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terça-feira, 9 de outubro de 2012

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domingo, 7 de outubro de 2012

Consumer Reports: iPhone 5 Gets Thumbs-Up From Group That Blasted iPhone 4

Consumer Reports Iphone 5


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Consumer Reports, the influential reviewers' group that blasted the iPhone 4 for a faulty antenna, on Friday gave Apple Inc's latest smartphone a thumbs-up despite echoing widespread complaints about its patchy mapping service.

The organization, which in 2010 withheld its recommendation for the iPhone because of spotty reception when the gadget was held in a certain way, said laboratory tests confirmed that the new iPhone 5 ranked among the best smartphones but its mapping function clearly fell short.

Apple's latest iPhone, sporting a larger 4-inch screen and 4G capability, drew scathing reviews for glaring errors in a new, self-designed mapping service. Chief Executive Tim Cook apologized last week and directed users to rival services run by Google Inc and others.

"Despite the widespread criticism it has received, Apple's new Maps app... is competent enough, even if it falls short of what's available for free on many other phones," reviewer Mike Gikas wrote on the group's website on Friday.

"As Apple has recently apologized and promised to fix these and other map glitches, we expect the Map app to improve in time," he wrote.

Apple's shares were down 1.3 percent at $658.43 in early afternoon trade on Nasdaq.

The consumer electronics juggernaut began selling its latest smartphone last month. Sales of over 5 million in its first three days in stores fell short of outsized expectations as it struggled with supply constraints.

Its homegrown Maps -- stitched together by acquiring companies and employing data from a range of providers including TomTom NV and Waze -- was introduced with much fanfare in June by software chief Scott Forstall. It was billed as a highlight of the updated iOS 6 software.

Errors and omissions quickly emerged after the software was rolled out. They ranged from misplaced buildings and mislabeled cities to duplicate geographical features. Users also complained that the service lacked features that made Google Maps so popular, such as public transit directions and street-view pictures.

The last time Apple faced such widespread criticism -- including from Consumer Reports -- was during 2010's "Antennagate" furor, when users complained of signal reception issues on the then-new iPhone 4. This year the consumer group, which reviews everything from cars to kitchen appliances, also warned initially that Apple's new iPad threw off too much heat.

A defiant Steve Jobs at the time rejected any suggestion the iPhone 4's design was flawed, but offered consumers free phone cases at a rare, 90-minute press conference called to address those complaints.

"Now that our auto experts have completed their tests, including some carried out some days after the launch, they describe the app as relatively streamlined, and concluded that it generally provides clear guidance, including voice and on-screen directions," Gikas wrote.

"However, they did find that it lacks the details, traffic data, and customization options offered by the free Google navigation app found on Android phones."

(Reporting By Edwin Chan; editing by Andrew Hay)
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Venezuela Presidential Election A Critical Test For Divided Nation

Hugo Chavez
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez's crusade to transform Venezuela into a socialist state, which has bitterly divided the nation, was put to the stiffest electoral test of his nearly 14 years in power on Sunday in a closely fought presidential election.
Reveille blared from sound trucks around the capital to awaken voters and the bugle call was later replaced by folk music mixed with a recording of Chavez's voice saying "those who love the homeland come with me." At many polling places, voters started lining up hours before polls opened at dawn.
Chavez's challenger, Henrique Capriles, has united the opposition in a contest between two camps that distrust each other so deeply there are concerns whether a close election result will be respected.
The stakes couldn't be higher.
If Chavez wins a new six-year term, he gets a free hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy, further limit dissent and continue to befriend rivals of the United States.
If Capriles wins, a radical foreign policy shift can be expected along with a loosening of state economic controls and an increase in private investment. A tense transition would likely follow until the January inauguration because Chavez's political machine thoroughly controls the wheels of government.
Many Venezuelans were nervous about what might happen if the disputes erupt over the election's announced outcome.
David Hernandez, a Chavez supporter, agreed the mood was tense but he blamed the opposition.
"Chavez is going to win and Capriles will have to accept his defeat," Hernandez said, standing next to his parked motorcycle on a downtown street. "If Capriles doesn't accept his defeat, there could be problems."
Chavez's critics say the president has inflamed divisions by labeling his opponents "fascists," "Yankees" and "neo-Nazis," while Chavez backers allege Capriles would halt generous government programs that assist the poor.
During Chavez's final rally Thursday in Caracas, he shouted to the crowd: "We're going to give the bourgeoisie a beating!"
In various parts of the city, long lines of hundreds of voters snaked along sidewalks and around blocks.
"I'm really tired of all this polarization," said Lissette Garcia, a 39-year-old clothes seller and Capriles supporter who voted Sunday in the affluent Caracas district of Las Mercedes. "I want to reconnect with all my friends who are `Chavistas.'"
Violence flared sporadically during the campaign, including shootings and rock-throwing during rallies and political caravans. Two Capriles supporters were shot to death in the western state of Barinas last weekend.
Troops were dispatched across Venezuela to guard thousands of voting centers Sunday.
Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva said as he voted that all had been calm in the morning and he hoped that would continue. He said if any groups try to "disturb order, they should know there is an armed force prepared and equipped and trained... to put down any attempt at disturbances."
He didn't identify the groups to which he was referring.
Chavez held an impromptu news conference Saturday night, and when asked about the possibility of disputes over the vote, he said he expected both sides to accept the result. He says he has successfully emerged from about a year of cancer treatment.
"It's a mature, democratic country where the institutions work, where we have one of the best electoral systems in the world," Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace.
But he also said he hoped no one would try to use the vote to play a "destabilizing game." If they do, he said, "we'll be alert to neutralize them."
His opponents mounted a noisy protest in Caracas and other major cities on Saturday night, beating pots and pans from the windows of their homes to show displeasure with Chavez – and also their hopes for change. Drivers on downtown streets honked horns, joining the din.
The 40-year-old Capriles, a wiry former governor affectionately called "Skinny" by supporters, has infused the opposition with new optimism, and opinion polls pointed to him giving Chavez his closest election.
Some recent polls showed Chavez with a lead of about 10 percentage points, while others put the two candidates roughly even.
"Chavez is going to fight until his last breath. He doesn't know how to do anything else," said Antonio Padron, a bank employee backing the president.
Padron expressed optimism that the 58-year-old Chavez would win, noting the leader has survived a fight with cancer that has included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
But Padron predicted a close finish: "It's a tough fight. The opposition has never been this strong."
Chavez won the last presidential vote in 2006 with 63 percent of the vote.
A former army paratroop commander first elected in 1999, Chavez has presided over an oil boom and has spent billions of dollars on government social programs ranging from cash benefits for single mothers to free education.
But he has suffered declining support due to one of the world's highest murder rates, 18 percent inflation, a deteriorating electrical grid and a bloated government accused of endemic corruption and mismanagement.
While his support has slipped at home, Chavez has also seen his international influence ebb since he emerged in the mid-2000s as leader of a like-minded club of newly elected Latin American leftist presidents.
"I want to tell President Chavez, I want to tell him his cycle is over," Capriles said at his final campaign rally Thursday.
Capriles says Chavez has stirred up hatred, hobbled the economy by expropriating private businesses and squandered oil wealth. He criticized Chavez's preferential deals supplying oil to allies, including one that lets Cuba pay with the services of Cuban doctors.
"We aren't going to finance the political model that exists in Cuba," Capriles said in a TV interview last week. "But we aren't going to break off relations with Cuba."
Chavez accumulated near-absolute power over the past decade thanks to his control of the National Assembly, pliant institutions such as the Central Bank and friendly judges.
Gino Caso, an auto mechanic, said he would vote for Capriles because he thought Chavez was power-hungry and out of touch with problems such as crime. He said his son had been robbed, as had neighboring shops.
"I don't know what planet he lives on," Caso said, gesturing with hands blackened with grease. "He wants to be like Fidel Castro – end up with everything, take control of the country."
Political analyst Ricardo Sucre said he expected the election to show "two halves, more or less even." Regardless of the result, he said, Venezuelans are likely to remain deeply divided by politics for years to come.
___
Associated Press writers Christopher Toothaker, Jorge Rueda and Vivian Sequera contributed to this report.
___
Ian James on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ianjamesap
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quinta-feira, 4 de outubro de 2012

Study reveals ancient greenhouse gas emissions



An analysis of Greenland ice core samples indicates significant global methane emissions per capita during the Roman Empire and China's Han Dynasty — much greater than had been known.


Greenland
Centuries before the Industrial Revolution or the recognition of global warming, the ancient Roman and Chinese empires were already producing powerful greenhouse gases through their daily toil, according to a new study.

The burning of plant matter to cook food, clear cropland and process metals released millions of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere each year during several periods of pre-industrial history, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Nature.

Although the quantity of methane produced back then pales in comparison with the emissions released today — the total amount is roughly 70 times greater now — the findings suggest that man's footprint on the climate is larger than previously realized. Until now, it was assumed by scientists that human activity began increasing greenhouse gas levels only after the year 1750.

"The quantities are much smaller, because there were fewer people on Earth," said study leader Celia Sapart, an atmospheric chemist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. "But the amount of methane emitted per person was significant."

Sapart's conclusions were based on an analysis of ice core samples from Greenland. The layered ice columns, which date back 2,000 years, contain tiny air bubbles from different periods of history, and provide scientists with a view into the atmosphere's changing chemistry.

The first period of methane production captured in the ice cores — roughly from the years AD 1 to 300 — encompassed the tail ends of the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty, when charcoal was the preferred form of fuel. The second period of elevated methane emissions occurred during what's known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly, from roughly 800 to 1200, and a third was found during the Little Ice Age between 1300 and 1600.

Methane is one of a few gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. It forms naturally when plant and animal matter decomposes in airless environments, and it's also released when vegetation burns. However, when methane is produced by burning, it contains heavier carbon isotopes than methane generated through decomposition.

By using a mass spectrometer to study the air trapped in the ice cores, Sapart and her colleagues were able to determine the ratio of methane produced by burning and by decomposition. The study notes that not all cases of burned vegetation were the result of human activity; forest fires, particularly in times of drought, would also contribute to so-called pyrogenic methane production. The research team used mathematical models to account for this naturally burning vegetation and other fluctuations in atmospheric methane content.

"The results show that between 100 BC and AD 1600, human activity may have been responsible for roughly 20-30% of the total pyrogenic methane emissions," the authors wrote.

The research appeared to be the result of very careful and very difficult examination of carbon isotopes and could impact global warming estimates for the pre-industrial period, according to Ed Dlugokencky, a methane expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

"The study gives further evidence for a contribution to the global methane burden from anthropogenic sources," said Dlugokencky, who was not involved in the study.

Sapart said that though the study helped answer questions about the past, there were still plenty that remained about the future. Of particular concern is the melting of permafrost in the Arctic regions, where methane trapped in the frozen earth and ice is allowed to escape into the atmosphere.

"To date, we do not know how natural methane sources will evolve together with human-induced climate change, but it is likely those natural sources will increase," she said.

LOSANGELESTIMES

In Presidential Debate, A Missed Opportunity For Romney To Press Obama On Foreclosure Policy

Romney
He name-checked Big Bird, but didn't once mention foreclosures.
In an hour-and-a-half debate on an economy still shell-shocked by the housing crisis, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's sole critique of President Barack Obama's policy was that regulators are taking too long to write new mortgage guidelines, and that this is holding back a full recovery of the market.
"It's been two years," Romney said. "We don't know what a qualified mortgage is yet. So banks are reluctant to make loans, mortgages. Try and get a mortgage these days. It's hurt the housing market."
Obama, who decided to adopt his tedious law professor persona during the firstpresidential debate of the 2012 election, held Wednesday night in Denver, has taken the most flak from pundits for failing to press the attack against his rival. But Romney's choice to focus on the speed at which regulators are writing new rules instead of hammering Obama for his disappointing foreclosure prevention programs also seems to be a missed opportunity.
The president's signature housing rescue plan, the Home Affordable Modification Program, has helped just over 1 million borrowers lower their payments, not the 3 to 4 million that the president and his Treasury Department predicted. The program has also been dogged by complaints that the mortgage companies essentially left to run it have botched the job, making life miserable for millions of borrowers and pushing many into wrongful foreclosure.
Had Obama's housing plan helped as many people as he said it would when it was first rolled out in 2009, the foreclosure crisis "would be history," said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics. The housing recovery that began earlier this year would have begun in earnest in early 2011, and by now default rates would be back to historical norms, he said.
Though housing prices have begun to recover, more than 1.5 million homes remain in some stage of default or foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.

But Romney did not talk about any of that. Instead, in an exchange about the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the former Massachusetts governor said that lenders face “big penalties” if they make an unqualified mortgage, and that this is holding back the housing market.
The qualified mortgage rule Romney was referencing, as proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would set new standards for how a mortgage company determines a borrower’s ability to repay.
One of the big debates about the new standards, and part of the reason why it is taking so long to implement them, is disagreement about what kind of legal protection mortgage companies would get for agreeing to not offer the harmful products, such as the no-documentation “liar’s loans" that led to the housing crash.
Companies that violate these rules will face penalties, but there is an important caveat: since the rules haven’t been written, no penalties are yet in place. It's not completely clear from the context of the speech, but Romney appeared to suggest he thinks mortgage companies might be facing these penalties right now.
In an interview with HuffPost Wednesday night, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who co-authored the reform bill, rebutted that assertion. He said the policy as of now “has no effect.”
Romney was correct when he said that taking out a home mortgage is difficult, though it is unclear whether the lack of certainty about this rule has much to do with it. Most housing experts have said other factors are to blame.
For starters, banks have been reluctant to hire new staff to handle the wave of applicants for mortgages. And while interest rates are very low, banks haven’t reduced them in lockstep with how much they are paying to borrow the money to lend – a discrepancy that is good for their bottom line but is making loans a bit more costly than they would be otherwise.
As HuffPost previously reported, the biggest roadblock is likely the bailed-out mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which now bundle up most new home loans made in the U.S for sale on the secondary market.
Under the control of their regulator-conservator the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the companies have set strict rules about what kinds of mortgages they will purchase, and have forced banks to buy back billions of dollars of defaulted loans. There are signs that the agency may relax these rules, but this fear has held back lending.
“No one wants to be the next Countrywide,” said Larry Sweeney, a mortgage broker in St. Petersburg, Fla., referring to the mortgage giant that collapsed under the weight of bad loans (and was bought by Bank of America).
A loosening of Fannie and Freddie guidelines would “slingshot” sales ahead by 20 to 25 percent, Sweeney predicted.
Neither candidate has shown much interest in talking about foreclosures or housing policy during the campaign. Obama has likely kept quiet on the issue because his policies haven't done what he said they would do, and Romney perhaps won't speak up because he doesn't have any better ideas. A housing recovery plan the Romney campaign recently released on its website includes no details. "The right choice is to let the markets work," Romney said at a debate last year in Las Vegas.
Fannie and Freddie still owe taxpayers about $140 billion and pretty much prop up the entire U.S. housing market. But they are stuck in legal and political limbo. What happens to them next will set the course for the state of home ownership for the next 30 years.
So what did Romney and Obama say they would do about the companies during their debate?
It didn't come up.

THEHUFFINGTONPOST


Obama Blasts Mitt Romney's Debate Claims: 'You Owe The American People The Truth'

Presidential Debate
DENVER -- Looking for a quick recovery from a disappointing debate, President Barack Obama questioned the identity of the "real" Mitt Romney on Thursday, suggesting his Republican rival had not been candid about his policy positions while on stage.
"Gov. Romney may dance around his positions but if you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth," Obama said at a post-debate rally.
Romney's campaign dismissed the criticism as "damage control."
Obama's aggressive stand came as his campaign conceded he will have to adjust his debate style. Wednesday's night event was widely viewed as a win for Romney and a lost opportunity for Obama to connect with the American people as national polls had showed him with a slight advantage heading into their first debate.
Obama said that when he reached the debate stage "I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney," Obama said, adding that the "real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that."
The president also accused Romney of misrepresenting past statements on education and outsourcing. In tough comments, the president said Romney "does not want to be held accountable ... because he knows full well that we don't want what he's selling."
Obama panned Romney's suggestion during the debate that one way to pare back federal spending is to cut the subsidy for PBS, which airs "Sesame Street." Romney said he likes PBS and "I love Big Bird," but said the country couldn't afford to keep borrowing money from China to pay for things like that.
"When he was asked what he'd actually do to cut the deficit and reduce spending, he said he'd eliminate funding for public television. That was his answer. I mean thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It's about time," Obama joked. "We didn't know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit. But that's what we heard last night. How about that? Elmo, too?"
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams responded to the accusations of dishonesty by saying Romney demonstrated in the debate why he should be president.

"In full damage-control mode, President Obama today offered no defense of his record and no vision for the future," Williams said. "Rather than a plan to fix our economy, President Obama simply offered more false attacks and renewed his call for job-killing tax hikes."
In a conference call with reporters, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said the president would make "adjustments" and would need to determine by the next presidential debate on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., how best to counter what the campaign considers Romney's evasions on a series of issues.
Comparing it to a playoff game in sports, Axelrod said: "You evaluate after every contest and you make adjustments and I'm sure that we will make adjustments. I don't see us adding huge amounts of additional prep times. There are some strategic judgments that have to be made and we'll make them."
Axelrod sought to turn the questions about the debate into a matter of character, repeatedly accusing Romney of "hiding the truth and the facts" from the American people.
"It was a very vigorous performance, but one that was devoid of honesty," Axelrod said of Romney. He said the Republican presidential nominee offered well-delivered but "fraudulent" lines that will be hard to hold up over the remainder of the campaign.
Building on that narrative, Obama's campaign quickly released an ad questioning Romney's truthfulness, arguing that he didn't level with middle-class families on how his tax plan would affect them. "If we can't trust him here, how could we ever trust him here?" the ad says. It was airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.




Is Mars rover using Internet 182 million miles from Earth?


If you think your list of Foursquare check-ins at hot restaurants and bars makes you cool, guess again. The Mars rover Curiosity beat you by a mile (or 182 million miles, the current distance between the Earth and Mars): It checked in on Mars on October 3.
At approximately 2 p.m. (East Coast Earth time), the car-sized rover -- sent to the red planet to study its climate and geology and look for signs of past life -- posted the following update on the location-based social network:
mars rover intenret
The question we have: How does someone (or in this case, something) check in at a location 182 million miles from Earth? The answer, disappointingly, is it can't -- not really.
"The rover isn't capable of sending [a Foursquare update]," explained Veronica McGregor of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We had to help it out."
What NASA's Earth-bound social media team did was take the true latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the rover in the red planet's Gale Crater and send them to Foursquare. So the check-in is real, location information and all; but we can no longer justifiably imagine Curiosity mechanical arms desperately struggling with an iPhone keyboard's autocorrect.
While the rover's not connected to the Internet, it communicates with engineers using NASA's powerful Deep Space Network. Signals are sent by radio waves via orbiters circling Mars or, if need be, directly to Earth without a satellite's help. Currently, it takes about 16 minutes for a radio message sent by Curiosity to reach Earth. That's how the rover's been sending back all those amazing photos from the surface of Mars.
Nevertheless, Curiosity's presence on social media is very cool. "We'll continue to update as the rover roves," McGregor said, adding that they'll sprinkle in some of the science the rover is doing along the way. Of course, the team's also tweeting for Curiosity too.

The Martian checkin is only the latest status update from space: NASA's Douglas Wheelock checked into the International Space Station in 2010and astronauts have been tweeting since 2009.