Facebook makes paid time off for baby leave a global benefit

2015-11-28 03:17:27

SAN FRANCISCO Less than a week after Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he would take two months of paternity leave, the social media company announced it is extending its parental leave policy to full-time employees outside the United States.The policy, which provides four months of paid time off, will be provided to all new parents regardless of gender or location, starting Jan. 1. Employees may take leave at any point up to a year after the birth of their child, Lori Matloff Goler, the company's head of human resources, said in a Facebook post late Wednesday.Facebook currently offers only U.S.-based workers up to four months of paid leave."We want to be there for our people at all stages of life, and in particular we strive to be a leading place to work for families," she added. "An important part of this is offering paid parental or 'baby' leave." Goler said the new policy will primarily help new fathers and employees in same-sex relationships outside the United States, noting that it will not change maternity leave already available to employees worldwide.Zuckerberg last week said he would take two months off after his daughter's birth. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl; they have not said when the baby is due. His announcement was seen in Silicon Valley as a strong endorsement from a high-technology industry top executive on the importance of family time.Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees. Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions. (Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Leslie Adler)

Debris from U.S. rocket recovered off coast of southwest England

2015-11-27 21:42:28

LONDON Debris from a U.S. rocket, most likely the doomed SpaceX Falcon 9, has been recovered near the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of southwest England, the UK coastguard has said on Friday.It was covered in barnacles and was initially mistaken for a dead whale.Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement that a piece of metal alloy was recovered with the help of a local boatman. It measured around 10 meters by 4 meters (13 feet). Martin Leslie, coastal area commander, said: "The markings show an American flag. It looks like it's an American rocket and is similar to the unmanned Space X Falcon 9 which blew up shortly after take-off from Cape Canaveral in June." Photographs showed the debris covered in what Joseph Thomas, the boatman, told the BBC were goose barnacles. "There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it," he said. (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Drug driving suit mimics taking the wheel stoned

2015-11-26 03:51:34

A simulation suit that mimics the effects on wearer's reactions of taking illegal substances has been developed by scientists to show young drivers the dangers of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs.Scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company, created the suit to simulate some of the effects of drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (Ecstasy); in particular slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor co-ordination.A kinetic device in the suit's gloves produces a tremor akin to that caused by some illicit drugs. Random flashing lights in the goggles' peripheral area, allied to hallucinogenic-type sounds in the headphones, combine to disorientate drivers. In tests even professional drivers were badly affected, failing to perform simple tasks such as driving in between cones."The suit's made of a number of different elements," Ford vehicle safety manager Paul Fay told Reuters. "So there are pads that go on the elbows and knees, which stiffen the joint and slow down reaction times. In addition to that there are large heavy weights placed on the ankles and wrists. These have a big effect on co-ordination and balance. On one hand there's a device that produces a tremor and affects motor skills, and the key thing is the addition of the goggles which produce tunnel vision, with visual distortions, and random flashing lights, and finally headphones which provide audible disturbances with random noises which are very distracting when you are trying to drive.""We start with very heavy ankle weight, then you've got knee padding, knee restraints, restricting movement," added Ford spokesperson Charlotte Ward. "We've then got two wrist weights, elbow restrictions, the tremor glove, neck brace to again restrict movement, the goggles which distort the vision and with the flashing lights can help create this kind of tunnel vision effects and then we've got the headphones playing this sort of horrible noise." The experience will be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life DSFL), the automakers' young driver program that provides training to people around the world through hands-on and online tuition. Young drivers will be given the opportunity to wear the suit while driving on a closed course. "The suit is designed not to produce the sensation of being on drugs, but to reproduce the side effects which may have a dangerous effect on your driving," said Fay.The suit is a variation on the Drink Driving Suit that the automakers incorporated into their training last year.Fay said the company wants to provide hands-on education to young people about the effects of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, even when they might believe they feel fine. "A lot of the skills that they need for driving - co-ordination, good eyesight, good visual acuity, being able to be free from the distractions of things that are happening on the road to be able to operate and control the vehicle. All of those deteriorate, response times are slower, co-ordination is poorer," he said.A 2013 survey by the US's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that around 18 percent of the country's motor vehicle driver deaths involved non-alcoholic drugs other than alcohol. Their study showed that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that impair driving. Fay says it is too early to draw major conclusions from the success of the suit in changing young people's perceptions, as the project has only just been launched, but said those who have tried it out for themselves were "all surprised. Obviously it's been launched as part of Driving Skills for Life program, so we haven't a huge amount of experience with it but I think everyone who puts it on says I didn't expect the effects to be so marked and I guess when you take the suit out of context of people actually being high on drugs and saying this is the effects it would have, if they were taking drugs they may not notice that their performance was being affected in this way, so it's a real eye opener for them that this could seriously affect what they're doing and how they're driving." Ford works alongside leading safety organizations in 11 European countries, including France, Germany, Spain, and Russia. In addition to its range of driving suits, Ford has also developed training that highlights the dangers of social media activity at the wheel.

U.S. Air Force official sees issues with space launch priorities

2015-11-25 07:12:35

WASHINGTON The United States could struggle to promote competition in its space launch program while also maintaining two independent ways to launch satellites and ending U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines, a top U.S. Air Force official said on Tuesday. "You're going to have to choose two of those three. I don't think you can get all three in the next four or five years," William LaPlante, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told reporters.“I think the space launch situation is serious for the country,” LaPlante said, underscoring the complexity of the challenges facing the industry. His comments came after United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, last week said it would not bid to launch the next global positioning system (GPS) satellite, effectively ceding the competition to privately held Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX. ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, said it was unable to submit a bid in compliance with the competition's rules because of how the contest was structured, and because it lacked Russian-built RD-180 engines for its Atlas 5 rocket.The Pentagon last month refused to grant ULA a waiver from a U.S. law that banned use of the Russian engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019. ULA had said it needed the waiver to compete against SpaceX, which was certified earlier this year to bid for the work. LaPlante and other Air Force officials have urged Congress to allow ULA to use additional Russian engines for military launches until a new U.S.-built engine is available.The ban still affects 9 of 29 engines that ULA had ordered from Russia, but not paid for, before Russia annexed Crimea. ULA has said that five engines approved for ULA's use by Congress last year were assigned to other missions and were not available for use in a bid for the new GPS launch. Congress has already approved the use of four more RD-180 engines in a compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, but Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, plans to attach an amendment to a massive federal spending bill that would further ease the Russian engine ban.Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a letter dated Nov. 19 to resist the move. Easing the ban would benefit the Russian government at a time when it continued to occupy Crimea, was bolstering the Syrian regime and sending weapons to Iran, he said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Christian Plumb and Sanjeev Miglani)

Scientists create mosquito strain with malaria-blocking genes

2015-11-23 23:56:43

WASHINGTON Scientists aiming to take the bite out of malaria have produced a strain of mosquitoes carrying genes that block its transmission, with the idea that they could breed with other members of their species in the wild and produce offspring that cannot spread the disease.The researchers said on Monday they used gene-editing, a genetic engineering technique in which DNA can be inserted, replaced or deleted from a genome, on a species called Anopheles stephensi that spreads malaria in urban India.They inserted DNA into the germ line, cells that pass on genes from generation to generation, of the species, creating mosquitoes with genes that prevent malaria transmission by producing malaria-blocking antibodies that are passed on to 99.5 percent of offspring.Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. The goal is to release genetically modified mosquitoes to mate with wild mosquitoes so that their malaria-blocking genes enter the gene pool and eventually overrun the population, short-circuiting the species' ability to infect people with the parasites."It can spread through a population with great efficiency, increasing from 1 percent to more than 99 percent in 10 generations, or about one season for mosquitoes," University of California-San Diego biologist Valentino Gantz said. University of California-San Diego biologist Ethan Bier called this a "potent tool in sustainable control of malaria," as all the mosquitoes in a given region would carry anti-malarial genes."We do not propose that this strategy alone will eradicate malaria," University of California-Irvine molecular biologist Anthony James said. But in conjunction with treatment and preventive drugs, future vaccines, mosquito-blocking bed nets and eradication of mosquito-breeding sites, it could play a major role in sustaining the elimination of malaria, James said.Other scientists also have been working to create genetically engineered mosquitoes. One group last year said it created a strain carrying a gene leading nearly all offspring to be male, which could cause wild populations to plummet."In contrast, our much more flexible system only prevents mosquitoes from carrying malaria but can be used to do no harm to the mosquito. So it should generate the least amount of ecological damage," Bier said. The U.N. World Health Organization estimates there will be 214 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2015 and 438,000 deaths, most in sub-Saharan Africa.The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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