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Apple’s CEO Cook Given pay cut as sales slump

Apple has just experienced its first sales drop in 15 years after the sales of iPhone took a downward trend. This, in turn, has led to the company’s CEO Tim Cook being handed a 15 percent pay cut.

The Company said that the sales of iPhones had gone down and revenues had dropped, citing that as the reason the company was forced to cut Cooks pay along with all its top executives. But looking at the figures, Cook will not have a reason to complain as he has still done extremely well.

The compensation package went from $10.3 million for the past year to $8.7 million for the fiscal year that ended in September.

According to the latest figures from the company, sales decreased by 8 percent to $216 billion, while the operating profit decreased by 16 percent to $60 Billion. The iPhone was responsible for the decline in all their products.

It was also the first time since 2001 that annual revenue dropped since Steve Jobs launched the musical player iPod. This then produced the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone changed the way we look at phones, and despite its high price and competition from other brands, it became a very sort of status symbol, defying all the odds.

Apple had anticipated a sales drop, but not a steep one like the one that occurred. There is still hope that sales could have rebounded over the holiday season, but we will find that out when the quarterly results, that include the festive season will be released in towards the end of this month.

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Google sues Uber over ‘stolen’ driverless car tech

Driverless cars: Google’s Waymo accuses Uber of stealing self-driving “secret recipe.”

For the movie buffs, autonomous cars have featured in films for years such as Demolition man, I and Minority Report. The cars are now becoming a reality thanks to great minds that have been hard at work to make what was science fiction, a real new technology.

Google has not been left behind and is in the final stages of testing its autonomous car program. Tesla driver’s on the other hand, are already enjoying an ‘autopilot’ feature in their cars that allows drivers to sit back on highways and let the car drive on its own. In Pittsburgh, customers can now hail a driverless Uber to take them wherever they want to go.

Google’s autonomous car maker Waymo, has sued Uber accusing the cab company of stealing 14,000 files with the intention of copying its sensing technology.

Waymo says Uber in conjunction with Otto, a company Uber bought last year, had stolen plans for Waymo’s Lidar, which is a laser-based sensing technology. The complaint which was filed in California, alleges that Otto’s Lidar technology is actually Waymo’s Lidar technology. Although the technology is not new, Waymo claims that its technology comes at a tenth of the price.

Waymo went on to say that its company’s engineers worked on the technology for seven years while Otto managed the same technology in nine months.

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Scientists create a self-healing material in robotics

Since Christoph Keplinger, a University of Colorado Professor and researcher did a study on how robots can be made by stretchable, see through and more conductive material, and also how they can be able to self-repair, not much has been achieved in that field until recently.

Chao Wang, a University of California, Riverside Professor, has added a more interesting aspect to Prof. Christoph’s research by adding a self-healing material to robots.

Wang and his research team incorporated stretchable, transparent, and ionic conductors that can power a robot’s artificial limb, with a high-ionic-strength salt containing positive and negative charged molecules. This last edition is the property that will enable robots to be able to self-heal and repair themselves in the event of damage.

Prof. Keplinger lauded the new step forward in robotics. “Imagine a new class of robots that are based on soft, elastic materials, being powered by stretchable electronic circuits and thus much more closely resemble the elegant design of biology. This is the type of robot that will help us out in the household or assist us in care for elderly people.”

The resulting material can stretch to 50 times its original size, restore electrical properties almost immediately, withstand electro-chemical properties and heal within 24 hours. This provides the robot with many unique features that previous research had not yielded until now. The materials primary purpose will be to power artificial muscles in soft robots which are prone to damage and not easy to repair.



Progress on the road to a cure for HIV

British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline announced last week that it will retain its HIV drugs division, and will collaborate with American scientists in its efforts to develop a cure for AIDS. Until recently, the scientific community was unsure of the possibility of curing the immune system disease caused by the HIV virus, which affects over 35 million people worldwide.

After a 30-year struggle to keep the HIV virus under control with life-long antiretroviral drugs, scientists are growing optimistic that a cure might actually be possible.

The British company is tapping into the latest research by creating an “HIV cure center” in partnership with the University of North Carolina, and will establish a new jointly owned company to develop new pharmaceutical treatments for the virus.

There are currently five different classes of HIV drugs available. HIV treatments go by many different names, including “the Cocktail,” antiretrovirals (ARVs), and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART, or ART). Each class attacks the HIV virus at various stages in its life cycle. Treatment regimens generally consist of three different antiretroviral drugs from two different classes. It is important to follow this regimen, because there is no single drug that can cure the virus. Up to three different drugs must be taken together to control the amount of the virus present in the body, and to protect the immune system.

Varying up drugs also decreases the chances that the virus will develop resistance to treatments. Drug-resistant genes become dominant as the virus cells carrying it reproduce, eventually rendering treatments ineffective.

Clinical trials are research studies using human volunteers, and they are essential to research efforts searching for new HIV therapies. The new research facility would have the ability to conduct large, controlled studies on new and developing HIV medications.

The company said it would invest $20 million to help fun the work for the first five years, and will lead research on various cure options. These options include a “shock-and-kill” strategy, which sniffs out dormant HIV cells hiding within white blood cells. The immune system destroys the virus once it’s been detected. While the science behind the treatment seems promising, it will likely be years before any viable treatment is available on a large enough scale to adequately address the global public health crisis caused by AIDS and HIV.

According t0 GSK, the next five to ten years should lead to further knowledge of the various mechanisms that could contribute to a cure. GSK hoped to be able to bring these mechanisms together to and roll out a treatment option within the next ten to twenty years.

There was one 2007 patient in Berlin, Timothy Brown, whose HIV was completely eradicated after receiving a complex treatment for leukemia. The treatment involved a stem cell transplant from a donor with a genetic mutation that resists HIV infection. Though the treatment was successful in ridding the patient of the virus, scientists don’t see an easy way to provide this kind of treatment on the global scale that is necessary.

Researchers are hoping that they can piggy-back on the success of recent breakthroughs in immune system enhancing drugs that are being used to treat cancer.


Climate change responsible for rising seas, new study confirms

Polar ice caps are melting at an increasing rate, which is exacerbating sea level rise in coastal regions at an alarming rate, according to the Washington Post. A new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change showed that the rate of sea-level-rise appears to have accelerated across a recent 15 year period, corresponding to a rapid retreat of large ice masses, notably in Greenland and West Antarctica.

The study’s findings contradict other recent reports that say the rate of sea-level rise has decelerated in the past few years.

Australian climate scientists noticed the increase in sea-level rise by analyzing decades-worth of data from tidal monitors around the world paired with satellite data that showed changes in water levels as well as in the shape of coastal land formations.

Using these measurements, the team was able to refine past data on sea-level rise, reporting that data from the 1990s had been slightly overstated, whereas data on the rate of increase since 1999 had been underestimated. According to Christopher Watson from the University of Tasmania, who co-authored the study, the adjusted figures found by the study showed oceans rising at an average rate of between 2.6 and 2.9 millimeters each year – about one tenth of an inch.

The rate is consistent with the warnings given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ scientific body regarded around the world as the top accepted authority on climate change.

According to Watson, the acceleration rate found by the study is consistent especially given the increasing contributions from the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which have both lost a significant amount of seasonal and permanent ice cover over the past decade.

The study noted that sea levels experience natural fluctuation as water cycles between the land and the sea. Because of this, the high rate of sea-level rise described by the study is too small to carry statistical significance. While the ocean won’t be swallowing up any cities in the very-near term, the rate at which the ocean rises was found to be nearly twice the rate at which it rose over the entire last century.

The IPCC projects that at this rate, the average global sea level could rise by about three feet by the end of the century, which is not great news for many major coastal cities. Watson urges agencies all over the world to fully consider the impacts of a rising sea level and plan accordingly.


Doctors struggle to contain drug-resistant typhoid 'superbug'

Driven by a single family of bacteria, “H58,” a new antibiotic-resistant strain of typhoid fever has spread across the globe. A large internaional study, involving 74 scientists from almost two dozen countries, has identified the new “superbug” strain using one of the most comprehensive sets of genetic data on an infectious pathogen, and worries that the disease could pose an “ever-increasing public health threat.”

Typhoid typically is spread through contaminated food and water, and causes symptoms of nausea, fever, abdominal pain, and pink marks on the chest. The disease is fatal to nearly 20 percent of patients, and can lead to serious complications in the head and gut if left untreated.

Vaccines are available to increase resistance to typhoid infection, but are often too expensive for poor and developing countries to use on a wide scale. Regular strains of the infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Medical professionals are alarmed at the rate at which H58 has proliferated, and have found it to be resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. The superbug strain of typhoid is now the dominant form of the disease, and doctors aren’t quite sure how to respond.

Vanessa Wong of Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a member of the international team that conducted the study, stated that typhoid affects over 30 million people eaach year. She stressed the importance of robust and detailed global surveillance efforts in trying to contain the ongoing eidemic.

The study sequenced the genomes of 1,832 samples of Salmonella Typhi bacteria, collected from 63 countries between 1992 and 2013. 47 percent of the samples originated from the H58 strain of the bacteria.

According to the study, H58 emerged from South Asia about 25 to 30 years ago. From there, it spread to Southeast Asia, Western Asia, East and South Africa, and Fiji. Recent reports of H58 transmission in certain countries in Africa suggest that the disease is spreading at an alarming rate, what some might even consider an epidemic.

According to Kathryn Holt of the University of Melbourne, the drug-resistant genes found in the H58 strain of typhoid are have become a more stable part of the bacteria’s genome since the 1970s. She thinks the resistance to antibiotic treatments is here to stay.

Resistance to common antibiotic treatments such as ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and streptomycin is increasing at an alarming rate. Multidrug-resistant typhoid has become much more prevalent over the last twenty years, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Doctors are scrambling to find an alternative to the widely-used ciprofloxacin, as it is continually becoming less effective at treating the infection.

Typhoid fever, an infection caused by the Salmonella Typhi bacteria growing in the intestines and the blood, begins with a high fever that rises over the course of a few days. Later symptoms include weakness, abdominal pain, constipation, and headaches. In certain cases, a skin rash develops around the neck and chest with rose-colored spots. Some people don’t suffer from symptoms, but may still be carrying the bacteria.

In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to treat typhoid fever. The bacteria can lead to intestinal perforation, and surgeons may need to close the holes left behind by the bacteria. If further antibiotic treatment fails to eliminate the infection in the gut a cholecystectomy is performed, though there is no guarantee that this will kill off the infection for good.

Without treatment, typhoid symptoms can last for months. It is spread by eating food or drinking water that have been contaminated by the feces of another person infected with the disease. The risk of contracting typhoid is significantly increased by poor sanitation and poor hygiene. Cases are largely concentrated in the developing world.

There are vaccines that can prevent up to 70% of typhoid infections for up to seven years, but access in developing countries is dangerously limited. 27 million cases were reported in 2010, with the highest concentration in India. The United States reports roughly 400 cases each year, though medical researchers estimate that up to 6,000 people are actually infected each year.

Without treatment, up to 25 percent of infected people will die from the fever, whereas the survival rate with treatment is about one to four percent.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the widespread chlorination of drinking water supplies has resulted in dramatic drops in typhoid transmission in the U.S. The presence of fecal bacteria in water and on food that has come in contact with with that water is the primary cause of typhoid infection, which only affects humans.

Typhoid cases were reported as far back as 430 B.C., in a plague that killed nearly one-third of the population of Athens. A 2006 study of DNA extracted from dental pulp found in a burial pit dated to the time of the outbreak stated that typhoid fever was a probable suspect in the Plague of Athens.

The study was published in Nature Genetics this Monday.




Elizabeth Wilson, "The Graduate" star, net worth at time of death

Elizabeth Wilson, who starred as Dustin Hoffman’s mother in the classic film “The Graduate, ” and as Roz in “9 to 5, ” died this past Saturday at Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to a spokeswoman for the family. The 94-year-old actress’s net worth when she passed is currently under review, though she did enjoy a  wildly successful career in film and on stage. “The Graduate,” for example, has grossed over $104 million since its 1967 release.

Wilson had roles in nearly 30 films, including “Catch-22” and “Regarding Henry.” She also played Archie Bunker’s cousin on “All in the Family.”

Elizabeth Wilson won a Tony Award for her role in the 1972 film “Sticks and Bones.” She debuted on Broadway in the 1953 play “Picnic,” and appeared in the 1973 Broadway revival of the classic play “Uncle Vanya.” Wilson lived a humble life, and told the Hartford Courant last year that she had no desire to be a star. The actress said she wanted to play characters of all different types, expressing a desire to work on a diverse range of roles. She was a self-described “undercover actress.”

The actress was born on April 4, 1921 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and lived in Connecticut since 1988. She is survived by her younger sister Mary Muir Wilson, with whom she lived, in addition to several nieces and nephews. A memorial service celebrating the life of the late Elizabeth Wilson will take place later this summer.


George Zimmerman sustains gunshot wound in Orlando

George Zimmerman, the community security official who shot and killed unarmed youth Trayvon Martin in 2012, was injured in a shooting in Lake Mary, Fl on Monday afternoon, according to Police Chief Steve Bracknell. 

The shooting involved Zimmerman and another individual, and happened on the crowded Lake Mary Boulevard at about 12:45 pm. Officers at the scene reported that Zimmerman sustained a minor gunshot wound, and was able to walk into the ambulance where he received medical attention. A video from a news helicopter showed a bullet hole in the passenger window of Zimmerman’s vehicle.

The Police Chief said that the shooting was potentially related to an ongoing dispute between Zimmerman and another individual. Zimmerman was accused of assaulting his girlfriend this past January, though no charges were filed following the alleged incident. Zimmerman was also arrested in November of 2013, after his girlfriend called police and alleged a domestic violence dispute. Zimmerman’s girlfriend later recanted her story and declined to file charges.

Zimmerman became a national figure when he was accused and later acquitted in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman shot the 17-year-old boy after an alleged altercation took place between the two. Zimmerman was working as the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily living.

The case spurred nationwide protests, drawing scrutiny from national groups surrounding Florida’s controversial “Stand your Ground” statue. The law allows anyone who perceives a threat to their personal safety to defend himself using lethal force. In other words, if someone has what Florida considers to be a legitimate reason for the use of lethal force, they are protected from prosecution under the law.

Zimmerman was shot through a car window, and none of his injuries were life-threatening. Additional details on the incident are not available at this time, though it seems Zimmerman will walk away with his life following the shooting.


What do these new alien photos reveal about Roswell UFO crash?

The crash at a Roswell, New Mexico Air Force base in 1947 is revered by UFO hunters and paranormal experts as one of the most intriguing footnotes in on-going quest to confirm the existence of extraterrestrials. Two photos released this week shed new light on the infamous crash, said to show the preserved remains of a creature that is not of this world. According to Discovery, the photos were examined and determined by experts to be printed on Kodachrome color slide, dating back to the 1940s.

Though the film was linked to the right time-period, to date nobody has been able to officially say what exactly the photos depict. What appears to be a tiny space man lying on a table in a medical examination room has UFO enthusiasts and paranormal investigators whipped up into a frenzy. At a recent UFO conference in Mexico City, attendees had to pay $350 to view the photos in a special closed-off area.

The Discovery Channel suggests that the photos in question likely depict what is a mummified human baby. Previous shots of the 1947 crash scene investigation, which have been publicly available for quite some time, show a figure with a large, oblique head, tiny eyes and ears, and long, slender appendages emanating from a short, stumpy torso. While many enthusiasts are quick to believe that the corpse is extraterrestrial, the burden of proof lies on their side of the line.

The photos were found by former journalist Adam Dew in Arizona, hidden among of a collection of pictures owned by oil geologist Bernard Ray and his wife Hilda, who are both now deceased. The figure in the images appears in a display case in an undisclosed location, and though there appears to be a sign in the photo next to the case describing the subject, the blurry quality prevents investigators from reading the text.

The figure has confused many people due to its alien appearance. The large head and small facial features conjure pop-culture depictions of extraterrestrials, and the body’s battered condition suggests that there may have been some sort of crash or collision prior to the photo being taken.

One explanation, however, suggests that the figure in the photo spent its entire existence right here on earth. Cranial deformation, or the forced molding of a child’s skull while it is still soft and malleable, is a widely known practice among indigenous populations in the Americas. Bodies with deformed skulls have been unearthed by archaeologists for years, and people have mistaken them for aliens for just as long. In 2012, archaeologists in Mexico came across a burial ground containing twenty-five skeletons. More than half of these bodies showed evidence of intentional skull deformation.

Most people are unfamiliar with common mummification processes, which are used to preserve bodies after death in many cultures. In popular culture, mummies are characterized by their head-to-toe bandage suit, and are often possessed by some supernatural force that animates the lifeless bodies.
Babies’ heads are typically dis-proportionally large compared with the rest of their bodies, lending to the non-human appearance of the body in the photos. It is easy to see how many might mistake the bizarre-looking mummified youngster as something from another world. Popular culture is largely responsible for the confusion surrounding the photos, having depicted the slender, big-headed aliens in film, television, and print for decades.

Roswell is one of the most famous reports of extraterrestrial activity, with many independent investigators claiming the U.S. Military covered up what actually happened at the New Mexico Air Force base in the 1940’s. After years of investigation, officials released a statement saying that the debris recovered from the site at the 1947 incident were materials from a weather balloon that had crashed.

Due to the photos’ proximity in time and location to the infamous crash site, investigators were quick to establish a link. Their smoking gun may prove to be cooler than they thought, however, as experts in the fields of archaeology and cultural anthropology offer their insights toward the photos. While we still may never know what actually happened in Roswell in 1947, it is safe to assume that these new “alien” photos are little more than a mummified human child.


MIT's new autonomous underwater robots

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scientists have been developing algorithms that would allow research robots to plan underwater missions autonomously. Data collected by these robots could be used to track the health of fisheries, survey marine habitats and study underwater species. The new robots would be programmed to execute simple tasks with less human input.

The most time-consuming part of deploying autonomous underwater vehicles is writing scripts containing the low-level commands that tell the robot exactly what to do. A new programming approach developed by engineers at MIT gives robots more “cognitive” capabilities, bridging the gap between complex research goals and tedious programming for simple functions.

An engineer, for example, may give a robot a list of locations to explore, time constraints, as well as physical instructions for how to operate on a research mission. Under the new programming scheme, the robot would be able to decide the best way to explore the specified locations within a given time frame. The robot would have the ability to make decisions in real time to address environmental changes, including deciding to drop a specific task that’s become particularly difficult and moving down the list to the next one.

This past March, the MIT team tested their autonomous mission-planning system during a research cruise off the coast of Australia. Throughout the course of the mission, the team tested several classes of autonomous underwater vehicles and their ability to cooperatively map the ocean environment.

The team was able to demonstrate that their robot could operate safely among a number of other AUVs, while simultaneously performing high-level tasks. The underwater glider adapted its mission by avoiding collision with other vehicles, but still completed the majority of the tasks it was given.

Advanced autonomous underwater vehicles would allow engineers to develop new research strategies, in addition to granting access to hard-to-reach locales deep beneath the ocean’s surface. The technology also has applications in the space, defense, and airline industries.