Lifestyle

Vocal Joystick uses voice to surf the Web
October 10, 2007 05:50 PM - Hannah Hickey, University of Washington

Washington - Doctoral student Brandi House uses Vocal Joystick to control the movement of a robotic arm. The screen on the lower right shows how the software analyzes her vocalizations to create instructions for the arm's movement.

The Internet offers wide appeal to people with disabilities. But many of those same people find it frustrating or impossible to use a handheld mouse. Software developed at the University of Washington provides an alternative using the oldest and most versatile mode of communication: the human voice.

"There are many people who have perfect use of their voice who don't have use of their hands and arms," said Jeffrey Bilmes, a UW associate professor of electrical engineering. "I think there are several reasons why Vocal Joystick might be a better approach, or at least a viable alternative, to brain-computer interfaces." The tool's latest developments will be presented this month in Tempe, Ariz. at the Assets Conference on Computers and Accessibility.

Lead found in toys, backpacks in U.S. stores:
October 10, 2007 12:44 PM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Curious George doll bought at Toys "R" Us was found to be tainted with 10 times the legally-allowed lead level, and vinyl lunch boxes and backpacks also had high amounts of lead, the nonprofit group Center for Environmental Health said on Wednesday.

The Curious George doll found with high amounts of lead was made by Marvel Entertainment Group Inc, the Oakland, California-based group said in a statement. A Marvel spokesman said he was unaware of the advocacy group's finding and had no immediate comment.

Millions of toys made in China have been recalled over the last three months due to unsafe levels of lead paint, which is toxic and can pose serious health risks, including brain damage, in children.

The Center for Environmental Health also said it found high lead levels in vinyl lunch boxes and backpacks made by Sassafras Enterprises of Chicago.

Nintendo to launch Wii Fit game
October 10, 2007 09:58 AM - Reuters

Nintendo Co Ltd said on Wednesday it would start selling its "Wii Fit" home fitness game in Japan in time for the critical year-end shopping season, sending its shares to a record high.

Nintendo's announcement comes just a day after Sony Corp said it would cut the price of its PlayStation 3 by 10 percent in Japan and launch a new, lower-priced PS3 model, to battle Nintendo's dominance.

Britons top table of carbon emissions from planes
October 10, 2007 09:53 AM - Reuters

Britons are the world's worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions from air travel, according to figures published on Wednesday by market research company Global TGI.Not only are Britain's average air emissions per adult the highest out of the 20 countries covered at 603 kg per year, they are also a third higher than second-placed Ireland's 434 kg and more than double the 275 kg from third-placed Americans.

China "e" bikes silently drive lead demand
October 10, 2007 09:48 AM - Lucy Hornby -Reuters

As the red light changes, Han Zhang turns the handlebar of his battery-driven bike, pushes off with his foot, and whirrs silently along a Beijing boulevard.

His yellow bike looks like something between a bicycle and a scooter, but to the lead industry, he's driving a car.

Laborers happily scrap "toxic" ship
October 10, 2007 09:45 AM - Rupam Jain Nair -Reuters

After over a year of protests by environmentalists, poor workers in west India have happily begun dismantling a controversial cruise liner, ignoring potentially serious risks to their health. The breaking of the 46,000-ton Blue Lady was given the go-ahead by India's Supreme Court last month after a long-running legal battle led by environmentalists, who said the Norwegian ship contained 900 tons of toxic waste like asbestos.

U.N. urges preparedness for more frequent disasters
October 9, 2007 09:01 PM -

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Amid a dramatic increase in climate-related disasters, international relief agencies are calling on countries to increase their commitment to disaster risk reduction, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

"Climate change is already driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. We believe that more needs to be done to contain these natural disasters at the outset," said U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

"Disaster risk reduction is a key part of the global response to climate change."

Widespread weight loss may reap health benefits
October 9, 2007 06:22 PM -

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - If a large swath of the population cut down on calories and took up exercise, the resulting health benefits could be extensive, a new study suggests.

The findings are based on an analysis of the economic crisis in Cuba from 1989 to 2000. While the circumstances were dire, and Cuban citizens' health suffered in certain ways, researchers found that significant health benefits also emerged.

Specifically, people's overall calorie intake declined, while their physical activity levels climbed -- mainly as a result of walking or biking instead of paying for public transportation.

Anheuser Busch Using Genetically Engineered Rice in Beer: Greenpeace
October 9, 2007 05:24 PM -

Washington, United States — Greenpeace released the results of analyses showing the presence of an experimental genetically engineered (GE) strain of rice at an Anheuser-Busch operated mill in Arkansas that is used to brew Budweiser. An independent laboratory test, commissioned by Greenpeace, detected the presence of GE rice (Bayer LL601) in three out of four samples taken at the mill.

Bayer LL601 rice was the source of the 2006 contamination of at least 30 percent of rice stocks in the United States. The GE contamination had a massive negative economic impact on the U.S. rice industry as many countries subsequently stopped or significantly restricted the import of U.S. rice. 

Study: Bad Relationship Can Cause Heart Attack
October 9, 2007 10:09 AM - Michael Kahn

LONDON (Reuters) - It has been the stuff of great romantic novels and blockbuster films. Doctors have long suspected it. A study of 9,000 British civil servants has at last established it is possible to die of a 'broken heart'.

The study, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found the stress and anxiety of hostile, angry relationships can boost the risk of developing heart disease. Chances of a heart attack or chest pain rose by 34 percent compared to people on good terms with a spouse or partner.

"A person's heart condition seems to be influenced by negative intimate relationships," researchers wrote. "We showed that the negative aspects of close relationships...are associated with coronary heart disease."

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