Annual Bird Count Has Some Surprises

ITHACA, N.Y. (UPI) — Bird watchers taking part in an annual bird count have recorded the most unusual winter for birds in the count’s 15-year history, U.S. researchers said.

Participants in Cornell University’s Great Backyard Bird Count reported 623 species during Feb. 17–20, including an influx of Snowy Owls from the arctic, early migrating Sandhill Cranes, and Belted Kingfishers in northern areas that might normally be frozen over, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reported Thursday.

The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell lab and the National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

“The maps on the GBBC Web site this year are absolutely stunning,” John Fitzpatrick, the lab’s executive director, said. “Every bird species has a captivating story to tell, and we’re certainly seeing many of them in larger numbers farther north than usual, no doubt because of this winter’s record-breaking mild conditions.”

Some arctic species moved farther south than usual, researchers said, as count participants recorded Snowy Owl sightings in record-breaking numbers throughout the Great Plains and Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canadian bird watchers recorded four times as many owls as last year.

Bird experts say they believe Snowy Owls move south from their usual arctic habitats in years when prey, such as lemmings, are scarce.

“Citizen scientists are helping us document changes to birds, starting in our own backyards, which is also where the solution begins,” Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham said. “My preschool-age daughter came out with me to count birds in the yard and around the neighborhood — we’re still talking about the experience weeks later.”

Report: France Gunman On U.S. No-Fly List

TOULOUSE, France (UPI) — The gunman who died Thursday when cornered by French police was on the radar of U.S. authorities as well, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Mohammed Merah, 24, was on the U.S. no-fly list because he had been in custody in Afghanistan in 2010 before being sent back to France, sources familiar with the case told the newspaper.

The circumstances of Merah’s detention in Afghanistan were not clear, and the Journal said U.S. officials said there was no record of him ever being in the custody of the American military.

Merah was also named as a member of a group called Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Glory, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said. The French government banned the group in January for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan.

Merah’s career in terrorism came to an end Thursday when he was fatally shot while jumping out of a window in an apartment house in Toulouse by a police tactical team. Police had surrounded the building for more than 30 hours.

Merah reportedly admitted he had carried out the drive-by shootings in southern France that left seven people dead. The victims included three French soldiers gunned down last week and four people, including three children, killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse Monday.

The Los Angeles Times said Merah made video recordings of last week’s shootings, which were in the hands of police. Toulouse prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters Merah said to one paratrooper “You kill my brothers; I kill you” as he opened fire.

Investigators Thursday were looking into any potential accomplices Merah may have had. The Journal said the gunman’s older brother and mother were in custody, but prosecutors did not say why.

Web Details Of Abortions Pulled From Bill

NASHVILLE (UPI) — A provision of a bill in Tennessee’s Legislature calling for details of abortions to be listed on a state Web site has been withdrawn, its sponsor said.

Rep. Matthew Hill told members of the Legislative Health and Human Service Committee Wednesday that he is rewriting the bill, HB3808, deleting the section that requires doctors to post information on the Department of Health Web site about any abortions performed in the state, and concentrating on a requirement that doctors obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals.

The bill has received national attention and comment, and Hill said he has received death threats, the (Nashville) Tennessean reported Thursday.

Jeff Teague, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said Hill should contact law enforcement authorities if threatened, as his organization does.

“It’s exactly what happens when we have threats against the safety and security of our staff, physicians and clients,” Teague said.

The issue of admitting privileges is meant to ensure that doctors can easily admit patients who experience complications after abortions, Hill said.

 

 

John Edwards Denies Ties To NYC Madam

NEW YORK (UPI) — Attorneys for former presidential candidate John Edwards denied a report that he was a client of the “Millionaire Madam” prostitution ring in New York.

The Web site DNAinfo.com reported this week that a reputed call girl told investigators that she had sex with the former North Carolina senator in 2007 while he was in New York raising money for his presidential campaign.

Edwards said through his attorney’s Thursday that the woman’s allegations were untrue.

Sources told DNAinfo.com the woman told her story in 2008 to investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who were looking into the alleged prostitution ring run by Anna Gristina.

Edwards is awaiting trial in North Carolina on charges he used campaign contributions for personal expenses, including covering up an affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, whom he coincidentally met at a Manhattan hotel where he stayed frequently during the same period he was allegedly patronizing Gristina’s alleged sex ring, DNAinfo.com said.

 

White House: 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2013

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, March 22 (UPI) — A White House spokesman said Thursday the United States will have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan next year after surge forces withdraw.

Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke to reporters on Air Force One covering President Obama’s trip to Columbus, Ohio.

Asked about the testimony of Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, before a Senate panel, Carney confirmed the general’s figure.

“What General Allen was referring to is that 68,000 troops which will remain after the withdrawal of the surge forces is a good number going into the period of the post-surge-withdrawal period,” Carney said. “But the president’s position has not changed, and that position is that we will steadily draw down U.S. troops as we continue to transition security lead to Afghan security forces as they continue to be trained and their numbers increase.”

Allen testified Afghan security forces are “better we thought they would be” and could lead to a further reduction in U.S. troops.

“If part of the outcome of my evaluation is that there is a reduced requirement for U.S. or ISAF combat power, I’ll make that part of my recommendation,” Allen testified.

Carney said the president is still “focused on implementing a strategy that has as its core objective the goal of disrupting and dismantling and ultimately defeating al-Qaida.”

He added there will be a full transition to Afghan troops by the end 2014, but the announcement of any more troop withdrawals will come only after surge troops are withdrawn.

Senator Lugar To Pay Back Indy Hotel Expenses

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said he would reimburse the federal government about $4,500 in hotel expenses he rang up in recent years.

The funds had been used to pay for stays in Indianapolis in recent years and were mistakenly paid through his Senate office account due to staff errors, he told Politico.

“I was unaware of routine staff work over the course of several years where we may have made mistakes,” Lugar said. “I’m sorry that I was not more observant.”

Politico said Thursday the oversight could have repercussions for Lugar in areas other than his checkbook. Lugar has withstood repeated criticism from political opponents who contend his long tenure in the Senate has nullified his Indiana residency.

Senate rules require members to have a “duty station” in their home states where they live when the Senate is not in session. Senators are not allowed to use office funds to pay for hotel stays during those periods.

The duty station rules come into play for Lugar, Politico said, because he does not own a home back in Indiana even though he lists a place he sold in 1977 as his Hoosier home address.

Lugar’s camp has brushed off complaints about his residency and recently ran a campaign ad calling the complaints “Mickey Mouse.”

Your TV Soon May Be Watching You

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” the time protagonist Winston Smith spends inside of his home mostly is taken up either hiding from the all-seeing screen that hangs upon his wall or taking direct orders from it.

Orwell writes, “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide…”

While it may not be a tool of a totalitarian regime (yet), a new breed of televisions is raising concerns of an Orwellian future among privacy advocates. According to the Daily Mail, new products from Samsung, including plasma and HDTVs, are closer than ever to personal computers meant to sit in your living room and include built-in HD cameras, microphones and face- and speech-recognition software.

Critics say the new television technology opens homes of unsuspecting people up to hackers and possibly companies seeking information for marketing purposes, and there is no way to disable the cameras and microphones to ensure privacy.

Gary Merson, who runs a website called HD guru, said: “What concerns us is the integration of both an active camera and microphone. A Samsung representative tells us you can deactivate the voice feature; however this is done via software, not a hard switch like the one you use to turn a room light on or off. And unlike other TVs, which have cameras and microphones as add-on accessories connected by a single, easily removable USB cable, you can’t just unplug these sensors.”

No Food For The Homeless

New York City’s nanny Mayor Michael Bloomberg has again issued a regulation in his city that many New Yorkers find ridiculous. Now, no food can be donated to homeless shelters in the city by individuals because the government can’t assess salt, fat and fiber content of the sustenance.

According to the National Center For Public Policy Research, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said the complete ban on food donations is consistent with Bloomberg’s emphasis on “improving nutrition for all New Yorkers.”

In an opinion piece in the New York Post, Jeff Stier, a critic of the policy, writes:

This is very different from another recent high-profile food-police case. When a North Carolina prekindergarten aide took away a 4-year-old’s home-packed lunch last month, the school defused the incident by blaming a teacher’s bad judgment.

Here, there’s no teacher to scapegoat. The ban on food donations is the direct result of work by many city agencies, all led by a mayoral task force.

Fine, the city’s making enough nutritious food available to our homeless. (Court mandates require it.) But that’s no excuse for turning away charity that brings a tiny bit of joy into these lives.

The Bloomberg administration is so obsessed with meddling in how we all live that it’s now eating away at the very best that New York citizens have to deliver.

Bloomberg said that the city’s shelters do not accept donations for safety reasons, according to CBS New York.

Ron Paul Still Going Strong

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul is continuing to battle the establishment and moving along through the primary season despite efforts to quiet his message of liberty.

A recent Business Insider report says Paul’s strategy of sweeping up delegates is paying off. The candidate appears to have taken a majority of delegates in Missouri, despite having lost the State’s nonbinding primary to Rick Santorum.

“We did do real well in Missouri,” Paul campaign adviser Jesse Benton said. “Some county conventions are still going on, but we’ve got good turnout. Anecdotal evidence shows we won multiple caucuses, and it looks like we’re going to pick up the majority of delegates.”

Paul has reportedly taken third place in the Illinois primary. During his appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Tuesday, Paul said he is counting on a brokered convention to gain some extra delegates from Mitt Romney.

“The second go-round, they’re not committed to him,” Paul said. “Then they can vote their conscience. Then I believe we’ll get a lot of those votes.”

During his appearance on Leno’s show, Paul explained his views on abortion, discussed allegations that he and Romney had formed an alliance, and blasted the other three GOP Presidential candidates for using Secret Service protection, calling it a form of welfare.

“You know, you’re having the taxpayers pay to take care of somebody and I’m an ordinary citizen,” Paul said. “I would think I should pay for my own protection and it costs, I think, more than $50,000 a day to protect those individuals. It’s a lot of money.”

Paul was also in the news earlier in the day Tuesday when he blasted Representative Paul Ryan and House Republicans for a budget proposal released this week in a campaign statement.

From the statement:

What is really disappointing is that the GOP budget assumes that the federal government should continue to do everything, or at least almost everything, it is currently doing. We will never have a balanced federal budget, low taxes, economic prosperity, and individual liberty unless Congress stops trying to run the world, run the economy, and run our lives.

If Republicans really want to win in November, they will have to draw a clear distinction between themselves and Obama’s disastrous agenda. And producing a budget that does not seriously address our nation’s debt crisis will not distinguish them at all in the eyes of the American people.

While the GOP proposal is similar to budget proposals released by other Republican Presidential candidates, Paul previously released a plan that promises $1 trillion in cuts in Federal spending in his first year if elected.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zy_XJKJqhU&w=560&h=315]

Offense Wins Championships

In recent weeks, I have taken up a position that responding defensively to the Democrats’ baseless charges that the GOP is fighting a war on women is, at best, as silly as signing on to be Ed Schultz’s personal trainer and, at worst, the political equivalent of asking “Billy, is that you?” before walking into a spooky farmhouse in a slasher film. Both are colossal wastes of time.

In my estimation, for conservatives to guide Team America to pay dirt, we must get the offense on the field. Touchdowns are hard to come by if you never leave the shadow of your own goalposts.

Leave it to the senior Senator from the Empire State to prove me right. Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) complained that the Republicans were trying to kill the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Presuming everyone knows that abusing women is simply unacceptable — a leap of faith undercut by the goings-on in the Occupy Wall Street squatters’ camps and most liberal-tainted broadcasts — it’s hard to imagine any one of our 535 Congressional representatives would vote against VAWA as it was originally written and passed.

In fact, given the severity of the offenses against women that are embodied in putting one’s hands on a woman, it’s even harder to imagine someone so bereft of common decency that he or she would turn what ought to be an unopposable bill into a political football in an election year. Surely, not one of those august men and women of Capitol Hill is so twisted that he or she would risk the safety of our sisters, mothers, wives and daughters by tacking hyper-partisan and/or wasteful addenda to the bill designed to protect the fairer sex.

Enter the pride of Park Slope. To paraphrase George C. Scott channeling General George S. Patton: Chuckie, you magnificently cynical bastard! We read your press release!

Schumer has been doing yeoman work behind the scenes to fast-track the renewal of VAWA, simultaneously decrying Senate Republican efforts to hold up the bill so the public can examine some interesting new ornaments Schumer and his Democratic accomplices have applied. Among them: provisions that grant visas to illegal aliens who claim to be victims of domestic abuse — without checks to ensure against the sort of fraud that such stipulations virtually guarantee.

But in attempting to use the Republican stance against the new iteration of VAWA to perpetuate the Democrats’ preposterous claim of some “war on women,” Schumer has revealed more than just the usual cynical hypocrisy that has come to define the Democratic Party. Instead, he has reminded us that he and his fellow liberals are exceptionally poor students of history. VAWA first passed in 1994 with the full support of a Congress that featured Republican majorities in both houses. Reauthorizations have proceeded apace — again with the full support of Republicans. In fact, Schumer’s decision to endanger women’s safety with political pork products marks the first time anyone has dared tinker with VAWA.

I suppose to a Democrat consumed by their usual all-encompassing lust for authority without merit, the peace of mind bills like VAWA provide American women and the men who love them is fairly meaningless. But to those of us who, at the very least, don’t enjoy telling our mothers, wives or girlfriends that we just sacrificed their safety for an easier route to immigration fraud, Schumer’s (hence, the Democrats’) ploy is repulsive.

Schumer and the Democrats have made it clear they are going to play this kind of game between now and November. But the Republicans’ game plan is all defense. It is high time for the real conservatives to take the field and lead their wayward Republican teammates to pay dirt.

Class Warfare

One of the oldest plays politicians pull out of their playbook is class warfare. President Barack Obama campaigned on it, as did George W. Bush before him and Bill Clinton before him. It’s a despicable way of pitting one group against another and drawing attention away from important issues and onto ancillary and unimportant ones.

In Embematical Representations, Ben Franklin wrote:

History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy… These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened.

It was true then. It is true today.

Are We On The Verge Of An Obama Great Depression?

“America’s always been a land of boom and bust. It’s just part of the natural business cycle,” says Wayne Allyn Root. “But Obama and his socialist cabal have channeled Hoover and FDR, who turned an ordinary bust into the Great Depression.” Root ponders whether Obama understands what he’s doing and asks: “Does it matter?”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iiq4Ezodkks?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

High Court Broadens Suits Against EPA

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that homeowners may sue when they think the Environmental Protection Agency has treated them unfairly.

The case involves an Idaho couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett, who own a 2.3-acre residential lot in Bonner County just north of Priest Lake, but separated from the lake by several lots containing permanent structures.

Before building a house, the Sacketts filled in part of their lot with dirt and rock. Some months later, they received from the EPA a compliance order saying the wetlands on their property connected with the lake. The lake in turn was considered “navigable” by the EPA, making it a navigable water of the United States. Filling in the wetland was causing pollution to enter the lake.

The Clean Water Act bans “the discharge of any pollutant by any person,” without a permit, into “navigable waters.”

The order told the Sacketts to restore the land along the lines of an EPA work plan.

The couple was facing some serious fines. Under a Federal law, a civil penalty for non-compliance may not exceed $37,500 “per day for each violation.” The government contends that the amount doubles to $75,000 when the EPA prevails against a person who has been issued a compliance order but has failed to comply.

The Sacketts filed suit against the EPA under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, saying their 5th Amendment due process rights were being violated. A Federal judge dismissed their suit for lack of jurisdiction and a Federal appeals court agreed.

The Supreme Court reversed.

Writing for the whole court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Clean Water Act is not a statute that “preclude[s] judicial review” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

North Korea Issues Warning About Summit

SEOUL (UPI) — North Korea said Wednesday there must be no mention of its nuclear weapons program during next week’s global summit in Seoul.

A government dispatch monitored in Seoul said “any provocation against us will be considered a declaration of war,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang also said the North Korean nuclear issue “in fact does not exist” and has no reason to be discussed at the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Summit.

The warning comes two days after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said the summit is expected to serve as a venue to drum up international support for resolving the South’s nuclear standoff with the North.

Top leaders from some 50 nations, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, are expected to attend the summit.

Court Rules On Defense Lawyers, Pleas

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday the right to have a lawyer that knows what he or she is doing extends to plea offers that lapse or are rejected.

Writing for the narrow majority formed by four liberals and himself, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Sixth Amendment’s “right to effective counsel” extends to those situations and, citing precedent, to “all ‘critical’ stages of the criminal proceedings.”

Galin Frye was charged in Missouri for driving with a revoked license, but because he had been convicted of the same charge three times before, the violation became a felony with up to a four-year prison term on conviction.

The prosecutor sent Frye’s lawyer a letter offering two possible plea bargains, including a chance to plea to a misdemeanor and serve a 90-day sentence. But the lawyer didn’t tell Frye about it, and the plea offer expired.

Less than a week before his preliminary hearing on his fourth charge of driving on a revoked license, Frye was arrested again on the same charge. This time he pleaded guilty with no plea bargain and was sentenced to three years.

An appeals court rejected Frye’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, but the Supreme Court threw out the appeals court ruling and told the lower court to look at the claim in light of the high court opinion.

Also Wednesday, the same Supreme Court majority ruled 5-4 in a Michigan case that where a lawyer’s ineffective advice led to a plea bargain rejection, on appeal a defendant must show that but for that advice, “there is a reasonable probability that the plea offer would have been presented to the court, that the court would have accepted its terms and that the conviction or sentence, or both, under the offer’s terms would have been less severe than under the actual judgment and sentence imposed.”

The ruling came in the case of Anthony Cooper, who had been charged with intent to murder and three other offenses. The prosecution offered to recommend a 51-to-85-month sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but his attorney allegedly convinced him to turn it down.

Cooper received a 360-month sentence. He appealed on the grounds

Kennedy and his majority threw out a lower-court ruling in Cooper’s favor on an ineffective counsel claim, and told the lower court to rehear his case in light of the majority opinion.

Police Roust OWS From Union Square

NEW YORK (UPI) — New York police evicted several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters in Union Square, arresting nine demonstrators Wednesday, officials said.

Taunts greeted police as they surrounded the park with metal barricades early Wednesday, citing a rule that the park must be closed during overnight hours. The New York Times reported.

“The park will be closing as of midnight. If you don’t leave, you will be arrested,” a New York Police Department captain warned late Tuesday.

The New York Daily News said police escorted about 300 protesters from the park.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Amanda DeRoller, 22, a protester from Harlem. “I don’t understand why we can’t be here. Usually the park is open 24 hours. Now they want us out, because [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg says so. It makes no sense.”

City officials had said they would tolerate the group in small numbers, but said that protesters couldn’t sit or lie down in the park if their number exceeds 25, the Daily News said.

The latest evictions followed larger protester-police confrontations Saturday at Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators gathered to mark the anti-greed movement’s six-month anniversary. Police arrested 73 people.

Jury Rules Against Tobacco Suit Plaintiff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (UPI) — A federal jury in Florida has ruled against a family that had been among thousands of plaintiffs in a class-action suit against tobacco companies.

The case had been brought by Anita Young McCray, representing the estate of her father, Mercedia Wilbert Walker.

McCray is one of about 8,000 plaintiffs who had filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry following a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that decertified a $145 billion jury’s award in a class-action suit, The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union reported.

The Supreme Court allowed the plaintiffs to file individual suits using factual findings from the jury’s 2000 verdict.

Less than a month ago, a jury ruled in favor of the tobacco industry in the first case from the class-action ruling tried at the federal level.

The Times-Union said as of February, plaintiffs from the class-action suit had won 37 of 57 cases at the state level with damages of more than $10 million in 13 of those cases, but no awards have been paid and most of the cases are still in appeals courts.

Philip Morris said in a statement about two-thirds of its cases tried in Florida since January have resulted in verdicts in favor of the tobacco company or in mistrials.

U.S. Not Ready For Oil Shock, Lugar Says

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The White House is called on to take action to ensure the United States can handle any potential oil supply disruption, a U.S. Senate leader said.

Crude oil prices on the global market are rising in part because of tensions with Iran, one of the top oil-producing countries among members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said oil markets are in “a precarious position” because of sanctions on Iran’s oil sector.

Saudi Arabia has given assurances that it could increase oil production to offset market concerns but Lugar said “going hat-in-hand to Riyadh” isn’t good policy.

“Emergency planning must not wait for the emergency to arrive,” he said in a statement.

Erik Milito, upstream and industry operations director for the American Petroleum Institute, said more domestic oil and natural gas production would provide some cushion to overseas tensions.

“This would strengthen our energy security and help put downward pressure on prices while also providing many thousands of new jobs for Americans and billions of dollars in additional revenue for our government,” he said in a statement.

U.S. President Barack Obama starts a tour of western U.S. states Wednesday meant to advocate his “all-of-the-above” domestic energy policy.

Exxon Valdez Sold For Scrap

BALTIMORE (UPI) — The greatest risk to oil transport is the effect a major shipping accident can have on the environment, a consultant said after the scrapping of Exxon Valdez.

Oriental Nicety, the vessel formally named Exxon Valdez, was sold for around $16 million for scrap to Global Marketing Systems Inc., a company in Maryland.

Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, resulting in the worst oil spill in U.S. waters until the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“The accident pointed out that the biggest risk involved in oil transport is the impact an accident can have on the environment,” said Thomas Zwick, an analyst at Oslo shipping consultant Lorentzen and Stemoco AS, in a statement to Bloomberg News.

“Large companies can go under as a consequence of the financial liabilities bestowed upon them following an accident.”

Exxon Mobil spent roughly three years and more than $3.5 billion cleaning up the Alaskan coast after the spill. In 2009, the company agreed to pay more than $1 billion in damages and still faces additional claims.

Exxon Valdez was converted to an ore carrier in 2007. Bloomberg reports it changed owners and names four times since the oil spill.

Live TV Viewing Losing Out To ‘Catch-Ups’

LONDON (UPI) — A third of Britons no longer watch live television, either accessing content via Web-based catch-up sites or through personal video recorders, a poll indicates.

To find out how prevalent time-shifted and on-demand viewing was throughout Britain, nearly 2,000 Britons were polled, The Daily Telegraph reported.

To the question “Do you tend to watch programs when they first air on the television?” 36 percent replied “no.”

Of those answering in the negative, 74 percent said they caught up with the programs they wanted to watch on the weekend.

A quarter of them said they used “watch on demand sites” such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV player and Channel 4 On Demand, while almost half said they had access to personal video recorders that allowed them to record live television for viewing later.

Two percent of the poll respondents said they did not own a television because they could watch the programs they wanted on their computers.

Twitter Health-Reporting App Sought

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S federal officials have announced a contest for developers to design Web-based applications that use Twitter to track health trends in real time.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the challenge Tuesday for developers to participate in the contest called Now Trending — #Health in My Community.

Health officials say they may be able to use knowledge of these trends as an early indicator of emerging health issues and a warning of public health emergencies in a community.

“When we looked back at the H1N1 pandemic, we saw that, in some cases, social media trends provided the first clues to flu outbreaks,” Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a Health and Human Services release.

“Based on that 2009 pandemic experience, local health officials asked for our help in developing a Web-based tool that could make social media monitoring useful as part of the surveillance systems in place now to identify new diseases early.”

To win the challenge, officials said, the application must be innovative, scalable, dynamic and user-friendly, and must use open-source Twitter data to automatically deliver a list of the top five trending illnesses over a 24-hour period in a specified geographic region.

The online challenge runs through June 1.