APTN National NewsIn British Columbia, police are chasing a new angle to solve the murders of women along the province’s infamous Highway of Tears.Taxi drivers in Prince George, B.C., are being pressured to submit DNA samples to the RCMP.The drivers have been told that only a sample will eliminate them as a suspect.The highway stretches 700 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert, B.C.Activist say about 30 women have been killed along the highway and many of them have been Aboriginal.The latest case was that of Cynthia Maas who was found last October.RCMP are now collecting evidence from all Highway of Tears cases, including DNA, and putting it into a central database.
Dutch cable operator Ziggo has launched a service for Android-based tablets.Ziggo has launched a version of its Ziggo TV app for Android 3.x Honeycomb tablets. The free app, which can be downloaded from the Android market, allows the viewer to track Ziggo’s catalogue of on-demand movies and programmes. The app includes the Ziggo TV guide for the next week the ability to modify the order of channels, search based on genre or keyword and sharing of information via email or Twitter.
Orange France has launched a new multi-play offering with no minimum subscription called Livebox Jet, complementing its recently launched Zen and Play offerings.Livebox Jet includes a choice of the OCS 100% Cinéma and Séries bouquet or music streaming service Deezer Premium+, unlimited calls to mobile phones and a number of international destinations, up to 500Mbps internet access with fibre and a 240GB DVR with up to 100GB of storage on Orange Cloud.Livebox Jet and Orange’s Jet, Jet International and Open Play offerings will also include an option to access its TV Extra, BeIN Sports and OCS bouquests free for the first month.Livebox offerings without miminum subscriptions are available from €50 depending on the options selected. read more
Pestering Apple about its cash hoard has become something of a sport for activist investors. A while back, David Einhorn, for instance, demanded that Apple return some of its massive cash hoard to shareholders in the form of preferred stock, or iPrefs, as he called them. Apple refused, instead opting for a combination of share repurchases and dividends. For the most part, that satisfied the activists… for a while. But now the biggest of them is back for more… much more. On October 9, Carl Icahn, owner of 53 million shares of Apple Inc., sent an open and much-anticipated letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. It was fairly long but well thought out and lacking any of the confrontation or criticism one might expect from an activist investor. To the contrary, Icahn was quite complimentary of Cook in his letter, telling him at one point that: “…we could not be more supportive of you and your team and the excellent work being done at Apple.” However, Icahn did have a request—and a weighty one at that. For those of you who missed it, or more likely didn’t want to wade through the nine-page missive, here’s the gist of Icahn’s message to Cook: The Street is seriously underestimating Apple’s growth prospects. Forecasted Revenues (Billion) Forecasted EPS While shares are a bargain, they should be repurchased: “…the more shares repurchased now, the more each remaining shareholder will benefit from that earnings growth,” the letter stated. With regard to the first point, Icahn foresees revenue growth of 25% in fiscal year (September) 2015, and another 21% in 2016. He believes this revenue growth will, in turn, drive earnings growth in 2015 and 2016 of 44% and 30%, respectively. Here’s how Icahn’s forecast stacks up against those of analysts who follow Apple: Icahn $225.5 $272.9 $9.13 $11.87 Low $185.2 $192.8 $6.32 $6.20 2015 2016 2015 2016 High $220.3 $250.0 $8.00 $9.30 Consensus $202.3 $216.5 $7.29 $8.11 Therefore, shares are seriously undervalued. “We forecast… impressive earnings growth over the next few years,” said Icahn, “and therefore we believe Apple is dramatically undervalued in today’s market.” As you can see, Icahn’s forecasts are considerably higher than even the rosiest of analysts’ estimates. He devotes much of his letter to explaining why he thinks such robust growth is likely. His primary thesis revolves around the smartphone segment, where he projects a whopping 30% growth in revenues in 2015, and another 7% in 2016. Icahn believes that most of Apple’s 2015 smartphone growth will come from market share gains, primarily at the expense of Android phones. That belief has earned him a good deal of ridicule. For example, Peter Cohan, writing for Forbes says, “Sadly for Icahn’s argument, the iPhone is losing market share to Android. According to IDC… between the second quarter of 2011 and 2014, the iPhone share of the global smartphone market fell from 18.3% to 11.7% while Android’s share soared from 36.1% to 84.7%.” Cohan’s dismissiveness is based on the mistaken notion (common among industry observers) that the smartphone market is homogeneous. It is not. Two-thirds of the approximately 1 billion smartphones sold last year were extremely low-end, mass-market devices that are effectively being used as basic camera phones. In a November 2013 article, Dan Dilger said these low-end devices are only called smartphones because the industry has decided that running Android makes a device “smart” even though many have such limited processing power and memory that they can’t really run apps and can’t be upgraded. While Android is dominant in this end of the market, Apple eschews it because it’s unprofitable. In the premium (some would say the “true”) smartphone market, Apple has a share of about 50%. And with the iPhone 6’s early success (estimates are that 60 million will sell in calendar Q4), it looks as if the company will continue to gain share in the space. All of this is to say that we, like Icahn, think Apple’s revenues and earnings, driven mainly by its iPhone segment, will grow at the high end of analysts’ estimates over the next few years, and Icahn’s 2015 forecast—though more optimistic than our own—is not completely outlandish. Whereas Icahn sees 2015 earnings of $9.13, we think something like $8.00 is more likely. And whereas he believes the stock’s value, based upon his earnings estimate, is $203, we think a valuation of $130 is more reasonable. In either case, the stock, currently trading at about $98, is underpriced and therefore Icahn’s repurchase argument has merit. Curiously, in his letter to Cook, Icahn did not specify the amount he would like to see Apple spend on share repurchases. However, in a subsequent television appearance, he said he’d like to see Apple launch a $100 billion tender offer. Too aggressive? Perhaps. But for those who think it might jeopardize the company’s ability to innovate, consider this: the company has $133 billion in net cash, generates about $50 billion annually in free cash flow, and spends about $6 billion annually on R&D. It doesn’t appear to us as though the R&D budget will be under the threat of austerity measures any time soon. Icahn probably doesn’t expect Cook to accept his proposal without a little horse trading. But even if he’s only successful at getting the CEO to go halfway with a $50 billion buyback, that would lower the share count substantially. Taking the side of an old “corporate raider” (now politely called an “activist”) may be controversial. But in this case, we think that most abused of species, the shareholder, is being well served by Icahn. In effect, he’s asking Apple’s management to stick to the thing they do best… innovating and producing lifestyle products… and get out of the fund management business. Pat Regnier of Money Magazine said it well when he observed that most of Apple’s $133 billion in cash is “not currently tied up in Apple’s business, but is sitting in a portfolio. The Icahn argument, essentially, is that no one needs Apple’s expertise as a de facto fund manager.” So now, the ball is in Cook’s court. read more
Bank CD Rates Justin’s note: As regular readers know, Strategic Investor editor E.B. Tucker sees trouble ahead in the financial markets. Last month, he shared the four most dangerous sectors to invest in today.Today, he shares a warning from the world’s most important indicator. As you’ll see, it’s something he’s only seen on the eve of major recessions. But the good news is there’s a move you can make today to protect yourself… By E.B. Tucker, editor, Strategic InvestorImagine walking into your bank to buy a Certificate of Deposit (CD). The banker hands you a sheet with the rates: one-month, one-year, two-years, and so on.You’d expect the interest rate to rise over time. Meaning it would be normal to receive a higher rate for a one-year CD than a one-month CD. But the sheet he hands you looks like this: 5-Year: 1.86% 1-Year: 2.13% 1-Month: 2.40% As you study the rate card, something looks different. The bank offers higher interest on a one-month CD than a one-year CD. It offers even less for two years. And much less for five years.Given the options, you’d probably choose the one-month CD. It pays the most interest. It’s the least restrictive. After a month, you can move the money elsewhere.That’s not my take.If I saw these rates, I’d be very worried about what’s ahead. In fact, I’d seek shelter.The World’s Most Important IndicatorThe rates I showed you in the table above are not from a local bank.They’re from the U.S. Treasury. Those are the rates offered on U.S. government bonds and T-bills as I type. If you think it’s abnormal… you’re right.It’s something I’ve only seen on the eve of major recessions.The term for the current condition of U.S. Treasury rates is an inverted yield curve. That means short-term Treasuries offer higher interest than long-term Treasuries.The U.S. Treasury doesn’t set its own borrowing rates. The free market does that. With just under $16 trillion worth of Treasury bonds, bills, and floating-rate notes held by the public, it’s the largest single market I know of in the world.Since the buyers and sellers in the world’s largest market set these interest rates, it means they’re also to blame for inverting them.Remember, the yield on a bond goes down as demand for that bond goes up. In this case, buyers can’t get enough longer-term treasuries. They want nothing to do with short-term treasuries.Surging demand for two-year, five-year and even 10-year treasury debt sends the yields on those longer-term bonds plummeting.If you own any assets at all, this is the most important indicator you can watch in the market.Own Stocks? Watch BondsBonds are boring.Say you buy a 5% bond. That means a $1,000 investment pays $50 per year until the bond matures. The only hope for appreciation is that investors become so desperate to own a 5% bond they’ll offer you $1,100 to own yours.Stocks, on the other hand, give holders the right to company profits. Given the choice between a stock and a bond in a company set to grow like crazy, you’d want to own the stock.However, if you watch the action in U.S. Treasury bonds, you’ll know where stocks go next. Today, the bond market indicates the next move for stocks is straight down.The reason this works so well is a surge in buying sends yields lower. As a reminder, big demand for a bond sends its price higher and yield lower.In the example I mentioned before, someone might offer you $1,200 for the bond you bought for $1,000. It still pays only $50 in annual interest. That means the new buyer is happy with 4.2% interest ($50 / $1,200).Just imagine why trillions of dollars would flood into longer-term bonds. Think about why hedge fund managers and the wealthiest investors in the world would pay any price for longer-term safety.In spite of all that’s wrong with the U.S. government, it does pay its bills. Buying a five-year U.S. Treasury bond today does guarantee you 1.9% interest for the next five years. You’ll also get your principal investment back.The Big Guys Just Locked in a 1.9% ReturnThe smartest investors in the world just locked in a 1.9% return for the next five years.That means they think a guaranteed 1.9% is better than the chance of earning more by owning other assets. For some of them at least, a 1.9% return beats what they expect they could get in the stock market, real estate market, or investments in private deals like the next Uber or Lyft.If these investors expected stocks to take flight, they’d dump Treasury bonds in favor of stocks. We’d see Treasury bond prices fall. We’d see yields on Treasuries shoot higher.That’s not happening today.If you own stocks, watching the bond market can show you what’s next for your wealth. What it shows today doesn’t look good. If the inverted yield curve does predict trouble as it did in the past, we’re in for a big change in the markets. It’s not a time to own short-term trades in which you’re hoping for a quick buck. That quick buck might turn into a big loss.This would also highlight the value of gold. Gold holds up when other assets don’t. That hasn’t been worth much in the years of recovery since the Great Recession. If the yield curve signal turns out to be real, gold will be in the spotlight overnight.You can learn the best ways to buy and store gold in our free special report: “The Gold Investor’s Guide.”Regards, 3-Month: 2.40% 2-Year: 1.87% E.B. Tucker Editor, Strategic InvestorP.S. Now, I’m not saying to sell all of your stocks today. That would be foolish. Instead, you need to be more selective. You need to focus on stocks that will weather the storm. These are your high-quality, longer-term holdings.In our Strategic Investor portfolio, we have a handful of world-class, recession-resistant companies that thrive in any market environment. We also recommend smaller, more speculative plays that have a long history of ripping higher while the broad market tumbles.It’s the perfect blend for what we see ahead, and you can get our entire portfolio by signing up for Strategic Investor today.Go here to learn more. read more
Some people say New Orleans is haunted because of witches. Others say it’s haunted by vampires, or ghosts, or all those swamps. But if you were around between 1817 and 1905, you might say the city was haunted by death. And that death, in large part, was caused by yellow fever.Yellow fever was fatal. It was gruesome. And in epidemic years, during the months between July and October, it could wipe out 10 percent of the city’s population. Eventually, it earned New Orleans the nickname “Necropolis” — city of the dead.Yellow fever didn’t just kill. It created an entire social structure based on who had survived the virus, who was likely to survive it and who was not long for this world. And that structure had everything to do with immigration and slavery, according to Kathryn Olivarius, a history professor at Stanford University.The disease is spread by mosquitoes and thrives in warm, humid places with dense populations. In the 19th century, New Orleans and other Southern cities made near-ideal breeding grounds. Historically, of the people who contracted the virus, about half would die from it. The worst year on record in New Orleans was 1853 — 8,000 of the city’s residents died.And it wasn’t a pretty way to die. Victims would experience a host of unpleasant symptoms: jaundice, chills, nausea, headaches, fever, convulsions, delirium. Then, there was the blood.”Eventually, patients or victims will start to bleed through their eyes, nose, ears,” Olivarius says. “I’ve seen examples of people bleeding through their toes.” Then, right before dying, victims would vomit partially coagulated blood.Olivarius says it was an illness that could turn even holy men away from God. “I have many examples of reverends and ministers screaming before they died,” she says. “Even pious victims screamed profanities as the end neared.”Today, yellow fever is mostly gone from the U.S. It still plagues parts of Africa and South America, but there’s a vaccine that can help prevent it. Back in the day, though, the only way to develop immunity to the virus was to survive it.As a result, Olivarius explains, a social hierarchy developed in New Orleans around who was “acclimated” (people who had lived through yellow fever) and “unacclimated” (people who hadn’t).”If you’re unacclimated, you basically languish in professional and social purgatory,” says Olivarius, who is writing a book about how the disease shaped the city’s social structure. “Bosses will not hire clerks and bookkeepers who are not expressly acclimated. Women will not marry men not described as acclimated. You can’t live in certain neighborhoods, and people will not rent rooms unless you’re acclimated. Certain social circles will exclude you. And so this creates this hierarchy where you have people who are actively seeking to get sick.”The tricky part, she says, is that there was no real physical way to tell whether someone was acclimated. So people had to find ways to demonstrate that they were. That often involved showcasing how deep their ties were to New Orleans. People who had grown up in the city were more likely to have survived a mild case of yellow fever as a child.But the city’s many European immigrants, who hadn’t been around the virus before, were considered bigger liabilities. Olivarius says they often arrived in New Orleans with already compromised immune systems and lived in neighborhoods with no herd immunity. That’s part of the reason, she says, that yellow fever was nicknamed the “Stranger’s Disease.”Still, immigrants were flocking to the city. Olivarius says that New Orleans in the 19th century was a bit like Silicon Valley today: “It was the place where, if you were an ambitious white man, you went to make your fortune.” People came from far and wide to try to break into the booming cotton industry, maybe eventually buy themselves some land and slaves. But first, they had to prove they weren’t going to up and die.”I have examples, for example, of Irish immigrants literally seeking to get sick to really just give themselves the edge in what is otherwise a very competitive job market in New Orleans,” explains Olivarius. “It was so important to the social hierarchy of this place that people would say, ‘You are an undocumented stranger’ or ‘You are an acclimated citizen.’ “As widespread as yellow fever was, it was also hugely misunderstood.There were tons of myths and misinformation floating around about how to protect yourself, or who was most likely to die: “You have old wives’ tales of people saying that people who eat a lot of tomatoes will get yellow fever. Or people saying, ‘If you eat too much fruit you’ll get yellow fever.’ And other people saying, ‘If you don’t eat enough fruit, you’ll get yellow fever.’ “But the most prevalent myth — and possibly the most insidious — was that you couldn’t get it if you were black.Prominent doctors in the South spread the lie that black people had a natural immunity to the disease, Olivarius says. That lie, she adds, was used to justify slavery.”If black people are naturally resistant to yellow fever, black slavery is natural, even humanitarian, because it protects white people from spaces and labor that would kill them.” In other words, the belief was that black people could work outside in hot, swampy spaces that were prone to yellow fever, without any risk.Advocates of slavery argued that God had made black people immune to expand the cotton industry and the national economy, and to save white people from death.But here’s the thing: Even then, many people knew that black folks weren’t really immune. In fact, at slave markets, few were willing buy a person who wasn’t already acclimated. Acclimated slaves sold for 25 to 50 percent more than unacclimated slaves, Olivarius says. “So, you’re dealing with a Gordian knot of contradictions that all ended up furthering the cause of white supremacy and the expansion of racial slavery.”As if the idea of a disease that kills thousands, scapegoats immigrants and upholds white supremacy isn’t scary enough already, Olivarius reminds us that these dynamics are not necessarily a thing of the past.”Diseases that cause mass human suffering are [often] used to justify prejudice,” she says. A few examples: HIV was pegged to Haitians, gay people and intravenous drug users. The Ebola epidemic unearthed a lot of prejudice against West Africans. And the opioid crisis is often described exclusively as a problem of poor, rural white folks.But no matter how severe, or far-reaching an epidemic may be, Olivarius says, “Human beings are very comfortable at saying, ‘It’s not happening in my backyard, therefore it’s not affecting me.’ ” Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. read more
Former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in England experienced a loss of support, a greater reliance on unpaid care and an “adverse” impact on their physical and mental health after its closure, according to a government report.The research, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), confirms many of the warnings and concerns raised by disabled activists who campaigned against the decision to close the fund, before it shut in June 2015.Researchers only spoke to 50 former ILF recipients – or their relatives – out of nearly 17,000 disabled people with high support needs that the fund had been helping to live independently at the time it closed.But they concluded that those former recipients who saw their support “heavily reduced” as a result of the closure – which saw non-ringfenced funding passed by the government to local authorities – “experienced multiple changes” to their lives.The report says: “They argued that reductions in care were unfair and denied them opportunities to participate fully in society.“They encountered changes and restrictions to daily activities, including less support for engaging in leisure activities, work and volunteering.”Among those changes, they experienced a loss of paid care and support, an increased reliance on unpaid care, and less support for engaging in leisure activities.Some of those who took part in the DWP study said that the “heavy reduction in care” they had experienced had damaged their physical and mental health, with effects such as loneliness; weight loss; and frailty “due to worry, or due to the physical demands of having to perform everyday activities without the support of a carer”.Last September, a report by Inclusion London – One Year On: Evaluating The Impact Of The Closure Of The Independent Living Fund – concluded that there had been vast differences in the proportion of former ILF recipients whose packages had been cut after the fund’s closure.In one borough, 68 per cent of former ILF-users had had their support reduced, a year on from the fund’s closure, while in all about 185 former ILF recipients in London – about one in seven – had had their care packages cut, the Inclusion London report found.Former recipients interviewed for the new report said they found council accounting procedures and spending rules to be “more restrictive” than under ILF, with some of them reporting how their level of choice and control had been “compromised” by its closure.The report says: “Former recipients had to prioritise their needs, typically prioritising personal care and attending medical or official appointments over social activities and participating in activities outside their home.”Some had to stop volunteering or even give up paid employment.One told researchers: “I won’t be able to make myself any food without help, so basically they’ll just help me to get up in the morning… what am I meant to do in the daytime?“I don’t want to be a prisoner in my own house. I’ve got a mobility car outside but I can’t drive it without a driver.”Only one of the 50 former ILF-recipients who was questioned for the study had been moved into a residential home, but the researchers pointed out that they may not have reached other former ILF recipients who had been forced into residential settings.Some of those they interviewed had been told by social workers during the reassessment process that they “could move into residential care as a cheaper alternative to living in the community”.Some of the participants in the research described the process of being reassessed for their support needs by their local authority as “smooth”, but others said the transition period was “acutely stressful” and “taxing and detrimental to their wellbeing”.One former recipient described how their social worker had told them: “Well, our criteria is different. We look at survival, the ILF look at qualify of life.”Participants in the study said they experienced “an overall sense of sadness and loss” once ILF’s closure had been announced in 2014, with one participant in the study saying it had felt “like running into a brick wall full pelt”.The research did find that the transfer of funding from central government to local authorities had been “smooth”, with former ILF-recipients experiencing “no major disruptions to receiving payments”.And those former recipients who had been awarded an improved, matched, or slightly lower support package told researchers that they had maintained the level of support and care they received before ILF closed, and had a similar level of choice and control over their care.This group also reported limited or no changes to their independence.Pictured: Disabled activist Paula Peters at one of the many protests aimed at preventing the ILF closure read more
Register Now » –shares Next Article Senior Editor for Green Entrepreneur July 9, 2014 Add to Queue Entrepreneur Staff Peter Page Etsy CEO: We Couldn’t Have Succeeded Under Proposed FCC Net Neutrality Rule Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson has asked in official comments for the Federal Communication Commission to reclassify Internet service providers (ISPs) as utilities so the commission will have “authority to protect an open Internet once and for all.’’ Dickerson bluntly urged the FCC to take the politically explosive move of reclassifying ISPs as “telecommunications services’’ subject to tight regulation under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, originally enacted in 1934 to regulate telephone service.Related: The Latest FCC Net Neutrality Rules Should Be OpposedThe reclassification is vehemently opposed by ISPs such as Verizon, which warned reclassification would “impose 1930s utility regulation on the Internet’’ and “lead to years of legal and regulatory uncertainty and would jeopardize investment and innovation in broadband.”The ISPs’ congressional allies urged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to “halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation of the Internet’’ in a letter sent before Wheeler unveiled the latest proposed rule. Wheeler said Title II reclassification was under consideration the following day when the rule proposal was released for public comment.Etsy is the archetype Internet success story, launched in a Brooklyn apartment in 2005 by Dickerson and furniture maker Rob Kalin. The company now has offices globally and employs 500 people. In 2013, more than a million artists, designers and collectors, had cumulative gross sales of $1.35 billion.Dickerson noted in his comments that 88 percent of Etsy sellers are women mostly working from home. Sellers have an average household income of $44,900 but about 25 percent of Etsy sellers make a scant $25,000 per year.“These Internet-enabled entrepreneurs are building businesses on their own terms, prioritizing flexibility and independence over rapid growth, and using Etsy income to build resilience in the face of declining job security,’’ Dickerson wrote.With just days left until the July 15 FCC deadline for the initial round of comments, there is growing specificity from relatively smaller Internet businesses insisting on Title II reclassification. Mozilla, a coalition of online education companies, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, long a skeptic of government regulation of the Internet, have already publicly supported Title II reclassification.Google and Facebook were the corporate face of net neutrality advocacy for years leading up to the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order but have been nearly silent in the current debate. Both were signatories to a letter urging the five FCC commissioners to “protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization’’ but did not recommend Title II reclassification.Related: Net Neutrality, ExplainedDickerson’s comments are notable for cogently analyzing in plain language both complex telecommunications law and how the economics of making a living on the Internet will shift under the current proposed rule that would allow “fast lanes’’ that are “commercially reasonable’’ but mandate a vague “adequate level of service’’ for companies that can’t afford a fast lane. Dickerson, drawing from the federal court decision in January that invalidated most, but not all, of the 2010 Open Internet Order, reasoned the FCC does have authority to make the slow lanes fast enough without reclassification probably would be overruled in the courts, also. “If the proposed rules were in place when Etsy was founded, we would never have achieved the success we have today. Etsy and other startups will suffer if the FCC allows some companies to negotiate priority or exclusive access to consumers,’’ Dickerson wrote.The FCC has received more than 600,000 comments on the net neutrality rulemaking. The public can comment online until July 15 for the initial round. After July 15 the public can review commens and file replies until Sept. 15.Related: WATCH: Comedian John Oliver Takes On FCC in Witty Net Neutrality Rant Net Neutrality Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. 4 min read read more
David Murphy 35shares August 1, 2016 Learn from renowned serial entrepreneur David Meltzer how to find your frequency in order to stand out from your competitors and build a brand that is authentic, lasting and impactful. Add to Queue Amazon This story originally appeared on PCMag Fireside Chat | July 25: Three Surprising Ways to Build Your Brand Image credit: Shutterstock 3 min read Noise-cancelling headphones can be great, especially if you don’t want to deal with the noise of an airplane, a busy New York street, or a loud coffee shop. However, the main problem with noise-cancelling headphones is that they aren’t very smart. They block out all noise regardless of what it actually is. And that can be an issue if there are some things you need to hear among the cacophony: a siren approaching in the distance, someone tapping you on the shoulder to tell you about something important or your order.Flicking the noise-cancelling feature of your headphones on and off is way to handle this problem, but it’s a bit cumbersome and it doesn’t really help you for unexpected sounds you might want to hear. There’s a better solution — or, at least, there could be. According to a report from CNET, Amazon was recently granted a patent for noise-cancelling headphones that can intelligently separate noise you don’t want to hear from sounds you do want to hear. It does so by automatically disabling the noise-cancelling aspect whenever it detects certain frequencies, sound patterns or even special keywords.”Aspects of the disclosure provide suspension of noise cancellation at a noise-cancelling device using keyword spotting. In one aspect, a predetermined word or phrase can be spotted within an utterance received at the noise-cancelling device, and in response, noise cancellation can be suspended or otherwise terminated. The predetermined word or phrase can be specific to an end-user that utilizes the noise-cancelling device and/or a person that interacts with the end-user,” reads Amazon’s patent.”In another aspect, interaction between an operator and the noise-cancelling device can be monitored after noise cancellation is suspended, and based at least on such interaction, a model for keyword spotting can be refined. In certain aspects, noise cancellation at the noise-cancelling device can be suspended or otherwise terminated in response to receiving a suspension directive via an electronic non-audio signal, for example, from a peripheral device. In other aspects, the noise-cancelling device can resume noise cancellation in response to a control signal.”Since this is just a patent, there’s no guarantee that Amazon is actually making noise-cancelling headphones with this special technology built in. We don’t know any other features the headphones have, or even how you might train the headphones to recognize certain keywords. We’d be interested to know if the headphones came with a pre-populated list of words they’re triggered by, whether you could pick and choose these trigger words from a list, or whether you’d have to train the headphones to respond to phrases like “excuse me,” “order” or “now serving.” Next Article Amazon Wins Patent for Smarter Noise-Cancelling Headphones Enroll Now for $5 read more
Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Apr 17 2019The commonly used diabetes drug metformin could reverse the harmful thickening of heart muscle that leads to cardiovascular disease, according to a study at the University of Dundee.Scientists led by Professor Chim Lang, Head of the Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine at Dundee, discovered that metformin has the potential to be repurposed as a heart disease treatment in non-diabetic patients.The MET-REMODEL Trial, published today in the prestigious European Heart Journal, showed that metformin, used to treat type 2 diabetes safely for the last six decades, reduced left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) in patients with prediabetes and pre-existing heart disease. LVH is the thickening of the muscle wall in the heart’s left pumping chamber and is a serious risk factor for future heart attack, stroke and heart failure.LVH is often a silent symptom and most people do not know they have it prior to experiencing a heart attack or stroke. Large studies have previously shown that patients with LVH are at higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events and reducing LVH can substantially reduce mortality rates.Professor Lang said, “Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of global mortality. We have previously shown that metformin can have beneficial effects in patients with cardiovascular diseases. But this is the first time anyone has looked specifically at the effects of metformin on LVH in nondiabetic patients with coronary artery disease in a clinical trial.”The study involved treating prediabetic people with coronary artery disease with metformin or a placebo over a period of 12 months to see how the drug affected the heart muscle wall, using state-of-the-art MRI technology.”The major causes of LVH are high blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance, which are also thought to be key contributors of coronary artery disease. The dangerous thickening of the left ventricle was reduced by twice as much in those taking metformin compared to the placebo.Related StoriesHeart disease is still the number 1 killer in Australia, according the latest figuresTeam approach to care increases likelihood of surviving refractory cardiogenic shockRNA-binding protein SRSF3 appears to be key factor for proper heart contraction, survival”We also found that metformin reduced blood pressure, oxidative stress and lost body weight – an average of 3.6 kg, compared to no changes in the placebo group. If the findings from this study are substantiated in a larger-scale study, metformin could offer hope for millions of patients across the globe.”The MET-REMODEL trial, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), is the first clinical trial in the world to show that metformin could reverse harmful thickening heart muscle wall in a clinical trial. Repurposing cheap and readily available drugs, such as metformin, to treat other health conditions could potentially save the NHS billions of pounds every year.Mohapradeep Mohan, lead author and principal investigator of the MET-REMODEL trial, said blood pressure medications were the standard treatment modalities for LVH but that this approach was not particularly effective as LVH can also be present in patients who have well-controlled blood pressure. This highlighted the need for new treatment strategies in these patients.”In this context, we need non-blood pressure medication and we had good reason to suppose that metformin should help to reduce thickening of heart muscle wall,” he said.”The findings from our study reinforce the notion that metformin has the potential to improve cardiovascular health, offering the possibility of improving life expectancy of patients. From the standpoint of clinical practice, this drug is already approved and well tolerated with minimal side effects.”If our findings are backed up by bigger studies, using metformin to target LVH presents a novel treatment option and unique opportunity for a quicker translation to the clinic. We are thankful to BHF for funding this study and extremely grateful to all the participants of this study.” Source:https://www.dundee.ac.uk/ read more
Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Jun 26 2019With summer in full swing, many people are cooling off in swimming pools. However, some of the substances that are made when chlorine in the water reacts with compounds in human sweat, urine or dirt aren’t so refreshing. Now, researchers have compared the effectiveness of different water treatment processes in mitigating these so-called disinfection byproducts (DBPs). They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.Chlorine is usually added to pool water to kill harmful microbes. However, this disinfectant can react with substances in the pool water — many of which are introduced by swimmers themselves — to form DBPs, which can irritate the eyes, skin and lungs. Most pool systems continuously recirculate water through various treatment steps to both disinfect the water and reduce DBPs and their precursors. But because of the difficulty of comparing swimming pools with different conditions, such as number of swimmers, chlorine dosing or filling-water quality, scientists don’t currently know which strategy is the best. So, Bertram Skibinski, Wolfgang Uhl and colleagues wanted to compare several water treatment strategies under the controlled and reproducible conditions of a pilot-scale swimming pool system.Related StoriesSummertime safety guidelines for childrenComplement system shown to remove dead cells in retinitis pigmentosa, contradicting previous researchCurved shape of bacteria can make it easier to find foodThe researchers continuously added compounds to their model swimming pool that simulated dirt and body fluids and added chlorine according to regulations for full-scale pools. Then, they treated the water with one of seven water treatment strategies. They found that the treatment using coagulation and sand filtration combined with granular activated carbon filtration was the most effective at lowering DBP concentrations. But even this treatment did not completely remove the contaminants because new DBPs were made more quickly than the old ones could be removed. When UV irradiation was used as a treatment step, the levels of some DBPs increased because the UV light elevated the reactivity of organic matter toward chlorine. New strategies need to be explored to more effectively remove DBPs and prevent new ones from forming, the researchers say. Source:American Chemical SocietyJournal reference:Skibinski, B. et al. (2019) Impact of Different Combinations of Water Treatment Processes on the Concentration of Disinfection Byproducts and Their Precursors in Swimming Pool Water. Environmental Science & Technology. doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b00491. read more
Citation: Digital rail network mapping achieves efficiencies (2018, April 30) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-digital-rail-network-efficiencies.html The EU-funded Skylynx (Upgrading Railways from the Air) project has underlined the benefits of digitalising Europe’s rail network. By more cost-effectively targeting the maintenance of assets along the line, the need to put workers in harm’s way is reduced, allowing operators to allocate staff to more valuable tasks. The deployment of assets can also be more efficiently planned. “Rail operators have in the past visualised the rail corridor using paper and technical drawings,” explains project coordinator Jorge Lopez-Sanchez from SigmaRail in Spain. “What we propose instead is something like a Google Maps app for railways. Pictures are taken by drone, with 3-D ‘street views’ achieved through 3-D cameras. Our Sigma-Q technology also tags assets and relevant information that will be useful for the design, operation and maintenance of tracks.”Europe’s secret success A key aim of the project has been to facilitate the efficient deployment of the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), a relatively unheralded European success story, according to Lopez-Sanchez. “Before ERTMS, each European country had its own signalling system,” he explains. “This meant that if you wanted to send a train from London to Amsterdam for example, you either had to change trains or equip trains with multiple signalling equipment, which is expensive or slow. This is how the idea to create one single system across Europe came about.”ERTMS is now Europe’s de facto standard signalling system, and for new lines being constructed in Europe, there is no alternative. ERTMS has also become a global success, and is being deployed in countries including Saudi Arabia, Australia and Mexico. The deployment of ERTMS however remains a challenge. Europe’s legacy of multiple automatic train protection systems has slowed progress and required huge political effort in order to agree on a system that is suitable for all EU members. Lopez-Sanchez also points out the technical challenges in creating a system that is truly functional across all EU Member States, as well as deploying advanced systems along old rail lines. Digitalising rail networksGathering data on the state of these lines is therefore crucial. “Deploying advanced signalling systems such as ERTMS requires operators to know the exact location of safety-related rail assets such as signals and danger points,” explains Lopez-Sanchez. “You can imagine that a system designed to carry thousands of people at a speed of up to 350 km/h requires a high degree of accuracy.” This was the starting point of the Skylynx project; applying cutting-edge technology to develop the digital models of rail corridors. “The benefits for industry are huge,” says Lopez-Sanchez. “Workers for example will not be required to gather data from the tracks, since this task can be accomplished using drones. This will significantly improve safety. Rail companies will be able to quickly identify lines in need of maintenance, saving time and money. At the end of the day, operational efficiencies will translate into lower costs for the general public.” Credit: Skylynx EU-funded researchers have been able to gather accurate geographical data through the use of drones, remote sensing and 360-degree cameras to deliver digital 3-D models of railway lines. This will assist rail and infrastructure companies in assessing tracks throughout their lifecycle. Satellites helping to modernise railways Provided by CORDIS Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. read more