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US TV plans 3-D revolution



Riding what it hopes will be the next big wave in consumer electronics, sports network ESPN says it will have a 3-D channel for live events in time for the FIFA World Cup in June.

Up to 25 World Cup matches will be shown on what ESPN called “the industry’s first 3D television network, which will broadcast at least 85 live 3-D events in its first year.

“Meanwhile, Sony, Discovery Communications and IMAX have announced a joint venture to “develop the first 24/7 dedicated 3-D television network” in the US.

The network, due to launch next year, will feature “high-quality premium content from genres that are most appealing in 3-D, including natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures and children’s programming.”

Avatar reawakens 3-D interest

Sony, Discovery and IMAX said they will be equal partners in the venture aimed at bringing a “high-quality three-dimensional viewing experience to home television audiences.”

The dueling announcements came as representatives of leading electronics firms from around the world gathered in Las Vegas for the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Japanese and South Korean television manufacturers have been pushing 3-D TV in the home for some time now but its growth has been stunted by a lack of programming, the need to wear special glasses and the high price of a 3-D set.

But last month’s release of science fiction blockbuster Avatar, a 3-D film by Titanic director James Cameron, has renewed interest in 3-D, and some industry leaders believe the time has come for 3-D TV in the home.

“This is a turning point for 3-D,” Consumer Electronics Association chief executive Gary Shapiro told the USA Today newspaper.

ESPN president George Bodenheimer said ESPN 3-D “marries great content with new technology to enhance the fan’s viewing experience and puts ESPN at the forefront of the next big advance for TV viewing”.

‘Groundbreaking’ move to TV

ESPN said it had tested the technology for more than two years, including events where it showed a US college football game in a limited number of movie theaters.

For the moment, ESPN will only broadcast special live sports events in 3-D while the Sony, Discovery, IMAX deal calls for the creation of a dedicated 3-D channel.

Sony president and chief executive Sir Howard Stringer called the move a “groundbreaking new venture.”

“It is clear to us that consumers will always migrate to a better and richer entertainment experience, and together we are determined to be the leader in providing that around the world,” Stringer said.

Discovery, Sony and IMAX said the 3-D network would launch first in the US and they would eventually “explore international distribution opportunities in selected markets.”

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Calls to ditch IE overstated: Experts

Days after warnings that internet users should ditch Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, other experts are saying the warnings are overreactions.


Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, as well as France’s cyber threat agency, advised internet users to switch to ‘safer’ browsers such as the open source Firefox or Google Chrome.

It was revealed the recent attacks on Google as well as a host of other businesses were able to exploit a flaw in Internet Explorer (IE) – not the first time the browser, a popular piece of software like all of Microsoft’s products, has been targeted.

Before any succesful hack of a user’s system could be carried out, however, the user would first need to visit a website which had been compromised, as well as also running IE.

AusCERT, who operate the Australian government’s online security website, has now published details on how to deal with the issue, without the need for switching browsers.

Meanwhile, the British government was also reported in the Guardian newspaper as saying it didn’t feel its government and armed forces would be better off by using other browsers, and has not taken the advice of the German and French agencies.

Microsoft products vulnerable

Part of the problem stems from the fact that Internet Explorer 6, most vulnerable to the attacks, came packaged with Microsoft Windows XP. Despite the perceived extra-security of open source browsers – as well as operating systems – the majority of web users still use Internet Explorer. While other browsers may also contain security flaws, hackers have often been known to target Microsoft products due to the sheer numbers of users.

Microsoft has published a blog on the breaches, in which the company says they are “only seeing very limited number of targeted attacks against a small subset of corporations”, which have only been succesful against those using IE6.

Paul Ducklin of security firm Sophos, told the Sydney Morning Herald that although abandoning IE could provide extra security in the meantime it would simply be security “through obscurity”.

“Your chosen replacement browser might itself turn out to contain a vulnerability. Then what? Are you going to switch again?” he asked.

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Pacquiao to fight new opponent

While Floyd Mayweather Jr’s camp believes his prospective bout with Manny Pacquiao can be saved, Pacquiao’s promoter says he’s moving on.


After six weeks of contentious negotiations failed to produce a compromise on Mayweather’s insistence on stringent drug testing for the bout, Pacquiao has made plans to fight welterweight Joshua Clottey in mid-March, Top Rank boss Bob Arum told The Associated Press.

“This is crazy. We’ve moved on,” Arum said.

Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who works with Mayweather, wasn’t ready to give up.

He’s worried Top Rank hasn’t told Pacquiao that the potential richest fight in boxing history could be saved if the Filipino star would agree to take a blood test for performance-enhancing drugs 14 days before the proposed March 13 bout – just 10 days later than Pacquiao already agreed.

“I am hopeful that this fight can still happen,” Schaefer told the AP.

“No matter what, Floyd Mayweather will fight at the MGM Grand (in Las Vegas) on March 13. I hope the man across that ring will be Manny Pacquiao.”

Schaefer was angered when Arum came out of the camps’ mediation hearing on Tuesday blaming Mayweather for the fight’s collapse, saying Mayweather wouldn’t agree to a final blood test 24 days before the bout.

Schaefer claims Top Rank turned down a compromise of 14 days on New Year’s Eve, but he wasn’t sure whether Pacquiao – who’s at home in the Philippines – was involved in that decision.

Both fighters stand to make much more than $US25 million ($A27.27 million) apiece from the much-anticipated bout.

“If they don’t want to do the fight, they should have said it a long time ago and not messed around,” Schaefer said. “Anything Bob states (about the mediation) is wrong, and there are absolute lies.”

That’s almost exactly the sentiment of Arum two days earlier, when he said Mayweather turned down a mediation deal setting the blood test at 24 days before the bout. Schaefer said there never was such a deal.

Arum said he relayed the 14-day proposal to Pacquiao’s camp in the Philippines and was turned down.

“We did transmit it to (Pacquiao adviser) Michael Koncz,” Arum said.

“We can’t say what went on the mediation. We’re not permitted to, but if it ever came out what happened in the mediation, it would make all of this an absurdity. Manny Pacquiao was informed and rejected it as it happened, and we communicated to (Golden Boy executive Bruce) Binkow that it was a nonstarter.”

No matter who’s right, the negotiations have turned personal and poisonous between the two dominant American boxing promotional companies.

Arum and Mayweather, who worked together earlier in Mayweather’s career, traded blows through the media this week, with Arum calling Mayweather “a psychological coward” and criticising Schaefer, who said he heard about Arum’s insults through his children.

“He has a tremendous dislike for Floyd and Oscar (De La Hoya) and myself,” Schaefer said. “It’s unbelievable and frankly embarrassing for me and my kids.”

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Beckham plans to keep playing

England midfielder David Beckham insists he will play on after the 2010 World Cup – despite reports of his impending retirement.


The UK’s Sun newspaper reported at the weekend that the AC Milan player was planning to retire and return to England once the competition in South Africa was over.

“I’ve always said I’d love to carry on playing after the World Cup and that isn’t going to change,” Beckham said.

“I don’t know where the reports have come from, they definitely haven’t come from myself.”

Beckham is currently on loan at AC Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The 34-year-old midfielder has started all three games since returning to San Siro for a second straight season on loan, playing all 90 minutes of Milan’s 4-0 win over Siena on Sunday.

Third Milan spell possible

In his first spell in Milan, Beckham scored twice in 18 appearances and such has been his impact that Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani recently said he would welcome him back for a third spell.

“We will have to wait and see,” Beckham said.

“I will want to be playing top-flight football. I have a year and a half left on my contract there (in Los Angeles) and obviously I am going back there after this, so it won’t be a problem.”

After returning to Los Angeles from Milan in 2009, Beckham met with a hostile reaction from Galaxy supporters.

But he won them over by helping the team to the Major League Soccer Cup final, where it lost on penalties to Real Salt Lake.

Despite the disappointment, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player still remains hopeful of helping the Galaxy to a third MLS title.

“We were successful last year, but we want to win it and that is what we will look to do this year,” Beckham said.

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Boeing orders drop in recession

The net total was Boeing’s lowest since at least 2003 and just one-tenth of the 1413 orders in 2007.


Meanwhile, Boeing delivered 481 commercial planes last year, up 28 per cent after a huge strike in 2008 slowed production. Boeing had predicted 480 to 485 deliveries for the year.

The deliveries were “a solid achievement”, wrote Jeffries & Co analyst Howard A. Rubel, an achievement he said was not adequately valued by investors.

Boeing delivered four more wide-bodies than he had expected and three fewer 737s. By delivering more of the higher-priced wide-bodies, as well as setting an annual record by delivering 88 of its 777s, “the results were a slightly richer mix than we had expected”.

The biggest seller was Boeing’s workhorse 737. The company delivered 372 of those last year, and has orders for a further 2076.

Boeing’s total backlog for all commercial aircraft is 3375 planes.

Delayed 787 launch

The big issue for Boeing has been its 787, a new wide-body long-range jet that flew for the first time last month – more than two years late. Boeing got through December without any additional 787 cancellations, and finished the year with 83 net cancellations.

Boeing said it has orders for 851 of the planes, and it expects to begin deliveries by the end of this year.

The company expects to provide commercial aircraft delivery guidance for 2010 on January 27, when it reports fourth-quarter financial results.

Competitor Airbus will report its 2009 orders and deliveries on Tuesday. Through the end of November it had 194 net orders and 437 deliveries. That included four of its new A380 super-jumbo jets and 22 of its wide-body A350s. Like Boeing, the bulk of its orders came from smaller, single-aisle planes.

Boeing shares rose $US2.23 or 3.7 per cent, to $US62.01 in afternoon trading.

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Republican wins Kennedy’s Senate seat

In a major upset, Republican Scott Brown has defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a US Senate race that leaves Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt.


With more than 80 per cent of precincts reporting, Brown was ahead by five percentage points over his Democratic rival, CNN and MSNBC reported.

The lead meant it was impossible for Coakley to make up in the remaining ballots to be counted, and she quickly conceded defeat, congratulating Brown on his win.

“We wish him luck in his public service,” Coakley, the state’s Attorney General, said.

“I am heartbroken at the result and I know you are also, but I know we will get up tomorrow and continue the fight,” she told supporters in Boston, Massachusetts.

Threat to health legislation

Coakley had been favourite to take the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s seat – he held it for nearly half a century – and her failure signals big political problems for the president’s party.

House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are up for grabs later this year in the US midterm elections, and if the results in Massachusetts are replicated nationwide, Obama could be in real trouble.

More immediately, Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the Republicans to block the president’s health care legislation and the rest of Obama’s agenda.

Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican procedural manoeuvres to block votes on legislation.

White House spokesman Robert Gibb said President Obama had spoken to Brown to wish him well following his victory, as well as comiserating with Coakley.

“The president congratulated Senator Brown on his victory and a well-run campaign,” Gibbs said.

“The president told Senator Brown that he looks forward to working with him on the urgent economic challenges facing Massachusetts families and struggling families across our nation.”

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Eight killed in Virginia shooting spree

US police with dogs and heat-sensing equipment are hunting for a man they say shot eight people to death and then nearly took down a police helicopter that was trying to flush him out of the woods near this central Virginia town.


State police said officers had the suspect, Christopher Speight, 39, circled in the woods late on Tuesday near the home where seven of the bodies were found and they believed he was still alive.

An eighth victim was found barely alive on the side of the road – which led to police being called – and died on the way to the hospital.

All the victims were adults and both men and women were killed, state police Sergeant Thomas Molnar said. Three of the bodies were found inside the home, and four just outside it, Molnar said.

Police refused to speculate on a motive and would not say what type of weapon was used. Molnar also gave no background on the suspect.

Speight’s last known address was along the block where the shootings occurred, but Molnar did not know if the suspect was still living there. He would not say if all the victims were shot at the home where most of the bodies were found. He also would not say whether the shootings happened at Speight’s address or another house.

Helicopter search

The drama paralysed the rural area as police swarmed forests trying to catch the suspect who fired at a state police helicopter, forcing it to land with a ruptured fuel tank, police said. No police were injured after one or more rounds struck the helicopter.

A National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment was being used to search the woods.

“They are searching the area and will continue until the suspect is apprehended,” Molnar said.

The violence began shortly after noon when the injured man was found on a rural stretch of road. A deputy who went to investigate fled after he heard gunshots, police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said.

“When the deputy arrived on the scene, that’s when he heard several shots,” Molnar said.

Police did not release the victims’ names or the suspect’s possible relationship to them.

A Google map search shows the area of the shootings was thick with trees, sometimes giving way to large clearings. Buildings were spread out. Molnar said police believe Speight was still within the perimeter they had set up to surround him, but would not say how large an area they were searching. Police said they are also looking for a car and a pickup truck that belong to Speight.

Residents told to stay inside

Authorities told nearby residents to stay inside and a small Christian school was locked down until state police could escort about 60 children from the building.

Resident Bethel Hawkins said police warned families to lock their doors in an area with many senior citizens.

“We’re just being cautious, keeping our doors locked, not going outside,” said Hawkins, who lives about three kilometres up the road from where the shootings occurred. “Our church service is supposed to be tonight, but we talked with our pastor and told him we’re not coming out. We’re not going out in the dark not knowing what’s out there. But we trust in the Lord to take care of us.”

Appomattox is in a county of about 15,000 approximately 160km southwest of Richmond. It is best known as the place where Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant in 1865 to end the Civil War.

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Indian government urges media restraint

The Indian government has urged the country’s media to report responsibly on the latest attack on an Indian national in Australia.


A 29-year-old Indian man is in hospital with burns to his hands, face and legs after being set alight in Essendon in Melbourne early yesterday.

India has asked its media to exercise restraint in reporting on such sensitive issues, saying it could aggravate the situation and affect bilateral relations with Australia.

“Under the circumstances, the media is advised to exercise utmost restraint in reporting on these sensitive issues, as it could aggravate the situation and could have a bearing on our bilateral relations with Australia”, foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

The issue of Indians being attacked in Australia has dominated the media for months in India, where numerous 24 hour news channels have made it a rolling story since mid last year.

Police convinced latest attack not racially motivated

Melbourne police remain convinced the latest attack on an Indian man in Essendon wasn’t racially motivated.

29 year old Jaspreet Singh is in hospital with burns to his face, hands and legs, after being approached early yesterday by four men who burned his car and set him on fire.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she doesn’t want to comment while the matter is under investigation, other than to say the federal government condemns all violence.

But the incident has made headlines overseas and been reported by BBC World News and the Times of India, which calls it ‘yet another’ racial attack on Indians in Australia.

And despite the foreign ministry’s advice to the media, India’s Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, who’s responsible for Indians working or studying abroad, has rebuked

Australia for not preventing the attacks, saying his government wants to see results including the arrests of those responsible.

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Obama could slim healthcare reform

Chastened by the Democratic Senate loss in the state of Massachusetts, President Barack Obama and congressional allies have signalled they will try to scale back his sweeping health care overhaul in an effort to at least keep parts of it alive.


A simpler, less ambitious bill emerged as an alternative only hours after the loss of the party’s crucial 60th Senate seat forced the Democrats to slow their all-out drive to pass Obama’s top domestic priority and reconsider all options.

The 60-vote Senate Democratic majority is needed to overcome Republican procedural obstacles aimed at defeating the legislation.

No decisions have been made, MPs said, but they laid out a new approach that could still include these provisions: limiting the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to people with medical problems, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies, helping small businesses and low-income people pay insurance premiums and changing government health care for the elderly to encourage payment for quality care instead of sheer volume of services.

Scaled down plan

Obama urged MPs on Wednesday not to try to jam a bill through, but scale the proposal down to what he called “those elements of the package that people agree on.”

“We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people,” the president said in an interview with America’s ABC News.

“We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t then our budgets are going to blow up. And we know that small businesses are going to need help.”

Another option, which called for the House to try to quickly pass the Senate version of the broader bill – bypassing the Senate problem created by the loss of the Massachusetts seat to Republican Scott Brown – appeared to be losing favour.

“That’s a bitter pill for the House to swallow,” said the number two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin.

“Full speed ahead is off the table,” said Representative Earl Pomeroy, a moderate Democrat. “We are still very much in the exercise of drawing meaning from the public disquiet.”

Nevertheless, the option remained on the table and administration officials were working behind the scenes on the approach that would be the fastest and cleanest route to getting a bill to Obama, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe private talks.

Political support

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders were gauging support for the idea among liberals and moderates. The initial reaction was not encouraging.

“If you ran that Senate bill right now on the House floor, I’ll bet you you would not get 100 votes for it,” said Representative Bart Stupak, a Democrat.

It takes 218 votes to pass legislation. A majority of House Democrats oppose a tax on high-cost insurance plans in the Senate bill that labour unions, a core Democratic party constituency, see as a direct hit on their members. Stupak and other abortion opponents, backed by US Roman Catholic bishops, say the Senate bill falls short in restricting taxpayer dollars for abortion.

A week ago, House and Senate Democrats were working out the differences in their respective bills, and a quick resolution seemed likely. But after Brown’s upset victory secured the seat held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy for the Republicans, feuding broke out.

Some Democratic senators suggested it was up to the House to save the day by passing the Senate bill.

“The Senate has passed the health care bill. The House has to make a decision how they want to proceed,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat and a member of the leadership.

Republicans said that would make their day.

Trying to push through the Senate bill through would be a desperate ploy seen as such by voters, said Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican and Obama’s 2008 presidential rival. “If they try to jam it through the House, they’ll pay a very heavy price,” McCain said.

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Sex doll aims to make good conversation

A US company says it has developed “the world’s first sex robot,” a life-size rubber doll that’s designed to engage the owner with conversation through the use of artificial intelligence.


At a demonstration at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas on Saturday, the dark-haired, negligee-clad robot said “I love holding hands with you” when it sensed that its creator touched its hand.

Another action, this one unprintable, elicited a different vocal response from Roxxxy the robot.

The level of sophistication demonstrated was not beyond that of a child’s talking toy, but Roxxxy has a lot more brains than that – there’s a laptop connected to cables coming out of its back.

Touch sensors

It has touch sensors at strategic locations and can sense when it’s being moved.

But it can’t move on its own, not even to turn its head or move its lips. The sound comes out of an Internal loudspeaker.

Douglas Hines, founder of Lincoln Park, New Jersey-based True Companion LLC, said Roxxxy can carry on simple conversations.

The real aim, he said, is to make the doll someone the owner can talk to and relate to.

“Sex only goes so far – then you want to be able to talk to the person,” Hines said.

Internet updates

The phrases that were demonstrated were prerecorded, but the robot will also be able to synthesize phrases out of prerecorded words and sounds, Hines said.

The laptop will receive updates over the internet to expand the robot’s capabilities and vocabulary.

Since Hines is a soccer fan, it can already discuss Manchester United, he said. It snores, too.

Owners will also be able to select different personalities for Roxxxy, from “Wild Wendy” to “Frigid Farrah,” Hines said.

He’s charging somewhere from $US7,000 ($A7,535) to $US9,000 ($A9,688) for the robot, including the laptop, and expects to start shipping in a few months.

A Japanese company, Honey Dolls, makes life-size sex dolls that can play recorded sounds, but Roxxxy’s sensors and speech capabilities appear to be more sophisticated.

Hines’ goals are certainly more far-reaching.

Creating ‘a friend’

An engineer, Hines said he was inspired to create the robot after a friend died in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

That got him thinking about preserving his friend’s personality, to give his children a chance to interact with him as they’re growing up. Looking around for commercial applications for artificial personalities, he initially thought he might create a home health care aide for the elderly.

“But there was tremendous regulatory and bureaucratic paperwork to get through. We were stuck,” Hines said. “So I looked at other markets.”

The broader goal of the company is still to take artificial personalities into the mainstream, beyond sex toys, Hines said.

“The sex robot thing is marketing – it’s really about making a companion,” he said.

In a 2007 book, Love and Sex with Robots, British chess player and artificial intelligence expert David Levy argues that robots will become significant sexual partners for humans, answering needs that other people are unable or unwilling to satisfy.

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