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H7N9 bird flu virus more lethal than SARS in 2003: medical expert

H7N9 more lethal than SARS: medical expert

CNA, 2013-04-27

The new H7N9 avian flu virus is more lethal than the strain of coronavirus that caused the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, a doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital said Friday. Citing a University of Hong Kong research report, Huang Li-min, head of the hospital’s Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said people infected with the H7N9 virus can get sick quickly, and the disease has a fatality rate currently estimated at over 10%. “Such a ratio is higher than that of the SARS virus,” Huang said, noting that the World Health Organization estimated the mortality rate for SARS at about 8%. According to data on the website of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control, China had 114 confirmed H7N9 cases, with 23 deaths as of 6 pm Friday, which translated into a mortality rate of about 20%. But the University of Hong Kong report said there are at least as many undiscovered cases as confirmed cases, likel putting the new bird flu strain’s fatality rate at slightly higher than 10%. The H7N9 strain of the flu was not known to infect people until March 31, when China reported its first cases of human infections of the virus. Read more of this post

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iTunes is 10 years old today. Was it the best idea Apple ever had? Steve Jobs in 2003: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”

iTunes is 10 years old today. Was it the best idea Apple ever had?

While the shares fall and the smartphone wars rage, Apple’s music store keeps growing – and tying users into its platform

Charles ArthurThe Observer, Sunday 28 April 2013

Steve Jobs launches Apples iTunes music store on 28 April 2003.

Steve Jobs launches Apple’s iTunes music store on 28 April 2003. Photograph: Paul Sakuma/AP

Steve Jobs put a new slide up on the huge screen. “We started about a year and a half ago to create a music store,” the Apple chief executivetold the audience. “That meant we have to go and negotiate with the big five music companies. Now, before we did this I was reminded of a quote from Hunter S Thompson about the music industry.”

He looked up at the screen. In giant letters it read: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.” Jobs read it out and then paused to let the slide’s final line appear: “There’s also a negative side.” Laughter from the audience. “So I didn’t know what to expect,” Jobs added.

It was 28 April 2003, and Jobs was taking Apple into entirely new territory. Its iPod music player was just 18 months old, but after years of developing hardware and software, the company was now getting into services: specifically, selling music. It was a huge gamble, but one Jobs believed in. Read more of this post

How Big Data Is Playing Recruiter for Specialized Workers

April 27, 2013

How Big Data Is Playing Recruiter for Specialized Workers

By MATT RICHTEL

WHEN the e-mail came out of the blue last summer, offering a shot as a programmer at a San Francisco start-up, Jade Dominguez, 26, was living off credit card debt in a rental in South Pasadena, Calif., while he taught himself programming. He had been an average student in high school and hadn’t bothered with college, but someone, somewhere out there in the cloud, thought that he might be brilliant, or at least a diamond in the rough. That someone was Luca Bonmassar. He had discovered Mr. Dominguez by using a technology that raises important questions about how people are recruited and hired, and whether great talent is being overlooked along the way. The concept is to focus less than recruiters might on traditional talent markers — a degree from M.I.T., a previous job at Google, a recommendation from a friend or colleague — and more on simple notions: How well does the person perform? What can the person do? And can it be quantified? The technology is the product of Gild, the 18-month-old start-up company of which Mr. Bonmassar is a co-founder. His is one of a handful of young businesses aiming to automate the discovery of talented programmers — a group that is in enormous demand. These efforts fall in the category of Big Data, using computers to gather and crunch all kinds of information to perform many tasks, whether recommending books, putting targeted ads onto Web sites or predicting health care outcomes or stock prices.

Of late, growing numbers of academics and entrepreneurs are applying Big Data to human resources and the search for talent, creating a field called work-force science. Gild is trying to see whether these technologies can also be used to predict how well a programmer will perform in a job. The company scours the Internet for clues: Is his or her code well-regarded by other programmers? Does it get reused? How does the programmer communicate ideas? How does he or she relate on social media sites? Read more of this post

Loans Borrowed Against Pensions Squeeze Retirees with their high interest rates; “It’s simply a terrible deal”

April 27, 2013

Loans Borrowed Against Pensions Squeeze Retirees

By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG

To retirees, the offers can sound like the answer to every money worry: convert tomorrow’s pension checks into today’s hard cash. But these offers, known as pension advances, are having devastating financial consequences for a growing number of older Americans, threatening their retirement savings and plunging them further into debt. The advances, federal and state authorities say, are not advances at all, but carefully disguised loans that require borrowers to sign over all or part of their monthly pension checks. They carry interest rates that are often many times higher than those on credit cards. In lean economic times, people with public pensions — military veterans, teachers, firefighters, police officers and others — are being courted particularly aggressively by pension-advance companies, which operate largely outside of state and federal banking regulations, but are now drawing scrutiny from Congress and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The pitches come mostly via the Web or ads in local circulars. Read more of this post

Matt Taibbi: Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix

by MATT TAIBBI

APRIL 25, 2013

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Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps. Read more of this post

Bitcoin: the Berlin streets where you can shop with virtual money; “There is no middle man involved.. I like the fact that Bitcoin scares people in suits, because if this thing were to really take off, it would bankrupt a lot of bankers.”

Bitcoin: the Berlin streets where you can shop with virtual money

The digital currency is rising in popularity among traders in the rebellious Kreuzberg area of Germany’s capital

Kate Connolly and Guy Grandjean in Berlin

guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 April 2013 11.08 BST

In Kreuzberg, Berlin, Bitcoin has expanded off the internet into the local economy.Link to video: Bitcoin: world’s fastest growing currency migrates off the internet

Nadim Chebli remembers well the first of his customers who decided to pay for the records they bought with virtual currency rather than cash or credit cards. “I’d only just agreed to accept Bitcoins,” said the 36-year-old owner of the Long Player record shop, “and the first sales I made in it came pretty quickly, from a guy about my age who bought Tom Waits’s The Big Time and a young woman who bought a Beatles compilation from 1967.” In the few months since Chebli signed up to the peer-to-peer electronic cash system, he finds it hard to come up with definitive characteristics for the “typical” Bitcoin user who walks off the street into what he describes as his “vinyl living room”. “There’s no typical age group, or sex, just, well, regular folk,” he said. Florentina Martens has had the same experience since opening her Parisian-style cafe Floor’s two months ago just a couple of streets away. “There is not a prototype Bitcoin payer,” she said. “It’s random people. Not only nerds, let me put it that way.”

Like Chebli, Martens, whose Kersenvlaai (cherry cake) from her native Maastricht is rated as one of the best culinary offerings of the area, says she decided to accept Bitcoins because of the ease, cheapness and transparency of its payment system. “It’s an easier way of digital payment than credit cards, which cost me a lot of money as a business and to which I’m forced to sign up for years,” she says. Read more of this post

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