Google exec calls for digital ‘equality’

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Google’s Eric Schmidt says “worrying legislative efforts” to censor the Web concern him but said technology will ultimately prevent a “digital caste system.”

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Schmidt said the Internet is “like water” — it will find a way to break through — but “we need to act now to avoid the rise of this new digital caste system.”

The Google executive chairman was referring to censorship efforts throughout the Middle East in the last year, from Egypt to Syria and Iran, where access to secure Web sites — including Google services — was cut off this month, PC Magazine reported Wednesday.

But technology, he said, will eventually create a “global community of equals.”

Schmidt warned against burdensome legislation in the United States.

“There’s a tendency of regulators to regulate now as opposed to what will be,” he said. “If you have to regulate, try to regulate the outcome, not the technology.

“If there’s an outcome you don’t like, don’t specify in law a specific technology because the technology moves forward.”

Bringing the Internet to underserved portions of the world was another major theme of his remarks.

“There will still be elites,” he said, but “technology is the leveler [because] everyone is blessed with creativity,” Schmidt said. “I believe this profoundly — in every person there is a company waiting to get out.”

China’s Huawei announces new cellphones

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — The Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei unveiled a series of smartphones at the Mobile World Congress in Spain it said would be priced competitively.

The company said it has set a target of selling 60 million smartphones in 2012, an increase of 40 million units from 2011, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

“We want the best performance in the industry, because our brand is not that famous,” Huawei Chairman Richard Yu said in Barcelona.

Based on a projected increase in sales this year, the company said, it expects to garner between 30 percent and 40 percent of the domestic Chinese market.

In addition to the announced Ascent D line of smartphones, Huawei said, it was preparing to launch a tablet with a high-definition screen and a processor that could match those of rivals by industry giant Apple.

Huawei, with more than 110,000 employees, has its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Excavation of possible emperor’s tomb off

XI’AN, China, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A possible tomb of the last emperor of China’s Qin Dynasty won’t be excavated until studies are conducted for subsequent protection plans, authorities said.

The cultural heritage bureau of Shaanxi province had proposed to excavate the suspected resting place of Ziying, the grandson of Emperor Qinshihuang (259 BC-210 BC), the first person to unify China, but the proposal was rejected by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The tomb, discovered in 2003, lies about 500 yards northwest of the Qinshihuang Mausoleum near the provincial capital of Xi’an — site of the famous Terra Cotta Army — and authorities said they were concerned about new excavation causing damage to the mausoleum.

In an official statement, the state administration said thorough research and evaluations should be conducted in order to develop a proper protection plan.

Historical records show the young emperor Ziying held the title for just 46 days before the empire was overthrown by rebels and he was killed.

His burial site has remained a mystery ever since.

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Microsoft unveiled Windows 8 for public testing Wednesday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, saying it would offer “fast and fluid” computing.

Aimed at winning back some ground lost to Apple and Google in the operating systems arena, Windows 8 is designed to work on tablets as well as PCs and laptops to give users a more consistent experience when switching between devices, CNN reported.

“It’s beautiful, modern, fast and fluid — it’s a generational change in the Windows operating system,” Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky said in launching the consumer preview edition.

Windows 8 seamlessly scales across devices and screen sizes, Sinofsky said.

“There’s too many hard stops between phones and tablets and desktops. We want to make things more harmonious,” he said.

To that end the new operating system uses the “Metro” style of software currently featured on Windows phones, using a tiled startup screen.

Some tech-industry analysts said Windows 8 was unlikely to do that much for Microsoft’s market profile, but moving into the tablet arena was crucial for sustained relevance.

“Microsoft needs to be in the tablet game,” London-based analyst James Governor said. “It couldn’t sit out two or three rounds of tablets without trying to have a more effective play and clearly Windows 8 is a big part of that.”

However, he said, the popularity of Windows 7 suggests there won’t be a huge surge of people wanting the update for desktop and laptop computing.

“I don’t think it’s an explosive ‘Christ, we’ve got to have this new release,'” he said. “There isn’t necessarily a pent-up demand for what Windows 8 represents.”

Fossils of giant 1-inch fleas unearthed

PARIS, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Fossils discovered in China suggest prehistoric fleas up to an inch long may have fed on feathered dinosaurs, an international team of researchers says.

Fossils of several of the blood-sucking insects were unearthed at two sites in China, with females almost an inch long and males about half that size, Britain’s The Independent reported Wednesday.

Although much larger than modern fleas, they lacked the characteristic jumping hind legs, researchers said.

The blood-sucking “siphonate” mouth parts were unusually long and sturdy and would have been used to pierce the hides of their hosts, scientists wrote in the journal Nature.

Modern fleas feed exclusively on animals with fur and feathers, suggesting the prehistoric fleas may have been feeding on feathered dinosaurs rather than mammals, they said.

“The early mammals were small animals, making the large size of these Mesozoic [flea] species and the robustness of their mouth parts seem mismatched,” Andre Nel of the Museum of Natural History in Paris wrote.

“It is … possible that the hosts of these early fleas were among the feathered dinosaurs of the period that became well known from the same [fossil] deposits.”

Greek helmet discovered in Israeli harbor

HAIFA, Israel, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A Greek bronze helmet covered with gold leaf and decorations discovered in the waters of Haifa Bay in Israel has been dated to 2,600 years ago, researchers say.

Archaeologists said the helmet may have belonged to a wealthy Greek mercenary fighting in a series of wars mentioned in the Bible that plagued the region at that time.

The Greek mercenary likely fought for an Egyptian pharaoh named Necho II, they said.

The helmet, discovered accidentally in 2007 during commercial dredging operations in the harbor, has been cleaned and analyzed by researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority, reported Wednesday.

The helmet is very similar to one found near the Italian island of Giglio, about 1,500 miles away, in the 1950s and dated to 2,600 years ago, which helped the researchers arrive at a date for the Haifa Bay helmet.

The owner of the Haifa helmet would have been a very wealthy individual as few soldiers could afford such an ornate helmet, the researchers said.

“The gilding and figural ornaments make this one of the most ornate pieces of early Greek armor discovered,” Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit with the Israel Antiquities Authority, wrote in a research summary.

Wolf tracked through Calif. wilderness

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A wolf being tracked in California has traveled more than 1,000 miles in the state’s wilderness areas in search of a mate and a new home, officials say.

The wolf dubbed Journey, tracked by a radio collar since he wandered south from his original home in northeastern Oregon, is demonstrating the importance of wilderness areas that serve as safe corridors for migrating wildlife, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Scientists have long considered wilderness as worth preserving to create parks and so-called “green corridors” for wildlife, and Journey is proving the corridors actually work, conservation experts said.

“If you look at the map of where Journey has gone, he’s really hit some of the best wild places,” Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition said.

“And many of them are not yet protected, formally, as wilderness. It just really speaks to how important these places are for such an amazing creature and that we should be working to protect them.

“We haven’t had wolves in California for such a long time. This is a unique opportunity to see on the ground what’s important. We don’t have active legislation for these places right now.

“We’re just hoping someone will step up and bring these places into protection.”

Private rocket assembled for space launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb. 29 (UPI) — A private spaceship is close to heading to the International Space Station as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket have been joined, the company says.

The cargo capsule and the launch vehicle have been assembled at Cape Canaveral in Florida, SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk reported in a tweet.

The launch, probably in late April, will be an unmanned mission to test the Dragon capsule’s ability to rendezvous and dock with the space station, reported Tuesday.

The space drone is expected to carry some nonessential “demonstration cargo” that will be transferred to the space station and will be loaded with station cargo for return to Earth.

Following last year’s retirement of NASA’s space shuttles, the main means of ferrying supplies to the orbital outpost has been Russian Progress cargo ships.

If the upcoming SpaceX launch is successful, Dragon would be the first commercial craft to attempt to visit the International Space Station.

Desert greenhouse will mimic nature

DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 29 (UPI) — A $5.3 million desert greenhouse in Qatar will imitate nature to extract salt from seawater and create conditions ripe for plant growth, project planners say.

The Sahara Forest Project, to be built just outside Doha, will work by exploiting the difference in temperature between surface seawater and water taken from hundreds of yards below the sea’s surface.

Both will be pumped to the site using solar power through separate pipes.

The hot desert air will evaporate the surface sea water and the moist air will pass over the plants, creating a comfortable temperature around them. The moisture will condense as it passes pipes through which the cold deep seawater is pumped, creating fresh water, reported Wednesday.

The design is inspired by the way a camel’s nostrils evaporate and condense moisture to keep it cool, and by the way fog-basking beetles can capture water from warm night air in the desert, Sahara Forest Project’s Michael Pawlyn, a biomimicry architect, said.

The saltwater will also be used to grow algae, which will be used in biomass production at the facility set to be built by the end of this year.

Google Privacy Policy Worries EU Officials

BRUSSELS (UPI) — Google’s new privacy policy may violate the European Union’s data protection laws, France’s data regulation body says.

The French regulator, Commission Nationale de L’informatique et Des Libertes, said the policy set to go into effect March 1 as Google unifies 60 different privacy policies across its products fails to meet the needs of the European Data Protection Directive.

EU regulators have been urging a “pause” in the policy’s implementation so they could analyze the changes.

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities regret that Google did not accept to delay the application of this new policy which raises legitimate concerns about the protection of the personal data of European citizens,” The Article 29 Working Party — an advisory body that includes representatives from all EU data protection authorities — said in a statement.

The French regulator said it was “deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and will continue their investigations with Google’s representatives,” the BBC reported Tuesday.


Mozilla Eyes Smartphone OS

BARCELONA, Spain (UPI) — Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox Web browser, says it wants to take on Google and Apple in the smartphone arena with an operating system it thinks is better.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the non-profit organization announced it has created a new smartphone platform called “Boot to Gecko.”

Major European cellphone carrier Telefonica has already said it wants to sell devices using the operating system, CNN reported.

Between them, Google and Apple hold a combined 77 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market, with other operating systems — from BlackBerry and Nokia and even Microsoft — far behind.

Mozilla says what’s different about its platform is that it’s really not a new platform at all: it’s the Web, plain and simple.

“Developers aren’t willing to rewrite all their apps for yet another proprietary system,” Brendan Eich, Mozilla’s chief technology officer, said. “That’s why there won’t be another successful custom operating system after iOS and Android.

“So the next logical step is to make the Web an OS.”

A Web-based OS would offer significant benefits, experts said.

Web apps are platform agnostic, meaning they can run on an iPhone, an Android, a BlackBerry, a Windows Phone, or — now — a Boot to Gecko device.

A user switching phones wouldn’t lose apps, they would travel with the user apps.

And Web apps are attractive to developers, who can write one version of their program and have it work on every device.

“Everything in Boot to Gecko is optimized for the browser,” Todd Simpson, Mozilla’s innovation chief, said.

“Boot to Gecko is the first truly open Web platform,” he said.

U.S. Announces Protection For Owls

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says habitat protection in old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest will benefit the threatened northern spotted owl.

But while making the recommendation, the service is also proposing management standards that could allow logging of owl habitat in forests east of the Cascades, the American Bird Conservancy said Tuesday.

Still, the group said, the federal move is a welcome one in the battle to save the owls and their habitat.

“The increase in the amount of old-growth forest designated as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl is a triumph of sound science,” Steve Holmer, the conservancy’s senior policy adviser, said.

“Protecting the owl’s old-growth forest habitat will also help communities and the nation by preserving a world-class tourism destination, a sustainable recreation economy, and a source of clean drinking water for millions of people.”

But the decision on logging is a concern, he said.

“On the other hand, the service’s plan to weaken forest protections east of the Cascade Mountains could open the door to extensive logging in owl habitat before we know whether it is beneficial,” he said.

“We’d like to see research on small-scale thinning projects before the whole landscape is subjected to these treatments.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service said a draft critical habitat designation is now open for public comment.


Radon In U.S. Classrooms A Concern

NEW YORK (UPI) — Radioactive radon gas, a known carcinogenic, is in thousands of U.S. classrooms but many districts are doing nothing about it, NBC’s “Today” show reported.

Radon, released in the breakdown of soil and rock, can seep into buildings and the air we breathe and with chronic exposure can be deadly, experts said.

At one school in Pennsylvania, tests showed nearly double the EPA’s accepted limit for radon gas, “Today” reported Wednesday.

Radon exposure has been linked to more than 20,000 deaths every year, the second leading cause of cancer after smoking, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

“Of all the environmental exposures you get, this is the one that causes the most deaths,” said R. William Field of the University of Iowa, a leading expert on radon.

“If a student’s exposed, even at the EPA’s action level, 4 picocuries per liter, that’s equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day,” he said.

Most U.S. schools don’t test because districts can’t afford it, experts say, even though the EPA estimates that more than 70,000 classrooms nationwide are at risk.

Only five states require radon testing and there’s no federal law mandating it, “Today” reported.

T. Rex Said To Have Strongest Bite Ever

LIVERPOOL, England (UPI) — Tyrannosaurus rex had the most powerful bite of any creature that ever walked the Earth, say British scientists who studied the dinosaur’s skull structure.

While some scientists had believed the bite of the prehistoric predator was much more modest, close to modern predators such as alligators, the new research revealed its biting pressure was around three tons.

“That’s equivalent to a medium-sized elephant sitting on you,” researcher Karl Bates from the University of Liverpool told the BBC.

The researchers made a digital scan of a life-sized copy of a T. rex skeleton exhibited at Manchester Museum to create a 3D computer model of the skull.

“Then we could map the muscles onto that skull,” Bates said.

The researchers reproduced the full force of a bite by activating the muscles to contract fully and snap the digital jaws shut.

The biting power of an adult T. rex suggests it could have punctured the tough hide of another dinosaur, they said.

The findings have been published in the journal Biology Letters.

Diet Soda May Up Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

MIAMI (UPI) — People who drink diet soft drinks daily might have increased risk of vascular events such as stroke, heart attack and vascular death, U.S. researchers said.

Study leader Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University at Miami, and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said artificially sweetened soft drinks are marketed as healthier alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages, but their long-term health consequences remain unclear, she said.

Gardener and her team examined the relationship between both diet and regular soft drink among 2,564 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study, designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban population.

After taking into account pre-existing vascular conditions, including body mass index, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, the researchers found individuals who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 percent more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who didn’t drink any.

In addition, those who drank diet soft drinks irregularly — between one a month and six a week — and those who chose regular soft drinks were not more likely to suffer vascular events.

“Our results suggest a potential association between daily diet soft drink consumption and vascular outcomes,” Gardener said in a statement. “However, the mechanisms by which soft drinks may affect vascular events are unclear. There is a need for further research before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the potential health consequences of diet soft drink consumption.”


Heat-Related Football Deaths Tripled

ATHENS, Ga. (UPI) — Heat-related deaths among U.S. high-school and college football players tripled to three per year from 1994 to 2009, researchers said.

Climatologist Andrew Grundstein, associate professor of geography in the University of Georgia, and colleagues built a detailed database that included the temperature, humidity and time of day, as well as the height, weight and position for 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, or hyperthermia.

The study, published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, found that for the eastern United States where most deaths occurred, morning heat index values were consistently higher in the latter half of the 30-year study period. Overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with six fatalities.

“In general, on days the deaths occurred, the temperature was hotter and the air more humid than normal local conditions,” Grundstein said in a statement.

More than half of the players fell ill on days when practice ended before noon and the majority of the deaths occurred in August, when most high school and college football coaches ramp up preseason training.

The American College of Sports Medicine provides guidelines for the intensity of all sports practices based on a measurement called the wet bulb globe temperature and the heat index, but neither accounts for the protective pads and helmets football players wear during practice or the fact that football players are much larger today, Grundstein said.

Eating Fatty Fish Helps Keep Brain Young

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — A diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids may cause the brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking capabilities, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Zaldy S. Tan, a member of the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the study involved 1,575 dementia-free study subjects — average age 67 — who underwent brain scans and were given tests measuring mental function, body mass and omega-3 fatty acid levels in their red blood cells.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found people with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids — found in fatty fish such as sardines or salmon — have lower brain volumes, equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging.

Omega-3 fatty acids include the nutrients docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Researchers found that those whose DHA levels were in the bottom 25 percent had lower brain volumes than those with higher DHA levels.

In addition, those whose levels of all omega-3 fatty acids were in the bottom 25 percent scored lower on tests of visual memory and executive function, including problem-solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking, the study said.

AHA: Almonds Good For Heart

MODESTO, Calif. (UPI) — The American Heart Association certified almonds with its Heart-Check mark to signify to U.S. consumers they are a heart-healthy food, a trade group said.

“Nutrition research has long supported the heart health benefits of almonds,” Jenny Heap of the Almond Board of California said in a statement. “Now consumers will be able to more easily identify almonds in the supermarket as a heart-smart food, helping take the guess work out of shopping.”

Two decades of almond research was recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showing that the nut’s nutrient profile supports healthy heart functions, Heap said.

“Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease,” the FDA said. “One serving of almonds (28 grams) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat.”

In each one-ounce serving, or about a handful, almonds provide 6 grams of protein, 13 grams of good unsaturated fat, only 1 gram of saturated fat, are naturally cholesterol-free, and contain fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin all of which contribute to a healthy heart.

Most Don’t Know Infants Need Eye Exam

ST. LOUIS (UPI) — Most U.S. adults are unaware 10 percent of infants has an undetected vision problem, if left untreated, could lead to vision problems, optometrists said.

Only 18 percent of parents who participated in the American Optometric Association’s American Eye-Q survey reported taking their infant to an eye doctor for a comprehensive assessment before the child’s first birthday, as recommended.

Dr. Glen Steele, optometrist and chairman of the InfantSEE committee, said an infant’s visual development is critical between six and 12 months of age.

InfantSEE is a year-round public health program developed by Optometry Cares — The American Optometric Association Foundation, Vistakon, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. — designed to provide professional eye care for infants nationwide at no-cost, regardless of family income, insurance or number of eligible children, Steele said.

“It’s difficult to notice vision problems in infants without a thorough, comprehensive eye exam,” Steele said in a statement. “Even if a child is hitting all his or her developmental milestones and not showing any signs of problems, there could still be issues with the child’s vision. Identifying problems and beginning treatment as early as possible is key.”

The survey indicated most parents were aware that lazy eye and crossed eyes could be detected in infants but less than one-third were aware that cancer, farsightedness and nearsightedness could also be detected during an infant exam.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. parents was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates from May 19-23. The margin of error was at the 95 percent confidence level.

Trump To Purchase Doral Golf Resort

MIAMI, Feb. 28 (UPI) — Developer Donald Trump said his company would purchase the Doral golf resort in Miami out of bankruptcy for $150 million.

The purchase will include the 692-room hotel that will be the largest in Trump’s impressive portfolio of properties, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

Trump said he would put an additional $150 million into property renovations.

“When Doral first opened, it was considered the best resort in the world. The combination of the property’s incredible location in the heart of Miami and our very significant investment in upgrading the resort will enable us to return Doral to its former glory if not surpass it,” Trump’s company said in a statement.

The purchase includes the hotel and four golf courses. The fifth course connected to the property designed by golfer Greg Norman will be kept by the Paulson & Co. hedge fund that currently owns the Doral.

The Doral is annual a stop on the professional golf tour, hosting the Cadillac World Golf Championship which takes place next week.

Trump is expected to attend this year, the Herald said.

Rising Costs Imperil U.S.-Japan Jet Deal

TOKYO (UPI) — Japan might reconsider the deal if the price of Tokyo’s proposed purchase of U.S.-made F-35 Lightning II stealth jet fighters rise or delivery is delayed.

“If the U.S. side makes an unrealistic proposal, we will cancel the purchase or consider (purchasing) other types of aircraft,” Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told the Kyodo News Agency.

After considering competing aircraft — Boeing’s FA-18E/F Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon — that have already been deployed in combat, Japan opted to purchase 42 F-35 Lightning II jets, built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, at a cost of $123 million apiece.

The first four aircraft were to be delivered by March 2016.

Delays and cost overruns have plagued the program and earlier this month Japan’s Defense Ministry informed the Pentagon about the possibility of canceling the order over concerns that it might not meet the cost.

Other countries proposing to buy the F-35 Lightning II, which is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter Program, include Canada, Britain, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Turkey and Australia.

GDP Estimate Up To 3 Percent For Quarter

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Commerce Department revised the fourth quarter gross domestic output estimate from 2.8 percent to 3 percent in a report issued Wednesday.

The figure shows a further jump from the 1.8 percent growth of the third quarter.

Economists had not expected an upward revision from the previous report in Wednesday’s release, which is the second of three estimates on the country’s economic output.

In contrast, the GDP declined 0.25 percent in Germany in the fourth quarter and 0.2 percent in Britain.

Growth in the fourth-quarter reflected growth in private inventory investment and consumer spending. Exports also contributed to growth, as did non-residential fixed investment and residential fixed investment.

The department said computer sales added 0.12 percentage points to the GDP while automobile sales added 0.43 percentage points.


ECB Puts $713 Billion Into Circulation

FRANKFURT, Germany (UPI) — The European Central Bank said its emergency liquidity program loaned $713 billion to 800 banks, numbers that exceeded the banks’ December loan bonanza.

In December, 523 banks participated in a low-interest loan program that put $655 billion into circulation, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The latest round of borrowing involved collateral-backed loans at 1 percent interest with no limit set for the amount borrowed.

The terms also included extending the normal one-year duration to three years, a move intended to give banks and investors confidence the liquidity in the financial system will not evaporate soon.

The bank has not said whether a third round of lending would be made available. The latest program was offered, in part, to offset a tighter capital market that is expected due to the $170 billion bailout of Greece.