Rushda: Apple has been under heavy attack recently as it is becoming more and more clear that it is doing everything it can to dominate its market, ensuring that it stays in charge at all times. The latest annoyance that has come to light is that the new Apple iPhone cannot be unlocked and any attempt to do so could result in irreparable damage if one tries to unlock it. Though illegal unlocking of phones to install new software or allow it to operate on a different network is not right, still this seems a little extreme for Apple, who say that as soon as any updates are installed the iPhone would become "permanently inoperable." Unfortunately, this is not just an empty threat, as thousands of users who have managed to hack their phone have been shocked to discover that their phone has been disabled. The hacks are anything from mild program additions to software and network changes. Many Apple customers are understandably frustrated and Apple continues to send out its warnings to all those who are thinking of hacking their phone. Unfortunately, the iPhone will only be able to be used in the exact way Apple wants it.
Archive for September, 2007
Rushda: Cars that drive themselves to and from a required destination may not be as far off into the future as once thought - indeed, trials of a driverless "cybercar" have already begun recently in a Northamptonshire town called Daventry. The new car works out the directions using a computer and manages to avoid obstacles using laser technology. Daventry's mission has long been to encourage more people to use public transport, so this is an incredible way to increase efficiency and boost enthusiasm. The cybercar can easily be called by pressing a button and will automatically go to an assigned destination without any human input. So far, the car is only really suitable for short trips at low speed - for example, it can be seen as an alternative to a school bus. However developments go in the future, it is clear that the initial trials have been successful and hold great promise for the future. As Daventry District Council leader Chris Millar says:
"We can build lots more car parks and have lots more cars going in or we can look at a viable alternative to the car. We believe this could be the answer."The cybercar can be seen in demonstration until 5th October, on a test track at the town's Eastern Way. Alternatively, a video of it can be seen here.
Jeanne: The US Senate and House of Representatives have announced a plan to broaden affordable healthcare provision for some of America’s neediest children. The plan aims to provide further medical services to 4 million children who would otherwise need to go without. However, it appears that the US President, George W. Bush, will veto any such legislation. This is in spite of a tragic incident earlier this year, which highlighted the need for affordable health care for America’s poor. In February, a 12-year-old boy, Deamonte Driver, died after an untreated tooth abscess which spread to his brain. His family lacked medical insurance and was unable to afford private dental treatment. His death had an enormous impact on the local community. According to Gina James, the principal at Deamonte’s school,
"The thing about Deamonte was his smile, he was always smiling. Everyone here was shocked. They couldn't understand how he could have toothache and then die. We sometimes give the little kids candy as a reward; well, for a while they stopped taking it because they would say 'if I get a cavity, will I die?"However, as tragic as Deamonte’s story is, it’s a case that has been repeated time and time again across the United States. Whilst the poorest are offered medical benefits in the form of Medicaid, not all dentists and doctors accept Medicaid patients. It’s a scandal which has appeared to unite American politicians across party lines. A bill to extend medical benefits to cover another 4 million children was passed in the Senate with a majority of 38 votes. However, the bill failed to pass through the House of Representatives with a two-thirds majority, meaning the President can still veto it. And it is likely that George W. Bush will veto the bill when presented with it. Mr. Bush is a firm believer in the private health care system and opposes the proposed legislation on the grounds that it:
“directs scarce funding to higher incomes at the expense of poor families."This statement appears somewhat confusing; after all, we’d expect the legislation to help poor families. As one analyst put it:
"In effect, both supporters and opponents of the bill say the other side risks health coverage for children."
Jeanne: Britain’s Labour party has commenced hiring electoral staff, thereby leading to much speculation that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, intends to call a general election in the not-too-distant future. The party has asked a number of individuals, many of whom already work as lobbyists for the party, if they would be willing to commence work on election-related tasks from Monday. These individuals would be responsible for a broad range of tasks, from logistics to dealing with the media. However, Labour insiders have argued that their party’s recent employee acquisitions should not be taken as a sign that a general election is on the cards. Furthermore, Gordon Brown continues to claim that he has no intention to make an immediate announcement. However, as one analyst has pointed out, Labour’s recent hiring campaign was an indication that the Party “had moved beyond contingency planning to active preparation for an election campaign, which a growing number believe Mr. Brown is about to launch.” Pressure for a snap election has come from younger members of the Labour government, including David Miliband, and the current education secretary, Ed Balls. Speaking to the media, Mr. Balls stated:
"They [the public] need to know the nature of the very real and clear choice facing the country in the coming years – a Labour party and government led by Gordon Brown and a Conservative government led by David Cameron."The Conservative Party has suggested that they are fully prepared for a general election whenever it may be called. The Party has accumulated some £10 million in funds for election-related expenditures. Conservative party strategists have also highlighted so-called ‘target seats’. Further plans for an upcoming election are likely to be made when Conservative party members meet next week for their annual conference in Blackpool. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have called on the Prime Minister to announce a general election so that the public can pass judgement on the present administration. The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, voiced his opinion on the matter in a recent interview:
"The continuous speculation is bad for the economy, bad for the political process and bad for public confidence in the government. The Liberal Democrats are ready and waiting for a general election as soon as possible."
Jeanne: Scientists have found that heavy exercise could raise the risk of a woman suffering a miscarriage during pregnancy. Danish researchers found that a number of different forms of exercise, from racquet sports to jogging, trebled one’s risk of a miscarriage. These findings come as a bit of a surprise given that most doctors and health advisors encourage exercise among pregnant women in order to prevent excessive weight gain and the onset of high blood pressure. The researchers at the University of Southern Denmark surveyed 90,000 women on their exercise regimes and the progress of their pregnancies. Not only were women who played ‘high impact’ sports such as ball games more likely to suffer a miscarriage, but those who exercised for more than seven and a half hours a week were subject to a similar risk as well. However, the relationship between exercise and miscarriage risks reduced significantly after the first eighteen weeks of pregnancy. Commenting in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the scientists undertaking the survey stated:
"The results of this study suggest that leisure time exercise during pregnancy, and particularly high-impact exercise, is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage in the early stage of pregnancy."However, critics of the survey have been quick to suggest that the methods employed during the survey were fundamentally flawed. The study required women to recall the amount of exercise they undertook during the survey. However, the scientists had no way of corroborating the information provided to them by their subjects. In addition, women’s advocates have argued that such findings could inadvertently have an adverse impact on the health of pregnant women. In particular, critics argue that a lack of exercise could lead to high obesity rates among pregnant women. This in turn would have an adverse effect on the health of unborn children. According to Alison Merry from the organisation, Blooming Fit, which plans exercise and fitness programs for pregnant women,
"The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are clear - it improves the cardiovascular system, and maintains muscle tone. While I would say that getting a hockey ball in the stomach is not a good idea, I can't think of any reason why jogging would be harmful."She encouraged women to engage in activities such as swimming – this form of exercise has been shown to have particular benefits for pregnant women.
Rushda: A pair of Britain's leading environmental scientists have proposed a way of solving the climate change problem using special technology under the sea. The idea is to increase the amount of CO2 the sea absorbs by installing special tubes underwater. Chris Rapley, head of London's Science Museum, and Gaia theorist Professor James Lovelock believe that cutting carbon emissions is becoming a lost cause and the most useful thing the government can do to sort out the problem is invest in "huge flotillas of vertical pipes in the tropical seas." Currently being investigated in the US, the installations would mean that less CO2 ends up in the atmosphere as more would be taken up by the sea. As Lovelock explains:
"We are taking the very strong line that we are not going to save the planet by the regular approaches like the Kyoto Protocol or renewable energy. What we have to do is to look at it in a systems sense, or a Gaian sense, and see if it's curable by direct action."Though the technology is quite complicated, the basic science of it is that the huge floating pipes which start at the surface of the ocean and go down will swell and bob up and down, causing cold water to come up onto the ocean's surface. A valve would block the reverse occurring so that the surface gradually becomes colder. Apparently, cold water contains more life as it can absorb more carbon, and this will help in the battle against climate change. The two scientists are not the first to come up with the plan. Indeed, Atmocean, a company in the US, has already started trials of the same technology. Although the research is in its early stages, the firm has high hopes. As Phil Kithil from Atmocean says:
"There is much yet to be learned. We need not only to move towards the final design and size (of the pipes), but also to characterise the ecological effects. The problem we would be most concerned about would be acidification. We're bringing up higher levels of CO2 along with the nutrients, so it all has to be analysed as to the net carbon balance and the net carbon flux."There are other pressing concerns as well, for example, the pipes could cause problems for marine life such as whales and dolphins. However, it is certainly an interesting and promising concept that may end up being many many times more productive than reducing carbon output.
Rushda: A new survey has shown that youngsters actually spend more time watching television than spending time with their family. Now that television is becoming an indispensable part of more and more kids' lives, researchers worry that this could actually lower literacy levels and social skills, and they urge that more time be spent doing social activities such as reading together. The research was encouraged by the Government and coordinated by Booktime, a company that encourages reading amongst children. The survey of 1,800 families found that in some families, shared meal times occurred only for 17 minutes a day, with many youngsters and adults leading completely separate lives. Many experts believe that the parents are to blame as they do not spend very much time reading to their children. The survey actually found that the higher the father's earnings, the more likely he was to read with the children, but interestingly, this worked the opposite with the mother. As Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, commented on the study:
"Unlike the free-range youngsters of the past, most are kept penned up at home rather than out to play. And with most parents working - or exhaustedly trying to fit domestic responsibilities around work - there isn't much time for family activities either."Researchers say that television should be cut down, as the survey shows that it is "biggest single home activity" for children, with an average watching time of almost eight hours a week. Perhaps this is the result of the surge in number of channels and programmes dedicated to youngsters - but parents should make sure that children only watch TV in moderate amounts and spend more time doing various other activities.
Jeanne: It is yet another reminder of the dire humanitarian situation in Iraq. A woman has died of cholera, a deadly disease that is rare even in some of the poorest parts of the third world. It is the first death in the capital, following a recent cholera outbreak in the country. The Iraqi Health Ministry reported incidences of the disease in northern parts of the country last month. So far there have been 11 deaths from cholera across Iraq and some 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the illness. The dead woman was a resident of one of the poorest districts of Baghdad. Medical sources suggest that other members of her family have also contracted the illness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) fears that this humanitarian crisis may escalate if greater efforts aren’t made to: combat the epidemic, provide Iraqis with clean water and rebuild the country’s sewage treatment plants. This is particularly important as the British charity, Oxfam, has found that 70% of Iraqis do not have access to clean water. According to the director of the Basra health ministry, Dr. Ryadh Abdul Ameer, many water treatment plants operate without chlorine, a chemical used to purify water and destroy harmful bacteria:
"We are suffering from a shortage of chlorine, which is sometimes zero. Chlorine is essential to disinfect the water. The carrier for this disease is 99% water, and chlorine is essential to disinfect the water. The water is dangerous if the chlorine level is low. Most of the water stations in Basra are not functioning now."It therefore comes as little surprise that there have been more than 29,000 recorded cases of waterborne diseases in the country since early August. Cholera is a waterborne disease which affects the intestines. One in twenty people who contract the condition become severely ill. The disease can be treated with medications. However, medicines are scarce in Iraq. Continuing violence in the country has also made it hard for qualified medical personnel to reach the affected areas in time. The American authorities in Iraq have stated that every effort is being made to deal with the situation. Foreign nationals in Iraq have been advised to boil water thoroughly before consumption in order to kill any bacteria which may be present.
Rushda: New research from University of Warwick and University College London has found that those people who sleep too much or sleep too little are at double the risk for fatal cardiovascular disease. They have found that contrary to common opinion, good sleep is actually vital for health and those who consistently sleep for around 7 hours a day are at the optimum level for good health. The study consisted in examining the sleeping patterns and death rates of over 10,000 people over a decade. The results, which are to be presented to the British Sleep Society, suggest that those who cut down their sleep to five hours have a doubled risk of developing the heart disease, this also applying to those who slept for over eight. Many factors were taken into account, including "age, sex, marital status, employment grade, smoking status and physical activity" and it was found that even when all things were considered, there was still a striking correlation between bad sleep and risk. As researcher Professor Francesco Cappuccio explains:
"Fewer hours sleep and greater levels of sleep disturbance have become widespread in industrialised societies. This change, largely the result of sleep curtailment to create more time for leisure and shift-work, has meant that reports of fatigue, tiredness and excessive daytime sleepiness are more common than a few decades ago. Sleep represents the daily process of physiological restitution and recovery, and lack of sleep has far-reaching effects."Cappuccio says that bad sleep is not just increasing the risk of heart disease but has all kinds of other effects related to poor health. For example, a lack of sleep is linked to excess weight gain, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, staying in bed too long is linked with depression and irritability. The researcher maintains that the ideal is a consistent 7 hours a night for optimal mental and physical health. However, Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert from from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says that sleeping is an individual thing and everyone has their optimum level. What is most important is being consistent and not going too far over or too far under the right amount for you. He says:
"Sleep need is like height or shoe size: we all have an individual one, and if we sleep less or more than that then there are consequences to pay."As research progresses, it is becoming clearer how important sleep really is. Many experts believe that public health messages, which currently only seem to focus on diet and exercise, should also include information about sleep, which is almost if not as important.
Jeanne: Researchers have found that certain strains of bacteria can gain virulence in the weightless conditions associated with space flight. Scientists examined the effects of space flight on a strain of salmonella during the 2006 Atlantis mission. Space travel, they found, increased the likelihood that the bacteria would kill infected mice by 300%. This sharp increase in the rodents’ mortality rate was due in part to the fact that weightlessness appeared to cause the bacteria to undergo genetic mutations such that they became more dangerous. The study was carried out by scientists at America’s National Academy of Sciences. The findings are particularly important given that the US space agency, NASA, is currently working on a project to land a manned craft on Mars in the not-too-distant future. The strain of salmonella investigated during the study, Salmonella typhimurium, is one of the most virulent forms of the deadly bacteria and is often very difficult to treat, even with antibiotics. Researchers have therefore emphasised the importance of maintaining good hygiene in the cramped conditions of a spacecraft. Commenting on the matter, Cheryl Nickerson, from the University of Arizona’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology stated:
"Wherever humans go, microbes go; you can't sterilise humans. Wherever we go, under the oceans or orbiting the Earth, the microbes go with us, and it's important that we understand... how they're going to change. These bugs can sense where they are by changes in their environment. The minute they sense a different environment, they change their genetic machinery so they can survive."Scientists hope that their research will bring them closer to developing a vaccine for the deadly disease. Genetic mutations in salmonella bacteria appear to have been controlled by a protein known as Hfq. The team hopes that drugs specifically designed to manipulate the protein could serve as a vaccine against salmonella. Treatments for salmonella are, at the moment, quite limited. Whilst mild cases of salmonella do not require specific medical attention, the condition can be fatal in certain instances. The disease is usually contracted through the consumption of contaminated food such as poultry, eggs and unprocessed milk. Symptoms include sudden nausea, abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhoea. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible when it comes to contracting salmonella.