Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed dies aged 71

Lou Reed, Velvet Underground frontman, dies at 71

Lou Reed sings I'm Waiting For The Man on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test

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US singer and former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed has died at the age of 71.
Known for tracks including Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side, Reed was considered one of the most influential singers and songwriters in rock.
The Velvet Underground became renowned for their fusion of art and music and for collaborating with Andy Warhol.
According to the Associated Press news agency, Reed's literary agent said he died of a "liver-related ailment".
Andrew Wylie said the musician died at his home in Long Island, New York, on Sunday morning and had not been well "for a few months".
Backing singer Casey Synge describes working with Reed on Walk on the Wild Side
Reed's former Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale wrote on his website: "The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet… I've lost my 'school-yard buddy.'"
Other stars paying tribute included The Who, who tweeted: "RIP Lou Reed. Walk on the peaceful side." Iggy Pop said it was "devastating news".
An admitted hard drinker and drug user for many years, Reed had a liver transplant this May after suffering liver failure.
"I am a triumph of modern medicine," Reed posted on his website on 1 June.
The Velvet Underground never achieved commercial success during their 1960s existence, but their influence on music in later decades was widely recognised.
Lou Reed and David BowieDavid Bowie remained friends with Reed after co-producing his 1972 solo album Transformer
The punk, glam and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, '80s and '90s were all indebted to Reed, whose songs were covered by the likes of REM, David Bowie, Nirvana, Patti Smith and countless others.
Music producer Brian Eno once summed up their influence by saying: "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."
The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
After quitting The Velvet Underground in 1970, Reed released his self-titled debut in 1972, but it wasn't until the Bowie-produced LP Transformer later that year - which featured both Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side - that he achieved chart success.
Perfect Day enjoyed a second bout of success in 1996 when it was featured in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, and again a year later when it was re-recorded by a celebrity cast for a BBC charity single.

Life of a rock 'n' roll legend

  • Born in Brooklyn in 1942
  • Co-founded the rock band Velvet Underground, who influenced generations of musicians with such songs as Heroin and Sweet Jane
  • Andy Warhol was the group's manager
  • Reed's subsequent solo career spanned decades, and included tracks such as Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day
  • He was a heavy drinker and drug user and developed liver problems earlier this year
As a solo artist, he released 20 studio albums. His last, Hudson River Wind Meditations, was released in 2007.
He is survived by his second wife, the musician and performing artist, Laurie Anderson.
Others paying tribute included US rock band Weezer, who said The Velvet Underground were "a big influence" when they were starting out.
Chic guitarist Nile Rogers said: "I did the Jools Holland show with him last year and we yucked it up. I didn't know he was ill."
Meanwhile, singer Marianne Faithfull said: "He was a great friend, musician, songwriter and band leader. One of the most intelligent musicians I've ever known and a great guitarist.
"His songs will live for ever... Perfect Day, Sweet Jane... In my opinion he was a genius. I will miss him terribly."
And Def Jam founder Russell Simmons tweeted: "New York lost one of our greatest gifts today."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

US bugged Merkel's phone from 2002 until 2013 - secret report

US bugged Merkel's phone from 2002 until 2013, report claims

German Chancellor Angela Merkel checks her mobile phone during a session of the Bundestag (30 November 2012)Angela Merkel is known for her avid mobile phone use
The US has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone since 2002, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine.
The German publication claims to have seen secret documents from the National Security Agency which show Mrs Merkel's number on a list dating from 2002 - before she became chancellor.
Her number was still on a surveillance list in 2013.
Meanwhile Washington has seen a protest against the NSA's spying programme.
Several thousand protesters marched to the US Capitol to demand a limit to the surveillance. Some of them held banners in support of the fugitive former contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of the NSA's activities.
'No-spy deal'
The nature of the monitoring of Mrs Merkel's mobile phone is not clear from the files, Der Spiegel says.
For example, it is possible that the chancellor's conversations were recorded, or that her contacts were simply assessed.
Germany is sending its top intelligence chiefs to Washington in the coming week to "push forward" an investigation into the spying allegations, which have caused outrage in Germany.
On Friday, Germany and France said they want the US to sign a no-spy deal by the end of the year.
As well as the bugging of Mrs Merkel's phone, there are claims the NSA has monitored millions of telephone calls made by German and French citizens.
Demonstrators hold signs supporting fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as they gather for the "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013In Washington demonstrators marched against the NSA's surveillance


This scandal has caused the biggest diplomatic rift between Germany and the US in living memory.
A close ally of Mrs Merkel told the BBC that she was personally very hurt by the idea of being spied on by American friends.
The chancellor is said to be shocked that Washington may have engaged in the sort of spying that she had to deal with while growing up in Communist East Germany.
The documents seen by Der Spiegel give further details of the NSA's targeting of European governments.
A unit called Special Collection Services, based in the US embassy in Pariser Platz in Berlin, was responsible for monitoring communications in the German capital's government quarter.
If the existence of listening stations in US embassies were known, there would be "severe damage for the US's relations with a foreign government," the documents said.
Similar units were based in around 80 locations worldwide, according to the documents seen by Der Spiegel, 19 of them in European cities.
The US embassy (R) is seen next to the landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (25 October 2013)The US embassy, near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, was used to monitor communications, the documents suggest
The US government had a second German spy base in Frankfurt am Main, the magazine reports.
Mrs Merkel phoned the US president when she first heard of the spying allegations on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama promised Mrs Merkel he knew nothing of the alleged phone monitoring, the magazine reports. He apologised to the German chancellor, it said.
The scandal has caused the biggest diplomatic rift between Germany and the US in living memory, reports the BBC's Damien McGuinness in Berlin.
Mrs Merkel - an Americophile who was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 - is said to be shocked that Washington may have engaged in the sort of spying she had to endure growing up in Communist East Germany.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Any woman driving in Saudi Arabia is to be punished! Unbelievable - read on...

Saudi government warns women over driving protest

Sebastian Usher reports on the protest plans

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The authorities in Saudi Arabia have stepped up warnings to women not to defy a ban on female drivers by taking part in a mass driving protest.
The interior ministry has reiterated that anyone flouting the ban is likely to face unspecified punishment.
Saturday's planned protest is the third of its kind since 1990.
About 17,000 people signed a petition calling either for women to be allowed to drive or for an explanation of why the prohibition should remain in force.
Campaigners are encouraging women to take to the wheel in defiance of the ban.
After the 1990 protest, a number of women were arrested or lost their jobs.
An interior ministry spokesman, Mansour al-Turki, considerably toughened the Saudi government line on the women drivers' campaign on Thursday.
A previous statement on Wednesday was confusing, with both those pro- and anti- the campaign believing it favoured them.
'Mood changing'
But Mr Turki explicitly restated that women were prohibited from driving, with violators - and their supporters - likely to face unspecified measures.
A campaign activist, Zaki Safar, said that this was an unusually explicit statement of the ban, which is informal rather than enshrined in Saudi law.
"It is no longer an issue of a social choice - that the government does not itself support the ban," Mr Safar told the BBC.
"No, the spokesman was very clear. And any woman who drives on the 26th will face punishment."
A Saudi woman wearing a burka drives a carSome Saudi women who took part in the 1990 protest were arrested
But Mr Safar believes the government is still sending mixed messages, as it is itself divided over whether to lift the ban.
Earlier this week, about 100 conservative clerics asked for an audience at the royal court in the capital, Riyadh, to denounce the campaign as a conspiracy by women and a threat to the country.
But there have been indications of a less hardline attitude by the authorities than back in 1990, and at the second protest in 2011.
As part of the latest campaign, dozens of women have posted online videos of themselves driving in different Saudi cities. None of them has been arrested.
The activists behind the campaign believe the public mood is changing, with many more people - including an increasing number of men - publicly supporting the lifting of the ban.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apple shows off thinner iPad Air and retina iPad mini - video and photos

Apple shows off thinner iPad Air and retina iPad Mini

The BBC's Richard Taylor has a look at Apple's latest tablet

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Apple has unveiled a top-of-the-range tablet called the iPad Air that is 20% thinner than the previous version.
The 9.7in (24.6cm) computer is 7.5mm (0.3in) thick and weighs 1lb (469g), which the firm claims is the lightest full-sized tablet on the market.
It is powered by the same A7 chip found in the company's iPhone 5S.
The launch comes at a time when some analysts have suggested that Google's Android is about to overtake Apple's iOS as the bestselling tablet platform.
Apple also announced a new version of its iPad Mini.
Its 7.9in (20cm) screen has been upgraded to feature 2048 by 1536 pixels - the same as the larger model. It is being branded as "retina" to highlight the increased resolution.
Amazon and Google have already announced small tablets - the Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7 - with similar high definition displays.
"We've got the retina upgrade to the smaller iPad that many thought should have been there in the first place," Tony Cripps, principal analyst at tech consultants Ovum, reflected after the announcement in San Francisco.
iPad MiniThe iPad Mini's new screen has 326 pixels per inch, similar to the 323ppi resolution of the Nexus 7
"Market share slip is inevitable because so many rival devices are coming out, which is not necessarily a bad thing as the overall sector is growing.
"Apple does now have a cheaper model thanks to it offering the original iPad Mini at a lower price - but the firm doesn't really want to go to the low-end because that's not where the greatest profit is extracted."
Apple also announced that the latest version of its Mac operating system, Mavericks, would be offered at no cost to owners of computers already running any version of OS X released since 2009. It is the first time the company has not charged for a major Mac OS upgrade.
By contrast the full version of Windows 8.1 is sold for about £100, although it is free to existing Windows 8 users.
Linux-based Ubuntu has always been offered without charge. Chromebook computers also get free upgrades for Google's PC operating system.
New laptops, productivity and leisure apps were also unveiled. However, Apple did not show off a new TV set-top box as some had speculated.
Tablet competition
The California-based firm's most recent financial release said that its iPad range accounted for $25.8bn (£17.6bn) worth of sales in the nine months leading up to July.
That represented 19% of its revenue for the period.
However, Apple acknowledged that the amount of money it was making from the product line was growing three times slower than the growth in unit sales since many customers were opting for its cheaper iPad Mini and iPad 2 models rather than its top-of-the -range "retina display" versions.
Tim CookApple chief executive Tim Cook said the firm had sold more than 170 million iPads
It also faces the fact it is losing market share to rivals.
Apple's iOS operating system accounted for 53.9% of all tablets shipped in 2012, according to Gartner.
The tech research firm forecasts that Android will become the market leader with a 49.6% share, versus Apple's 48.6% this year, adding that it expects that gap to widen further in 2014.
However, consultants at IHS iSuppli said those figures needed to be put in context thanks to Apple's success at making money by taking a cut of app sales.
"It is in terms of revenue per active device where Apple's lead is strongest," said the firm's mobile media analyst Jack Kent.
"An iOS device generates around three to four times as much app revenue through Apple's App Store as an Android device through Google Play.
"Apple has so far offered a more compelling range of tablet-specific content, but Google is clearly looking to address this."
He added that many Android tablets, including Amazon's Kindle and most products sold in China, did not have Google's store pre-installed.
Apple's chief executive Tim Cook noted there were now 475,000 apps designed for iPads available through its online marketplace.
Craig Federighi Apple's software chief Craig Federighi said the new Mac OS X Mavericks system would extend laptops' battery life
But another market watcher suggested that Apple's priority remained securing a "premium" margin on the shop price of its hardware, and that add-on software sales were of secondary interest.
"Some players, like Amazon, can afford to slash prices because they have a different business model based on content and commerce," said Thomas Husson, from the tech industry analysts Forrester.
"While Apple has shared $13bn to developers since 2008, it has made less than $6bn out of apps.
"It's a huge stat, but low in comparison with Apple's quarterly results."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The automated Japanese restaurant without waiters - video

The automated Japanese restaurant without waiters

17 October 2013 Last updated at 08:38 BST
Spencer Kelly takes a break from the Ceatec technology fair in Tokyo to have some lunch in a Japanese restaurant with a difference.
The latest technology ensures food can be cooked to order and delivered to you by conveyor belt with your bill being calculated as you dispose of your used plates down a chute to be washed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Diamonds raining down in space! - true story - read on...

'Diamond rain' falls on Saturn and Jupiter

DiamondsDiamond rain could be "the most common precipitation in the Solar System" the authors say

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Diamonds big enough to be worn by Hollywood film stars could be raining down on Saturn and Jupiter, US scientists have calculated.
New atmospheric data for the gas giants indicates that carbon is abundant in its dazzling crystal form, they say.
Lightning storms turn methane into soot (carbon) which as it falls hardens into chunks of graphite and then diamond.
These diamond "hail stones" eventually melt into a liquid sea in the planets' hot cores, they told a conference.

Start Quote

People ask me - how can you really tell? It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we're pretty certain”
Dr Kevin BainesUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
The biggest diamonds would likely be about a centimetre in diameter - "big enough to put on a ring, although of course they would be uncut," says Dr Kevin Baines, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
He added they would be of a size that the late film actress Elizabeth Taylor would have been "proud to wear".
"The bottom line is that 1,000 tonnes of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn.
"People ask me - how can you really tell? Because there's no way you can go and observe it.
"It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we're pretty certain."
Thunderstorm alleys
Baines presented his unpublished findings at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado, alongside his co-author Mona Delitsky, from California Speciality Engineering.
SaturnGigantic storms on Saturn create black clouds of soot - which hardens into diamonds as it falls
Uranus and Neptune have long been thought to harbour gemstones. But Saturn and Jupiter were not thought to have suitable atmospheres.
Baines and Delitsky analysed the latest temperature and pressure predictions for the planets' interiors, as well as new data on how carbon behaves in different conditions.
They concluded that stable crystals of diamond will "hail down over a huge region" of Saturn in particular.
"It all begins in the upper atmosphere, in the thunderstorm alleys, where lightning turns methane into soot," said Baines.
"As the soot falls, the pressure on it increases. And after about 1,000 miles it turns to graphite - the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils."
By a depth of 6,000km, these chunks of falling graphite toughen into diamonds - strong and unreactive.
These continue to fall for another 30,000km - "about two-and-a-half Earth-spans" says Baines.
"Once you get down to those extreme depths, the pressure and temperature is so hellish, there's no way the diamonds could remain solid.
"It's very uncertain what happens to carbon down there."
One possibility is that a "sea" of liquid carbon could form.
"Diamonds aren't forever on Saturn and Jupiter. But they are on Uranus and Neptune, which are colder at their cores," says Baines.
'Rough diamond'
The findings are yet to be peer reviewed, but other planetary experts contacted by BBC News said the possibility of diamond rain "cannot be dismissed".
"The idea that there is a depth range within the atmospheres of Jupiter and (even more so) Saturn within which carbon would be stable as diamond does seem sensible," says Prof Raymond Jeanloz, one of the team whofirst predicted diamonds on Uranus and Neptune.
"And given the large sizes of these planets, the amount of carbon (therefore diamond) that may be present is hardly negligible."
However Dr Nadine Nettelmann, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said further work was needed to understand whether carbon can form diamonds in an atmosphere which is rich in hydrogen and helium - such as Saturn's.
55 Cancri eThe planet 55 Cancri e may not be so precious after all, a new study suggests
"Baines and Delitsky considered the data for pure carbon, instead of a carbon-hydrogen-helium mixture," she explained.
"We cannot exclude the proposed scenario (diamond rain on Saturn and Jupiter) but we simply have no data on mixtures in the planets. So we do not know if diamond formation occurs at all."
Meanwhile, an exoplanet that was believed to consist largely of diamond may not be so precious after all, according to new research.
The so-called "diamond planet" 55 Cancri e orbits a star 40 light-years from our Solar System.
A study in 2010 suggested it was a rocky world with a surface of graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, instead of water and granite like Earth.
But new research to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, calls this conclusion in question, making it unlikely any space probe sent to sample the planet's innards would dig up anything sparkling.
Carbon, the element diamonds are made of, now appears to be less abundant in relation to oxygen in the planet's host star - and by extension, perhaps the planet.
"Based on what we know at this point, 55 Cancri e is more of a 'diamond in the rough'," said author Johanna Teske, of the University of Arizona.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What will life be like in the year 2100 ? James Burke predicts

What will life be like in the year 2100? James Burke predicts

4 October 2013 Last updated at 00:11 BST
In 1973, the Radio Times asked BBC science presenter James Burke to predict the future.
He got a lot right, foreseeing the proliferation of the computer in offices, schools and homes.
Forty years on, BBC News asked him to predict the future again.
He paints a world 80 to 100 years from now, in which the proliferation of 3D nanofabricators mean poverty and scarcity have become things of the past.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chase and gunfire in US Capitol - one woman dead - video

Police chase in Washington ends in shooting and crash

Video shot by Alhurra TV shows a part of the chase near the Capitol

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A police chase in Washington DC has ended in gunfire, sparking panic at the White House and US Capitol and leaving a woman dead and two officers injured.
The chase and wreck that preceded the shooting were neither an act of terrorism nor an accident, police said.
A female driver was shot dead by police. A one-year-old girl was taken from the car by the officers.
The shooting happened two weeks after 12 people were killed and three injured in a shooting at nearby Navy Yard.
Chief Lanier: "There were shots fired in at least two locations"
The incident began at 14:12 local time (16:12 GMT) when a suspect in a black Infinity sedan attempted to bypass fencing at the outer perimeter of the White House, police said.
The suspect fled the scene and lead officers on a high-speed chase through Washington DC toward the US Capitol.
The driver, later identified as a woman by authorities, then attempted to bypass barriers along the western front lawn of the Capitol, where the Senate and House of Representatives sit.
News video shows officers surround the black car with guns drawn. The driver then sped away as officers appear to open fire. Police gave chase.
During the chase, a police car struck a barrier and the suspect hit a US Secret Service vehicle.
At that point, the suspect's vehicle crashed near the Capitol.
'We heard pops'
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said both Capitol Police and Secret Service officers fired on the vehicle in two different locations during the incident.
Two US Senators 'heard gun shots'
"The suspect was struck by gunfire and... has been pronounced" dead, she said.
A one-year-old child was found in the vehicle after it crashed and taken to a local hospital, and is now in protective custody, police said.
Authorities declined to comment on the suspect. But multiple officials said they believed the incident was not related to terrorism.
Officials have not said whether the driver of the vehicle was armed.
"I'm pretty confident this is not an accident," Ms Lanier said, adding that the suspect attempted to bypass multiple barriers around heavily protected buildings.
A Secret Service officer and Capitol Police officer were injured during the pursuit.
Chief Kim Dine of the Capitol Police said the injured Capitol Police officer, a 23-year veteran of the force, was "doing well" as of Thursday evening.
Senators, congressmen, staffers and journalists reported hearing shots from inside the US Capitol building.
The surrounding buildings were briefly locked down and lawmakers and staffers were instructed to shelter in place.
"We heard pops, three, four, five pops," said Senator Sherrod Brown, who said he was outside the building and ordered to duck behind a car.
Heavily armed police respond to the sceneHeavily armed officers responded to the scene.