NASA training humanoid robot to perform surgery

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

Robonaut 2, NASA’s humanoid robot currently inhabiting the International Space Station, hasn’t done much exciting work up there since its arrival three years ago.

But according to a doctor at Houston Methodist Hospital who has been training the robot on telemedicine, the plan is to equip NASA’s space-age machine to eventually perform surgery.

“The idea is for him to be the best medic, nurse and physician,” Dr. Zsolt Garami told the BBC. “Our plan is to use Robonaut as a telemedicine doctor in remote areas.” That would include space.

Robonaut 2, a collaboration between NASA, General Motors and Oceaneering Space Systems engineers, arrived at the International Space Station in 2011 on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission.

To this point, Robonaut’s work on the ISS has been limited to such mundane tasks as “monitoring air flow from vents” and catching floating rolls of duct tape.

But Garami told the BBC that one of NASA’s Robonauts is being groomed on Earth to “perform intricate medical operations like endovascular surgery.”

Robonauts are controlled by humans at NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. And one of the problems has been the lag time between command and response — which can be a couple of seconds or more, depending on the signal.

According to the BBC, NASA officials are toying with the idea of having astronauts control Robonaut from space, side by side, thereby eliminating the lag.

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-robonaut-surgery-space-161047824.html

Ortiz-Obama selfie sparks White House controversy

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

A controversial selfie taken by David Ortiz during a visit by the Boston Red Sox to the White House last week may be the last, senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on Sunday.

It was later revealed that the image of Ortiz and President Barack Obama snapped by the Red Sox slugger was part of a promotion for Samsung.

“Well, [President Obama] obviously didn’t know anything about Samsung’s connection to this,” Pfeiffer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And perhaps maybe this will be the end of all selfies.”

White House officials have “had conversations with Samsung about this and expressed our concerns,” Pfeiffer said, declining to give specifics. “We’ll leave that conversation between the lawyers.”

During the ceremony, as the Red Sox presented a commemorative No. 44 jersey to Obama, Ortiz pulled out his phone to snap the photo with the president.

“He wants to take a selfie!” Obama said. “It’s the Big Papi selfie.”


Ortiz later tweeted the selfie from his Twitter account. Samsung retweeted the photo, saying it was “thrilled to see the special, historic moment David Ortiz captured with his Galaxy Note 3 during his White House visit.”

“When we heard about the visit to the White House, we worked with David and the team on how to share images with fans,” the company said in a statement. “We didn’t know if or what he would be able to capture using his Note 3 device.”

According to Sports Business Journal, the All Star designated hitter recently signed an endorsement deal with Samsung to be its “MLB social media insider.”

“So when the Red Sox visit the White House this week to commemorate their World Series victory, ‘Big Papi’ will be tweeting and sending photos on Samsung’s behalf,” the publication reported Monday, the day before Papi snapped the presidential selfie.

On Wednesday, Ortiz denied the selfie was part of his new endorsement deal.

“It wasn’t anything promotional, anything like that,” Ortiz said. “I mean, who knows that you’re going to take a picture with the president? How many people can guarantee that? It was something we don’t even have to talk about.

“It just came out right in the moment when I gave him the jersey and he asked to take pictures,” Ortiz continued. “It was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, let me see if I can get away with this.’ I was lucky that I was right there. It was fun. It was something I’ll never forget.”

The White House isn’t forgetting, either.

“As a rule, the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his daily news briefing on Thursday. “And we certainly object in this case.”

Last month, Samsung benefited from viral success when Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres took a star-studded selfie with her Samsung phone. The photo was retweeted more than 3 million times, a new Twitter record. The previous record holder: Barack Obama.

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/ortiz-obama-selfie-white-house-no-more-184943848.html

Hunt for Malaysia jetliner moved to area where signals detected

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

By Jane Wardell and Swati Pandey

SYDNEY/PERTH, Australia (Reuters) – Some planes and ships searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner in the Indian Ocean moved on Monday toward waters where a Chinese vessel had picked up “ping” signals at the weekend, raising hopes of finding the airliner’s black-box recorders.

The black boxes, thought be to lying on the ocean floor, are equipped with locator beacons that send pings on the same frequency as those detected by the Chinese naval ship, but the beacons’ batteries are thought to be running out by now, a month after Flight MH370 disappeared.

“We are running out of time in terms of terms of the battery life,” Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the operation, told a news conference in Perth on Sunday.

The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished off radar on March 8 and flew thousands of km off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 reported receiving a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, consistent with the signal emitted by flight recorders, on Friday and again on Saturday.

“The 37.5kHz is the specific frequency that these locator pingers operate on,” said Anish Patel, president of Sarasota, Florida-based Dukane Seacom, which made the black box locator.

“It’s a very unique frequency, typically not found in background ocean noise,” such as whales or other marine mammals, he told Reuters.

The pulses were detected within two km (1.2 miles) of each other but were hundreds of nautical miles outside the main search zone in the southern Indian Ocean which has been scoured by planes and aircraft for more than a week.

Britain’s HMS Echo, which is equipped with underwater sonar equipment, is due to reach the area, where the water is around 4,500 metres (14,764 ft) deep, later on Monday.

“The fact we’ve had two acoustic events in that location provides some promise, which requires a full investigation of the location,” Houston said, but he stressed there was no conclusive evidence linking it to the Boeing 777.

Houston also noted that Australia’s HMAS Ocean Shield, which is towing a U.S. navy “pinger locator” was the best-equipped ship to pinpoint the flight recorders.

The Ocean Shield will continue to investigate a separate “acoustic event” some 300 nautical miles away in the original search zone 2,000 km (1,243 miles) northwest of Perth. A decision on whether to send it to the new area is likely to be made later on Monday, Houston said.

“We need to ensure before we leave any of those areas that this does not have any connection with MH370,” Houston said.

Houston said the Chinese discovery of pings was consistent with a correction to earlier satellite data which had again led investigators to refine the search area towards the southern part of the corridor.

A U.S. government source close to the MH370 investigation said on Sunday that the pings had not yet been validated. The source also said that no additional, trustworthy information had turned up to explain why the plane disappeared.

COOPERATION

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane’s disappearance but say the evidence, including loss of communications, suggests it was deliberately diverted.

Houston on Sunday said he was comfortable with the level of cooperation between search countries, following criticisms that Australia only became aware of the Chinese find at the same time as the Xinhua state news agency filed a story from a reporter on board the Haixun.

“I’m very satisfied with the consultation, the coordination that we are building with our Chinese friends,” Houston said.

However, he added that language was sometimes an issue and he had arranged for a Chinese liaison officer to join the Australian-led coordination centre.

Malaysian authorities have faced heavy criticism, particularly from China, for mismanaging the search and holding back information. Most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

(Additional reporting by Lincoln Feast in Sydney)

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/australia-pm-hopeful-cautious-possible-malaysia-jet-breakthrough-003239146--sector.html

Emmert: Unionization "grossly inappropriate"

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The NCAA president called an effort to unionize players a “grossly inappropriate” way to solve problems in college sports while insisting the association has plans to change the school-athlete relationship.

Mark Emmert said Sunday that the NCAA wants to allow the big conferences with moneymaking teams to write their own rules, and those changes could solve many athletes’ complaints more effectively than unionization.

“To be perfectly frank, the notion of using a union-employee model to address the challenges that exist in intercollegiate athletics is something that strikes most people as a grossly inappropriate solution to the problems,” Emmert said at his annual news conference, held the day before college basketball’s national championship.

He said it would “throw away the entire collegiate model for athletics.”

The NCAA has spent the last three years writing up plans to change its governance structure to allow the five biggest conferences to have different rules from hundreds of smaller schools. Because smaller schools have fought against costly changes such as paying athletes stipends, the independence of the big schools could break a logjam.

Although the issues have been simmering for years, they have drawn attention in recent weeks with a lawsuit filed by former athletes about to go to trial and a National Labor Relations Board director’s ruling that Northwestern football players should be able to form a union.

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at anbsp;hellip;

If the NCAA loses the unionization fight or the lawsuit, filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, it could drastically alter the relationship between NCAA schools and 460,000 college athletes.

But, Emmert said, nothing the NCAA might do in coming months will be a direct response to either of those legal cases: “Those are conversations that have been going on for several years now,” he said.

Neither Emmert nor the administrators who joined him for the news conference sounded overly concerned about drawing up contingency plans in case unions start sprouting up in the aftermath of the Northwestern case.

“There’s 50 different sets of rules for 50 different states,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “So, we’re a long way from having unions. I think about it a lot. Haven’t spent any time talking about it. I’m not going to speculate on it. It’s a long way down the road.”

Bowlsby and a panel that included presidents at Wake Forest, Kansas State and the future president at Ohio State agreed that many of the NCAA’s thorniest issues, including paying athletes and improving their long-term health care, could be more easily resolved if the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC were given “autonomy” to draw up their own regulations.

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at anbsp;hellip;

“I think most of Division I memberships see that we’re standing at a fork in the road,” Kansas State president Kirk Schulz said. “What we’re going to put out there again is not perfect, but I believe that the vast majority of members recognize that some of these things must change and that we need to do it rapidly.”

The idea of giving the five big conferences autonomy — lest they splinter off from the NCAA completely — came up about three years ago after the full membership rejected Emmert’s proposal for a $2,000 stipend for athletes that would help cover the gap between the value of a scholarship and the real cost of attending school.

Smaller schools, especially those that don’t play football, can’t afford that sort of stipend, while the bigger ones are trying to use some sort of pay-for-play model to keep peace with a growingly discontented group of players.

The biggest cash cow for the NCAA, however, is the basketball tournament that wraps up Monday. March Madness garnered a 14-year, $10.8 billion TV contract in 2010. The deal has grown increasingly lucrative over the years in large part because the tournament affords the little schools a chance to go up against the behemoths, and sometimes come out on top.

“We are committed to keeping ourselves in this one big division because of that,” said Rita Cheng, chancellor at Southern Illinois, and the only small-school representative to appear with Emmert on Sunday. “As long as we can know that we can be competitive in the tournament and that our athletes can have opportunities, it’s appropriate for us to say, ‘Your world is different than our world.’”

NCAA President Mark Emmert answers a question at anbsp;hellip;

Emmert and the other leaders said they were blameless for the NBA’s “one and done” rule that allows basketball players to go pro after only one year in college. Kentucky has five freshmen starters and at least a few of them aren’t expected to return next year.

“I’ve been a pretty vocal in opposition to that notion,” Emmert said.

The president conceded that issue, like so many others, is beyond his control.

That’s life in the NCAA, which has 351 Division I members, with many different agendas. Though Emmert disagrees with those whose legal maneuverings might undo the NCAA, he recognizes the need for some changes.

“It’s a group that makes decisions in a ponderous democratic process,” Emmert said. “These people to my left are trying very much to change the decision-making structure, so they can make decisions more rapidly and address things in a more real-time way.”

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/emmert-unionization-grossly-inappropriate-174649120--spt.html

Pelosi: Cheney ‘proud’ CIA misled

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

Ahead of the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that is expected to say the CIA misled the government and the American people about its interrogation techniques, Nancy Pelosi is placing the blame squarely on former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I do believe that during the Bush-Cheney administration, Vice President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA,” Pelosi said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” broadcast Sunday. “Many people in the CIA are so patriotic. They protect our country in a way to avoid conflict and violence. But the attitude that was there was very, um, I think it came from Dick Cheney. That’s what I believe.”

According to the Washington Post, the 6,300-page report — which is currently classified — includes “damning new disclosures about a sprawling network of secret detention facilities, or ‘black sites,’ that was dismantled by President Obama in 2009.”

The report also “describes previously undisclosed cases of abuse, including the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a detention site in Afghanistan — a method that bore similarities to waterboarding but never appeared on any Justice Department-approved list of techniques.”

Pelosi said she thinks Cheney, who has long defended the use of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques, is proud of the CIA’s misrepresentation.

“I think he’s proud of it,” Pelosi said. “I think he’s proud of it.”

Late last month, Cheney defended another controversial U.S. program: the National Security Agency’s spying.

“That we have created in the National Security Agency this monster bureaucracy that’s reading everybody’s mail, listening to everybody’s phone calls, infringing upon our civil liberties and civil rights — hogwash,” Cheney said in a speech at a private dinner in Las Vegas. “It probably would’ve allowed us to stop 9/11.

“We don’t have a president who can stand up and defend the program,” he continued. “Nobody believes him for good reason: Look what he did with health care.”

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/pelosi--cheney--proud--cia-misled-on-torture-155757474.html

Jeb Bush says he’ll make decision on bid this year

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jeb Bush says all the speculation about whether he’ll run for president in 2016 is actually getting him more attention than if he had already entered the race.

The former Republican governor of Florida said that’s not by design, and that he’ll make his decision before year’s end.

He told Fox News Channel in an interview airing Sunday that the state of politics is “crazy right now.”

Bush says one factor in his decision will be whether he can deliver an optimistic, hopeful message without getting drawn into a political “mud fight.” He says the other main factor in his decision will be whether it’s OK with his family if he ran.

Bush has antagonized many Republicans by supporting an immigration overhaul and educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade known as Common Core.

On immigration, he said that those who come into the country illegally generally do so because they had no other means to provide for their family, and what they did is “not a felony.”

“It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family,” Bush said. “I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”

The interview with Bush occurred at his father’s presidential library during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of George. H. W. Bush’s presidency.

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Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/jeb-bush-says-hell-decision-bid-182609498--election.html

Community taking a dive for young cancer patient

April 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Being told to “go jump in a lake” is usually a snarky kiss-off. But it’s become a heartwarming call-to-action for a Missouri community whose effort to help the family of a 5-month-old boy with cancer has inspired thousands across the country to submerge themselves in cold bodies of water.

Organizers of the Facebook-based Plunge for Landon fundraiser said they have lost count of how many people have posted videos of themselves taking a dive for Landon Shaw, a Tarkio infant who was diagnosed in late February with a rare form of cancer. People are jumping in, from chilly farm ponds north of Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

“I can’t believe how viral this is going,” said Alyssa Shaw, Landon’s mom. “My son has been such an inspiration to everybody and opened up people’s eyes that you can’t take life for granted.”

Before they jump into the water, participants record themselves challenging three other people to do the same, with monetary pledges for each person who completes the challenge. The effort had raised more than $30,000 by Friday evening, only five days after notice of the fundraiser was first posted on the popular social networking site.

Entire schools, police departments and businesses around the region have posted videos of participants taking the plunge.

Landon was 4 months old on Feb. 23 when his parents took him to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to find out why he was vomiting and losing weight. Doctors found a tumor on his left kidney, which they removed, and later discovered a large mass on his brain.

Kansas City Chiefs fan Ty Rowton, known as XFactor,nbsp;hellip;

Landon’s heart stopped during an operation to remove the brain tumor, his mother said, and he lost so much blood that doctors gave the family little hope their baby would survive.

“The surgeons came into the room and said they would be surprised if he made it through the night,” Shaw said.

Landon did make it through, and his condition improved enough that on April 1, Shaw and her husband, Brandon, were able to bring their baby home.

But the child still has a long road ahead, with chemotherapy sessions, MRIs and CT scans. And the family is on Medicaid, Shaw said, which isn’t nearly enough to cover medical bills that are just starting to arrive.

The plunge group’s Facebook page had more than 11,700 members Friday, seven times the number of people who live in the small farming community of Tarkio, two hours north of Kansas City.

Kansas City Chiefs fan Ty Rowton, known as XFactor,nbsp;hellip;

Lydia Hurst, who helps maintain the group’s page, said participants include a soldier in Afghanistan, and people in Germany, South Korea, Spain and Ireland.

Ty Rowton, also known as the red tight-wearing Kansas City Chiefs super fan “X-Factor,” dove into a pond near Bonner Springs, Kan., on Friday after being challenged by several people he didn’t know. In turn, he challenged the Royals, Chiefs and all their fans to also chip in to help baby Landon.

Hurst took her own plunge Tuesday morning in sub-freezing temperatures. Like most people she knows who did their own plunges, she said she never would have jumped into a frigid farm pond had it not been for the thought of the little boy.

“My legs got numb faster than I thought they would,” she said. “It was shocking. I went home and showered and didn’t get warm until about noon that day.”

Residents of the former college town of roughly 1,600 also have been holding bake sales and fundraising suppers — popular affairs in rural Bible Belt communities — to help the family pay for travel and other expenses. But the plunge drive has brought in the bulk of donations.

A YouTube video shows U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a lifelong Tarkio resident, in a suit and tie as he dove head-first into the Potomac in Washington on Wednesday. He challenged several Republican leaders, both nationally and in Missouri, to take the plunge.

Lora Cummins, a former Tarkio resident who is an ordained minister and beach body coach in Port Aransas, Texas, accepted the challenge of some of her ex-classmates in the town and jumped into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

“All of us are so fortunate to have grown up there and forged lifelong bonds,” she said. “Facebook has brought us all back together.”

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/community-taking-dive-young-cancer-patient-153751599.html

Pro-Russians storm Ukraine government buildings

April 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Crowds of pro-Russian demonstrators stormed government buildings Sunday in several major cities in eastern Ukraine, where secessionist sentiment has sparked frequent protests since Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president was ousted in February.

In Donetsk, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of the Russian border, a large group of people, including many in masks carrying sticks and stones, surged into the provincial government building and smashed windows.

A gathering of several hundred, many of them waving Russian flags, then listened to speeches delivered from a balcony emblazoned with a banner reading “Donetsk Republic.” Activists in the building said they want to see a referendum for the Donetsk province to join Russia.

An AP photographer reported seeing people bringing car tires to be used as barricades against any presumed attempt by authorities to retake the building.

Eastern Ukraine was the heartland of support for Viktor Yanukovych, the president who fled to Russia in February after months of protests. About half of the region’s residents are ethnic Russians, many of whom believe Ukraine’s acting authorities are Ukrainian nationalists who will oppress Russians.

Ukraine’s interim authorities deny they are infringing the rights of the ethnic Russian population and accuse Moscow of trying to sow instability. Russia has moved large contingents of troops to areas near the Ukrainian border, and speculation is strong that unrest in eastern Ukraine could be used as a pretext for a Russian incursion.

In this photo taken on Saturday, April 5, 2014, Olehnbsp;hellip;

Since Crimea held a referendum to secede and then was annexed by Russia in March, calls for similar referenda in Ukraine’s east have emerged.

In Luhansk, to the northeast from Donetsk, hundreds of people surrounded the local headquarters of the security service and later scaled the facade to plant a Russian flag on the roof. Ukrainian media reported that demonstrators pelted the building with eggs, and then stones, a smoke grenade and finally a firebomb. The flames were reportedly quickly extinguished.

A police officer and a demonstrator were injured in the disturbances.

Local media reported similar unrest in Kharkiv, less than an hour’s drive from the Russian border.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s security service said it had detained a 15-strong armed gang planning to seize power in Luhansk province.

The Security Service of Ukraine said it seized 300 machine guns, an antitank grenade launcher, a large number of grenades, five handguns and firebombs.

It said the group intended to mount a grab for power. No names or additional details were provided.

Also Sunday, authorities in Ukraine said they found the body of a kidnapped journalist who played an active role in protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster. The body was found in a forest about 150 kilometers (60 miles) outside the capital, Kiev.

Cherkassk province prosecutors said Vasily Sergiyenko was abducted in his home city of Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi on Friday evening and later murdered. The nationalist Svoboda party, of which Sergiyenko was a member, said the reporter was found with stab wounds and signs of beatings to his head and knees.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/pro-russians-storm-ukraine-government-buildings-145538760.html

Navy rescues family with sick baby from sailboat

April 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel News

SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. sailors rescued a family with an ill 1-year-old baby from a disabled sailboat hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast and were headed Sunday to San Diego to get the girl medical treatment.

The girl, along with her parents and 3-year-old sister, were helped onto an inflatable raft and then taken aboard the USS Vandegrift at 8 a.m. Sunday. The baby girl was in stable condition and was heading to San Diego for medical treatment, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman were two weeks into their trip to sail the world when their daughter, Lyra, developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn’t responding to medications. Then, their 36-foot sailboat lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles off Mexico. They sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday.

A California Air National Guard crew parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl and stayed by her side until the ship arrived.

The California Air National Guard dispatched four rescuers, who parachuted into the water and reached the disabled vessel. The team was able to stabilize the girl and pointed the sailboat, which does not have steering or communication abilities, toward Mexico, the 129th Rescue Wing said in a statement.

The rescuers stayed aboard the Rebel Heart to keep watch on the ill child until daylight when sailors helped them board the Navy frigate.

In this image provided by the U.S. Navy the USS Vandegriftnbsp;hellip;

Before the family left, Lyra had salmonella poisoning, but doctors cleared her to travel after she was healthy again, said Charlotte Kaufman’s sister, Sariah Kay English.

English initially was in daily email contact with the family but realized something was wrong when the communication stopped several days ago.

English said she was told the vessel took on water every time the motor was turned on. It’s now slowly moving using only the sails.

When her sister first mentioned plans to sail with two young children, English recalled, “I thought it was nuts.”

But English said the couple was always careful. Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain who introduced sailing to Charlotte Kaufman during one of their early dates.

“They were not going into this blind. I knew they were doing this wisely,” English said.

English said the couple made a network of friends who traveled around the globe with children and always stocked the sailboat with more food than they need.

“They were very overcautious. They’re not new at sailing,” English said. Unfortunately, “sickness sometimes happens.”