15 Jan 2017
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70,000 Birds Killed To Clear New York City Flight Paths

Nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in a bid to make flight paths safer for New York City-area planes since 2009 — but it doesn’t appear to have reduced bird strikes.

The slaughter was triggered by the accident eight years ago that forced hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to land in the Hudson River after his plane engines sucked up several geese.

According to statistics compiled by The Associated Press, after the killings, bird strikes by planes taking off or landing at New York’s LaGuardia and New Jersey’s Newark airports actually increased. The airports tallied 158 strikes per year in the five years before the Hudson River accident and an average of 299 per year in the six years after it — even though tens of thousands of gulls, starlings, geese and other birds were killed after the emergency river landing. 

At Kennedy Airport, which routinely killed birds before Sullenberger’s crash because it’s on a major migration route, the number of reported strikes has also increased — though the number of birds killed has dropped slightly.

The killings — and statistics — are disheartening to bird lovers. “There has to be a long-term solution that doesn’t rely so extensively on killing birds and also keeps us safe in the sky,” said Jeffrey Kramer, of GooseWatch NYC.

Despite the numbers, airport officials are convinced the killing programs have made flights safer because there hasn’t been a similar Sullenberger crash.

After the Hudson crash geese were primarily targeted around LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark. They were shot out of the sky by wildlife officials or rounded up in traps and killed.

Among the 70,000 birds killed were 28,000 seagulls, 16,800 European starlings, 6,000 brown-headed cowbirds and 4,500 mourning doves. Close to 1,800 Canada geese were also eradicated.

Planes hit birds over New York daily but they rarely cause accidents. Sullenberger’s Fight 1549 flew into an entire flock of Canada geese on Jan. 15, 2009, shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia. The encounter took out two engines and Sullenberger was forced to land — safely — in the Hudson River. All 155 people on board survived. His story, starring Tom Hanks, is featured in the movie “Sully.” 

Bird strikes have been an issue since 1905 when Orville Wright struck a bird over an Ohio cornfield, notes the Illinois Dispatch Argus.  More than 255 people have been killed worldwide because of bird strikes since 1988.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this post referred to the Tom Hanks movie as “Miracle on the Hudson.” While the event has been referred to as that, the movie’s given title is “Sully.”


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14 Jan 2017
by Admin
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Sigma 85mm F1.4 ART Lens Review – Downright Amazing

Stop everything you are buying…The Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art is the lens you want. It simply is one of the greatest lenses every made. With unbelievable characteristics, solid build, and stunning design, what else could you want? Oh, and it’s the most affordable 85mm F1.4 around and available for both Canon & Nikon DSLRs.

Purchase this lens today: B&H Photo | Amazon | Adorama

For more information: Learningcameras

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13 Jan 2017
by Admin
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The Nintendo Switch’s Mobility Is Sweet, But Its Lineup Has Us Worried

It’s a console and a mobile platform at the same time. It looks like it’ll be fun to play with friends. The controllers are weird and apparently comfortable to hold this time around. But will the Nintendo Switch’s lineup at least beat the unmitigated disaster that was the Wii U’s launch?

Nintendo has been making a lot of promises since it announced the Switch in October. At its launch event Thursday night, we got to see more footage of “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (which is what we all wanted, come on, admit it) and the hype train chugged just a little faster.

On Friday, reporters got some hands-on time with the Switch and it appears some of Nintendo’s design choices are a success. The controller design is reportedly comfortable and intuitive, and the integration of mobile and console gaming is relatively seamless.

But what of the games? Here’s what we know:

The Console and Controllers

The Nintendo Switch will be released on March 3rd in North America, Europe, and Japan, and retail for $300.

The console looks like a tablet with a pair of detachable controllers on the side (called “JoyCon”), and can seamlessly switch between a mobile device (with 720p resolution) and a console docked to your TV. That crossover takes only two or three seconds, according to reports.

Switch will include only 32GB of internal storage, though you can use Micro SDXC cards to expand your library, according to Wired. Its battery life is somewhat of a worry as the tablet version of the console will only last between 2.5 and 6 hours, though it can be plugged in.

The JoyCon controllers can be held and used apart like Wii’s nunchuks, or attached together as a standalone controller. Each “side” of the controller can be used separately as a standalone controller, too, if you’ve got a friend over. They’re super expensive, though, with a price point at about $80.

Here they are in action: 

The Games

It’s difficult for any company to promise much at a console’s launch, though gamers remain understandably skeptical after the Wii U console never gave us the breadth of blockbuster titles that we’d come to expect from Nintendo.

That said, the Switch’s early lineup looks promising.

“Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” will be available at release, and it looks (and reportedly feels) stunning. Nobody is doubting that this one will be hot.

Next, we’ve got a new 3D Mario platformer in “Super Mario Odyssey.” For the first time, it’ll take place in the real world and, apparently, outside of Mushroom Kingdom. Mario’s nose wobbles, his hat appears to be conscious, and you can ride some kind of animal other than Yoshi. Everything is turned on its head, and we’re super excited.

You’ll have to wait for the holiday season at the end of 2017 to experience the thrill, though.

And that’s where the hype train starts to slow down. Will you pay $300 to preorder a console that’s essentially giving you a new “Zelda” title and promises a lot more later? Folks are on the fence.

But at least there are reasons to wait. At its launch event, Nintendo showed off “Xenoblade Chronicles 2,” “Super Bomberman R,” “Splatoon 2 (coming in summer), “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” and “Sonic Mania.” There are also a few console-exclusive titles that’ll have you pulling apart your JoyCon controller and competing with your friends in front of your TV, as well as a bunch of other titles that Kotaku packaged nicely:

Near the end of the event, Nintendo showed a sax-tastic sizzle reel with a ton of third-party games including Minecraft: Story Mode, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition, Has Been Heroes, Project Sonic 2017, I Am Setsuna, Skylanders Imaginators, Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence, Puyopuyo Tetris S, Disgaea 5, Minna de Waiwai! Spelunker, Sangokushi 13 with Power Up Kit, Dragonball Xenoverse 2 (temp title), and Farming Simulator.


Are Zelda, Mario and some quirky tech enough to bring Nintendo back into the console war?At this point, we have no idea. The guys over at Kotaku are playing with it in New York City Friday, and they’re having some fun, but it’s unclear if that’s $300 worth of fun.

Tell us what you think.

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13 Jan 2017
by Admin
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Wearable Sensors Can Tell If You’re Sick Before You Even Feel It

(Reuters Health) – It may one day be possible to spot illness the same way many of us already track our exercise habits and sleep patterns: with wearable sensors, researchers say.

In a new study, 60 people wore devices that collected more than 250,000 measurements a day on things like heart rate, oxygen in the blood, activity levels, calories expended, sleep patterns and skin temperature.

After researchers got a baseline idea of normal readings for each person in the study, they looked for deviations from these typical patterns to see whether changes might be tied to new environmental conditions, illness, or other factors that can impact health.

The goal is a health dashboard that does for people what dashboards already do for cars, said senior study author Dr. Michael Snyder, director of the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford University in California.

“Your car has 400 sensors, and dashboard lights go on when a problem occurs like the engine starts overheating or you are nearly running out of gas,” Snyder said by email.

“In the future, you will have multiple sensors relaying information to your smartphone, which will become your health dashboard,” Snyder added. “Alerts will go off with elevated heart rate over your normal level and heart beat abnormalities will be detected – these will enable early detection of disease, perhaps even before you can detect it yourself.”

Altogether, Snyder and colleagues collected almost 2 billion measurements from the study participants, who each wore between one and seven commercially available activity monitors around the clock.

Snyder was one of the participants.

On a long flight for a family vacation last year, he noticed changes in his heart rate and oxygen levels. From previous trips with sensors, he knew his oxygen levels normally dropped during flights and his heart rate increased at the start of the flight but then returned to normal.

On this particular flight, however, his numbers didn’t return to normal, and Snyder then went on to develop a fever and other signs of illness.

He had a hunch that it might be Lyme disease because he’d spent time outdoors in rural Massachusetts two weeks earlier and might have been bitten by a tick that transmitted the illness. He convinced a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic, then got tests results that confirmed a Lyme diagnosis.

For a few other participants, higher than normal readings for heart rate and skin temperature also turned out to signal a developing illness.

A few successful predictions don’t mean the idea is ready for prime time, however. More research is needed before the snapshots of illness detection in the study might translate into gadgets people can purchase and use on their own. One device tested was recalled, and another didn’t appear to work well, the authors note.

Just because people can monitor some vital signs right now on their smartphone or fitness tracker doesn’t mean they can diagnose themselves without help from a doctor, noted Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

“Many health enthusiasts will like this idea and will use the gadgets judiciously,” Panda, who wasn’t involved in the study, added by email. “However, the danger lies in the vast majority of lay users who misinterpret the data.”

Because most patients only get vital signs checked at a physical or an appointment when they’re sick or something goes wrong, though, wearable sensors might help doctors do a better job of detecting the onset of disease and monitoring its progression, said Dr. Karandeep Singh, a medical researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Physiological changes precede the development of symptoms for a variety of illnesses, and being able to detect these changes early may bring patients to attention much earlier when diseases are more readily treatable and potentially curable,” Singh said by email.


SOURCE: PLOS Biology, online January 12, 2017.

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11 Jan 2017
by Admin
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Social Media Makes Us Feel Inferior, So Here’s A Cheery Song About It!

Your social media accounts are often tiny windows into your own psyche. And while we try to project the best versions of ourselves to the world, that can have an adverse effect, as everyone believes their lives are inferior to the lives of their social media friends.

Basically, everyone looks great and feels like crap.

Writers Max Azulay and Alex Mullen have backed their message with a bubbly tune, so it will be easier to hear. Because it’s important that you hear this.

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11 Jan 2017
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A Celebration Is Short-Lived

In the end, we had a celebration that lasted only a few minutes. Many anti-trafficking advocates were delighted to learn Tuesday morning that had shuttered its adult ads section, long a large and profitable online marketplace for youth exploited in the sex trade. No longer would the trafficked teenagers who come to our Covenant House shelters, shattered by repeated rapes and violence, be bought and sold through online ads that Backpage claimed were protected by the First Amendment.

We cheered the hard work of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which issued a report Monday showing that Backpage had heavily edited millions of its ads to scrub out any terms that would indicate that children were being sold for sex — terms like “lolita,” “teenage,” “rape,” “young,” “amber alert,” “little girl,” “teen,” “fresh,” “innocent,” and “school girl.” The children were still sold, of course, but the ads looked legal, and helped keep about $150 million in annual revenue flowing in to the website.

The revelations will make it harder for Backpage to defend any First Amendment rights in court. Noting that several of his peers had also been to law school, Senator Rob Portman, R-OH, chair of the subcommittee, told Backpage’s General Counsel, Elizabeth McDougall, “We don’t remember instructions to cover up a crime being protected speech.” He also asked her if she had been aware of the extensive editing – effectively covering up crimes — when Backpage filed court briefs claiming the website was immune from prosecution under the Communications Decency Act. The act, in part, protects internet service providers from liability for the legality of content that individual posters put online.

She and four executives from Backpage refused to answer any questions at a subcommittee hearing Tuesday, citing their First and Fifth Amendment rights against self-recrimination. And despite the urging of the committee chairs, they walked out of the hearing en masse before three parents of victims testified.

Free speech is crucial to our nation, but does not cover yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And it does not protect someone urging “Rape her!” on a crowded website, or middle school playground. (Yes, it’s rape if the teenager is too young to consent.)

Alas, before the hearings were even completed, we realized Backpage had already simply moved prostitution ads over to its dating site, using terms like “Young” and “Fresh.” As if no one would notice. For all we know, Backpage simply shuttered their adult sites to defuse the hearing, and will reopen for business in a matter of hours.

And Senate investigators found that Backpage owns three other websites that “contain graphic male and female nudity, which Backpage purports not to allow on” Those continued to offer people for sale on Tuesday as well.

Company representatives have vowed to continue to fight for their First Amendment rights to publish content others produce, content they allege is protected by the Communications Decency Act. That will be more difficult now that the committee report has shown the extent of editing the company did on its ads.

As the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a similar case over an internet service provider’s responsibility for the content it publishes:

a website operator who edits in a manner that contributes to the alleged illgality … is directly involved in the alleged illegality and thus not immune.

We do know that the appetite for exploiting young bodies will not disappear when one website goes dark, and that advocates for trafficking survivors will face a game of online Whack-a-Mole, as sex sites proliferate. Backpage has warned that such sites would be far less willing to report violations, as Backpage did, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That non-profit reported that three quarters of the child sex trafficking victims they work with have been sold through

But Backpage’s vaunted cooperation with the Center turns out to be a bit of a sham. Backpage appeared to have a quota of reports of suspicious ads it would send to the Center. According to one email in the subpoenaed documents, from Andrew Padilla, the head of Backpage’s moderation department, to a moderator, “if we don’t want to blow past 500 this month, we shouldn’t be doing more than 16 a day.” Keep in mind that Backpage had habitually deleted the original ads, with the offensive terminology, that appeared to sell children for sex. The originals would clearly have been more useful to law enforcement officers trying to rescue sex trafficking victims.

The Senate subcommittee fought Backpage all the way to the Supreme Court to obtain 1.1 million pages of documents for its report, which reached three shocking conclusions:

  • Backpage has knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its “adult” ads.
  • Backpage knows that it facilitates prostitution and child sex trafficking.
  • Despite the reported sale of Backpage to an undisclosed foreign company in 2014, the true beneficial owners of the company are James Larkin, Michael Lacey, and Carl Ferrer.

That sale appears to be an elaborate $600 million shell game, by its chief executive officer, Mr. Ferrrer, and original owners, Mr. Lacey and Mr. Larkin. Senators said these financial machinations were likely intended to launder funds and maneuver around the decision by major credit card companies to refuse to support financial transactions on Backpage.

Congress’s next steps may include pursuing changes in the Communications Decency Act, which was, after all, written to protect young people from online obscenities. While many internet platforms and public bulletin boards have bona fide reasons to preserve the protections they enjoy from the bill, those need not disappear with carefully drawn amendments.

In heartbreaking testimony about the ordeal her 15-year-old daughter, an honor student, experienced when advertised on, one woman pleaded with the committee:

Please don’t let another innocent child be sold in an online advertisement and let their spirit be crushed. I’ve heard many times that the CDA doesn’t need a rewrite to prevent another tragedy like the one that befell my family. It would take just a few words, carefully crafted, to end online child sex trafficking in our country, so we can honestly and with pride say we live in the land of the free.

And more battles remain, in the courts, where Backpage has usually prevailed. On December 23, California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, now the state’s junior U.S. Senator, brought new charges against Mr. Ferrer, Mr. Lacey, and Mr. Larkin. They were charged with 13 counts of pimping and 26 counts of money laundering, for allegedly creating a variety of corporate entities to get around major credit card companies, which refused to do business with The three were scheduled to be arraigned in Sacramento on Wednesday.

“By creating an online brothel – a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity – Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation,” Ms. Harris said in a written statement last month. “My office will not turn a blind eye to this criminal behavior simply because the defendants are exploiting and pimping victims on the internet rather than on a street corner.”

We hope that without CDA immunity, great strides can be made in protecting young people from online marketplaces. A law that was knocked down Washington State four years ago, which would have made advertising young people for sex a felony, might be viable once again.

It has never made sense that someone could sell a child online without being punished. I hope that justice can finally prevail online, and modern slavery will recede into history, where it belongs.

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© 2017