds you.
    • Manage your online reputation.
      Be careful of public online activity. Job seekers regularly lose out on opportunities because of damaging posts they have made in social media. And, job seekers without their own positive visibility (e.g. LinkedIn and Google Plus) are vulnerable to losing opportunities because they look out of date or because of mistaken online identity.
    • Research employers online.
      Research will make you a more effective candidate and will also hopefully keep you from wasting your time trying to land a job you would hate. What are their products or services? What is their latest news? Who are their officers? Are they doing well or in financial difficulty? Do you know any employees (or know anyone who knows a current employee)? Impress employers with how interested you are in them and their jobs by doing this research and including the results in your applications, resumes, and interviews.
    • Customize resumes to each opportunity.
      Demonstrate your technical capabilities by customizing your resume to the specific requirements of the job posting you are applying for. Use the employer’s name and job title in the resume – “Objective: [their job title] for [employer name]” for example. Then, trump the ATS by analyzing the keywords used on the job description, and being sure to include the keywords appropriate for you in the resume you submit. This should increase the likelihood that your resume will appear in the ATS search results for that job.

    (Read How to Find the Right Keywords for You and How to Use Keywords in Your Resume for more information.)

    Bottom Line

    The good news, according to the U.S. Department of Labor is that, every month, over 4,000,000 people do connect with jobs. So your job search is NOT Mission Impossible!

    Follow Susan on Google+ for more job search tips!

    Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com.

  • 3D Printed Skull Saves Young Woman's Life (GRAPHIC VIDEO)
    3D printing has been touted for its ability to whip up delicious sweets, clothing, musical instruments and even cars. But as you can see in the somewhat gruesome video below, it can also save lives.

    A 22-year-old Dutch woman with a life-threatening brain disorder was recently given a whole new cranium, thanks to the help of the innovative technology. Doctors at Utrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands used a 3D printer to build a plastic prosthetic bone for what they said was the first full-skull transplant, Dutch News reports. The surgery was performed in December, lasting 23 hours.

    “Implants used to be made by hand in the operating theatre using a sort of cement which was far from ideal,” Dr. Ben Verweij, a neurologist who led the medical team at Utrecht, told Dutch News. “Using 3D printing we can make one to the exact size. This not only has great cosmetic advantages, but patients’ brain function often recovers better than using the old method.”

    The woman who received the transplant suffered from an abnormal skull-thickening condition, which was compressing her brain and impairing her ability to make facial expressions, according to Holland’s NL Times. If left untreated, the condition could have turned fatal.

    “The patient has her sight back entirely, is symptom-free and back to work, Verweij told Utrecht Central. “It is almost impossible to see that she’s ever had surgery.”

    Though the Dutch operation is considered the first full-skull transplant using 3D printing, an American man in 2013 underwent a similar surgery, in which 75 percent of his skull was replaced with an implant printed by 3D technology.

    GRAPHIC VIDEO: This Dutch-language footage shows doctors opening the patient’s brain.

  • First Asteroid Ring System Observed Between Orbits Of Saturn & Uranus (VIDEO)

    Astronomers have discovered rings around an asteroid-like body whose orbit is between those of Saturn and Uranus. At just 250 kilometres across, Chariklo is the smallest body so far found to have rings. Previously, only the giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — have been seen sporting them.

    Published online today in Nature, the finding indicates that rings may be a more common feature than previously thought. The discovery was an accident and a surprise, says lead author Felipe Braga-Ribas, an astronomer at the National Observatory in Rio de Janeiro. Rings are interesting celestial features, as they are often a first step in the formation of planets and moons. But matter would typically struggle to stay stable around a body with only a tiny gravitational pull. “We thought that maybe having rings was linked with the mass of the object. So finding them on a small object was very unexpected,” he says.

    rings 2
    Artist’s impression of Chariklo’s rings

    Chariklo belongs to a class of objects called Centaurs, which traverse the outer Solar System in unstable orbits and can share characteristics with both asteroids and comets. Because they are small, dark and far away, studying them is a challenge, Braga-Ribas says. His team discovered the rings while observing the way in that the asteroid blocked out light from a distant star as it passed between the star and Earth on 3 June 2013.

    The researchers found a dip in brightness, as expected, when the asteroid traversed the star. But they also detected two much smaller dips, both before Chariklo passed in front of the star, and after. Piecing together results from telescopes at seven sites across South America, the team deduced that the blips were caused by two distinct, narrow rings that were respectively 7 and 3 kilometres wide. The same technique was used to discover the rings around Uranus in 1977.

    Circular origins

    Finding rings around Chariklo solves a puzzle about the object, says Braga-Ribas. Analysis of the light coming from the asteroid had previously shown its composition changing over time. A ring system made of ice, which is sometimes seen head-on but at other times shrinks to just a thin line when viewed side-on, would neatly explain the changes, he says.

    Francesca DeMeo, a planetary scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the results are very convincing. “It would be really hard to explain the measurements in any other way,” she says. But how the rings formed remains a puzzle. The authors suggest that another small body could have hit Chariklo, sending debris from both bodies into a disk. Other possibilities are that a disk formed from material that was spun off from Chariklo as it rotated, or that the body released dust or ice as it travelled, much like a comet. All are plausible, says DeMeo.

    A big question is how the rings can be stable, given the asteroid’s tiny mass. If an impact caused them, it would have to have occurred at very low speed for the particles to remain in the Centaur’s orbit. But however they formed, kilometre-sized moons are likely to be ‘shepherding’, or constraining, the rings, and preventing the debris from dissipating, says Braga-Ribas.

    James Bauer, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says that studies of the rings’ composition will hint at their origins. Chariklo is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of small bodies in the outer Solar System that have so far been little studied. Although Chariklo could be alone in having rings, Bauer adds that this is unlikely.

    “I think there is a good chance we’ll see another ring system around a small body, somewhere in the outer Solar System,” he says. “If you start birdwatching and see a bird for the first time, the chances are it’s going to be a common bird.”

  • 'Instacart' App Does Your Boring, Weekend-Ruining Grocery Shopping For You
    It’s not the morning commute, the climb to a fifth-floor walkup, or the pressure of being surrounded by the best and the brightest in the world. In New York City, what truly separates the weak from the strong is the weekly trip to the grocery store.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re Team Whole Foods, Team Trader Joe’s, or Team I Travel An Hour To The Secret Target in Harlem, grocery shopping often involves being pushed by angry women in yoga pants who will be damned if you get the last bag of kale and standing behind men who just cannot decide which cheese to get.

    So when someone else offers to do the grocery shopping for us, we’re quick to jump at the chance to avoid all that hassle. Enter Instacart.

    The free iOS app, which got its start in San Francisco and made its NYC debut on March 26, lets customers select grocery items from their local stores. For a $7.99 fee, the order will be delivered within two hours (or at a time of the customer’s choosing).

    instacart

    Grocery delivery services are nothing new. After all, Fresh Direct and Max Delivery have been in the game for awhile now, as have services like Google Shopping Express, the same-day delivery service that has been gaining traction in San Francisco. Instacart offers customers a one-hour delivery option from their local store sans a minimum amount.

    Another benefit? A personal touch.

    At least that’s what Emma, my Instacart delivery person, told me.

    “The difference is that it’s an actual personal shopper just for you,” she said. “Your food isn’t coming out of a warehouse and being put in a box and dropped on your doorstep.”

    Having a personal shopper can make a bit of a difference. For example, the food delivered to the office (a bunch of bananas, a mango, and some strawberries) was ready to eat, just as if I had selected it from the grocery store myself. With the app, customers also have the option to select alternate items in case one of their original choices is of stock. (That was the case with that mango you see there.)

    fruit
    How do you like them bananas?

    “The company’s motto is to just pick what you would eat,” Emma tells me. “Remember that it’s a person getting this food.”

    While that seems like common sense, anyone who has had groceries delivered can vouch that it’s a risky business. You might open your box to a cracked egg, bruised apple, or smaller-than-expected eggplant.

    The entire Instacart process was pleasant. The app is beautifully designed and easy to operate, the delivery was speedy (I ordered at 11:03 a.m., and it was delivered at exactly 12:03 p.m.), and my food was delivered in a cute tote (as opposed to a cardboard box) by a very friendly delivery person.

    bag
    We can’t lie; the bag is a nice touch.

    The downside? Any grocery delivery is going to be significantly more expensive than just going to the store. Remember the indecisive and angry grocery shoppers? You’re paying someone to tackle those sorts of issues for you, and it’ll cost you. I paid $23 for the Instacart delivery (including tax and tip), but a quick trip down the street revealed those same items would’ve cost about $7 in-store.

    Here’s a breakdown of what the items I bought from Instacart would cost if they were purchased elsewhere:

    *Max Delivery has a $20 minimum, so our very small order wouldn’t qualify.

    Currently, Instacart is only available to Manhattanites living downtown (below 34th Street and excluding the Financial District), but it has plans to deliver to other neighborhoods in the near future.

    “[We are] looking to aggressively expand to the rest of the city and surrounding areas in upcoming weeks as we scale our operations,” an Instacart representative told The Huffington Post.

    Instacart also serves areas of Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.

  • 'Panic Button' Just One Of The Features Of Smartphone App For Recovering Alcoholics
    CHICAGO (AP) — A smartphone app for recovering alcoholics that includes a panic button and sounds an alert when they get too close to taverns helped keep some on the wagon, researchers who developed the tool found.

    The sober app studied joins a host of others that serve as electronic shoulder angels, featuring a variety of options for trying to prevent alcoholics and drug addicts from relapsing. Adults released from in-patient alcoholism treatment centers who got free sober smartphones reported fewer drinking days and more overall abstinence than those who got the usual follow-up support.

    The results were based on patients’ self-reporting on whether they resumed drinking, a potential limitation. Still, addiction experts say the immediacy of smartphone-based help could make them a useful tool in fighting relapse.

    Mark Wiitala, 32, took part in the study and says the app helped save his life. He said the most helpful feature allowed him to connect to a network of peers who’d gone through the same recovery program. The app made them immediately accessible for an encouraging text or phone call when he needed an emotional boost.

    “It’s an absolutely amazing tool,” said Wiitala, of Middlesex County, Mass. He said he’s continued to use it even though the study ended.

    The study was published online Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.

    It involved 271 adults followed for a year after in-patient treatment for alcoholism at one of several U.S. centers in the Midwest and Northeast. They were randomly assigned to get a sober smartphone app for eight months plus usual follow-up treatment — typically referral to a self-help group — or usual follow-up alone.

    The app includes a feature asking periodic questions by text or voicemail about how patients are doing. If enough answers seem worrisome, the system automatically notifies a counselor who can then offer help.

    The panic button can be programmed to notify peers who are nearest to the patient when the button is pushed. It also offers links to relaxation techniques to calm the patient while waiting for help.

    “We’ve been told that makes a big difference,” said David Gustafson, the lead author and director of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He’s among developers of the app, nicknamed A-CHESS after the center. Gustafson said it is being commercially developed and is not yet available.

    Differences in abstinence from drinking between the two groups didn’t show up until late in the study. At eight months, 78 percent of the smartphone users reported no drinking within the previous 30 days, versus 67 percent of the other patients. At 12 months, those numbers increased slightly in the smartphone group and decreased slightly in the others.

    Smartphone patients also had fewer “risky” drinking days per month than the others. The study average was almost 1½ days for the smartphone group versus almost three days for the others. Risky drinking was defined as having more than four drinks over two hours for men and more than three drinks for women. One drink was a 12-ounce bottle of beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

    The results for smartphone users were comparable to what has been seen with standard follow-up counseling or anti-addiction medication, said Daniel Falk a scientist-administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which helped pay for the study.

    He noted that alcohol abuse affects about 18 million Americans and that only about 25 percent who get treatment are able to remain abstinent for at least a year afterward.

    Scientists are looking at new ways to try to improve those statistics.

    “There is increasing excitement regarding technology-based tools in substance use treatment, prevention and education,” said Dr. Gail Basch, director of the addiction medicine program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

    Basch, who wasn’t involved in the study, said proven methods for helping prevent relapse include patient monitoring and support from family and peers.

    “A stand-alone mobile app may not be the answer, but one can see how it could fit in nicely,” she said. “A real-time tool, as well as reminders throughout the day, could be very helpful for a recovering brain.”

    ___

    Online:

    JAMA Psychiatry: http://jamapsychiatry.com

    ___

    Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at http://www.twitter.com/LindseyTanner

  • Bletchley code-breaker Roberts dies
    Raymond “Jerry” Roberts – one of the last surviving code-breakers to work at Bletchley Park on high-level Nazi communications – dies, aged 93.
  • Intelligence Spies on Spies on Intelligence
    2014-03-26-diannefeinsteincopy.jpg

    Marx couldn’t write this “who done it” political spinster tale any better. Groucho Marx, that is. An almost farcical Orwellian Kafkaesque story masterfully textured with innuendo, word play, double speak, skillful theatrical timing of appearances, disappearances and delivering of carefully crafted lines cracking a peep hole into the dark world of surveillance. This is an abysmal abyss, an invisible spying universe forever shadowing human existence in its sticky web of digital networks.

    This latest kink is but another kick in a long, twisted history that is neither the beginning nor the end of spying, and probably surfaced to pander to political winds. But what flavors this one as such a juicy subplot is the allegations made by the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein. Apparently those minding the spy universe, Feinstein and her committee, did a “black bag” job on the CIA that in turn crept around the dust inside her committee’s computers to see what they saw of what the CIA was doing. The CIA Director John Brennan, despite his agency’s checkered past, wants us to believe there is no way this happened. When the spying was on citizens, Ms. Feinstein was no friend and held firm in her staunch support of surveillance until discovering she was not immune. As the saying goes, “don’t poke the bear!”

    In the meantime, damning videos of President Bush era illegal enhanced interrogations of alleged terrorists have been vaporizing under CIA guardianship. All of this national security surveillance stuff, designed to allow us citizens to go about our daily business as usual, is making me insecure. It is no longer a question of who’s the good or bad guy or gal to American’s privacy rights in this unfolding political saga. We clearly have a totally excessive and out-of-control spying culture with systemic infrastructural malaise where Intelligence spies on spies on Intelligence.

    What is known is it’s a dangerous world — always has been. A play for supremacy requires leaders to figure out how to stay ahead of the competition. Henceforth, spying. It is perhaps an even older profession than the “oldest profession.” Around 500 B.C. the Chinese General Sun Tzu wrote in his famous The Art of War, “Enlightened rulers and good generals who are to obtain intelligent agents as spies are certain for great achievements.”

    In ancient Rome, the revered orator Cicero voiced concern over his letters being intercepted and in a letter to his friend Atticus he wrote, “I cannot find a faithful message-bearer. How few are they who are able to carry a rather weighty letter without lightening it by reading.” Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was also known to have built an elaborate spy network to stay ahead of various plots against him. Which ironically proved to fail him. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church was the supreme power and employed a powerful surveillance network to protect its interests.

    In the Homeland, America, spying has been a fact since the Revolutionary War. As the nation grew westward, so did spying. From Western Union, the Internet of our Wild West history, there exists a factual record of breaches of privacy and networks of spying. By World War II, the United States embraced the surveillance business by monitoring all telegraph information coming into and out of the country, and created a “watch list” of U.S. citizens suspected of “subversive” activities. Such watch lists have existed since and contains an amazing index of beloved who’s who. Dianne Feinstein is in great company.

    So, not much has changed. The real change over the course of history is how government’s spying strategies have morphed as it has absorbed changes in communication technology. Currently, the Internet has facilitated the concentration and ease with which information gathering occurs.

    It is not only all appendages of government, but public and private corporations as well that are actively or passively partners in surveillance and information gathering. The quest to profile for either monetary or political gain is here forever. Many consumer products, from handheld smart devices to cars and smart homes have enhanced capabilities to turn our inner world over to the metadata highway.

    There was a more innocent previous life of mine when I could actually pardon my angst over domestic spying by faithfully holding onto the enduring and omnipotent Bill Of Rights, and applaud the daring of whistle blowers. Unfortunately, I now accept in a quasi-numb state that there exists a grand canyon full of contradictions between lofty moral sounding platitudes of who we believe we are as a people and the sour bitter reality at the seat of power. I would favor and love this society even more if the same vital resources of an Intelligence Committee, intelligence community and intelligence gathering were about real intelligence, education, that fuels people’s capacity to navigate our universe as self-actualized. However, the Dianne Feinstein revelations point to a very different temper.

    We might as well relax, definitely stay vigilant, (it can’t hurt) enjoy the show and always remember, “Look over there, see it? Smile, you’re on digital camera!”

  • Yes, ICANN
    Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental principles of any successful democracy. Freedom of the Internet goes one step further. It’s a fundamental principle of a cooperative world, protected in large part by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Starting now, people from countries around the world are gathering in Singapore to discuss ICANN’s future; having a conversation that will play out over the course of the next year and culminate with new governance that will have significant implications for all human beings.

    ICANN keeps the Internet secure, stable and interoperable by governing the worldwide system that assigns website addresses and directs Internet traffic. According to the nonprofit organization, its international body of participants dedicate themselves to “one world, one Internet.” That’s a pretty huge responsibility, which is why up until now, the United States Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has taken a seat at the head of the table that oversees ICANN.

    But then word came out that the Obama administration had decided to hand over authority of the nonprofit organization to a non-government entity to be named at a later date. On paper, that’s a head scratcher. Why would any country willingly give up such an influential position to a vital entity with a home base located inside its own borders (Marina Del Ray, California)?

    We can thank the NSA and the Edward Snowden fiasco for that. The growing distrust people have expressed with our government threatens to make ICANN guilty by association. And if globally people voice such concerns about this neutral and vital organization, then ICANN could lose its power, leading Internet governance down a rabbit hole filled with partisan agendas and sectarian action. The ensuing debacle would also deal a serious blow to Net Neutrality, which is already at risk.

    This current state of affairs is truly unfortunate because in truth, the U.S. has been an excellent steward, considering that the intent was never to oversee ICANN, let alone for upwards of 15 years. In 1997, Bill Clinton helped create the organization within his Green Paper proposal for privatizing the domain name system (DNS); the complete fulfillment of which would have relieved us many years ago of its oversight. In spite of that thoughtful (at the time) vision, our impartiality and creation of checks and balances built into the system have led to a rather impressive run, one that has averted partisan politics and lobbyists. And, in truth, ICANN is already run by a carefully designed international cluster of entities and organizations — the U.S.A. is simply the safety container in which it is housed.

    Of course that has continuously raised eyebrows, and since ICANN was formed in 1998, many countries, organizations, and influential individuals have raised concerns about its close links to the NTIA, an entity that falls under the aforementioned umbrella of our very own U.S. Commerce Department. In lieu of recent revelations about the NSA overreaching its charter and purpose by spying on more than just our enemies but our friends and allies as well, we’ve lost a lot of credibility. And as a result, such as in the case of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose private emails and text were monitored by the NSA, we’ve lost key support as well for our stewardship of ICANN.

    So President Obama decided to separate the United States from any accusations of biased behavior and perceived back door access for our spying infrastructure. Such a decision, ultimately for whatever reason, does not come without dangers. I believe that the worst conclusion here would be for the Internet to become fragmented whereby countries and regions dictate their own unique rules and guidelines (in essence their own ICANNs). Countries already exercise their ability to block incoming websites from being accessed on their domestic Internet provider platforms. But imagine if this phenomenon became a widespread epidemic, whereby every country had its own Internet. The World Wide Web would become anything but, leading to an economic and individual rights disaster that would complicate commerce and freedom around the world.

    What we must have is a clear, enforceable, protected solution whereby ICANN does not fall under the influence of the colors of any country’s flag or political leader. Countries like Russia, China and others would relish the opportunity to cast their shadows of across ICANN’s bow. Importantly, ICANN must find a way to rise above the fray, to transcend politics in the name of freedom, technology, economics, and global communications. A viable new oversight solution must come with measures of full transparency and accountability to ensure the viability of its mission. The structure must be ironclad with a series of checks and balances built in that prevents influence or easy changes. ICANN basically needs a charter of protection similar to our Constitution in that it protects the rights of freedom and accessibility for all and enables change only with clear due process and support.

    Whatever new governance structure for ICANN, meant to go into effect in September 2015, will keep providing the entire world with access to a free Internet, without powerful corporations or individual countries pirating the processes or gaining undue advantage in any shape of form. However, if the new structure for ICANN that emerges cannot insure against outside political influence, protect our freedoms, and provide these equal accesses, then the U.S. government must withhold support and revoke its decision to abdicate. The risk is too great and the ramifications of multiple world webs forming too great to allow any other conclusion. The U.S.A. has damaged itself by its unbridled propensity to gather intelligence data on every living thing; yet the truths that we hold to be self-evident are still at our core. In the resurrection of our good standing with citizens of the world who looked up to us as the shining example of freedom and democracy, protecting the integrity of ICANN must be at the top of the list.

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