Silicon Valley & Technology

As Downloaded Music Fades Away, Apple Discontinues Older iPods

Apple said Thursday that it will discontinue the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano, the last two music players in the company’s lineup that cannot play songs from Apple Music, its streaming service that competes with Spotify and Pandora Media.

The two devices are the direct descendants of the original iPod introduced by then-CEO Steve Jobs in 2001, widely seen as putting Apple on the eventual path toward the iPhone. They can only play songs that have been downloaded from iTunes or from physical media such as CD.

Apple said the new iPod line will consist of two models of the iPod Touch ranging form $199 to $299 depending on storage capacity. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without mobile data service and runs iOS, the same operating system as iPhones and iPads.

It is capable of streaming music from Apple Music and running the same apps as iPhones. Apple does not break out sales figures for iPods but says the iPod Touch is the most popular model.

Science & Health

Scientists in US Successfully Edit Human Embryo’s Genes

Scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University say they have successfully edited genes of human embryos in the first such attempt in the United States.

Previously, similar experiments have been reported only by scientists in China.

Engineering human genes in the embryo stage opens up the possibility of correcting their defective parts that cause inherited diseases. The new trait is passed on to subsequent generations.

But the practice is controversial, since many fear it could be used for unethical purposes such as creating “designer babies” with specific enhanced abilities or traits.

Oregon scientists led by Kazakhstan-born Shoukhrat Mitalipov successfully repeated the experiment on scores of embryos created with sperm donated for scientific purposes by men with inherited disease mutations.

The editing was done very close to the moment of fertilization of the egg in order to make sure the changes would be repeated in all subsequent cells of the embryo.

Scientists have been experimenting with gene editing for a long time, but the availability of the technique called CRISPR rapidly advanced the precision, flexibility and efficiency of cutting and replacing parts of the molecule chains that comprise genes.

Citing ethical concerns, the U.S. Congress made it illegal to turn genetically-edited embryos into babies. Many other countries do not have such regulations.

Arts & Entertainment

New Book Features Quotes by Women, For Women

There have been many quotable quotes over the ages, and most of them were said by men. features quotes by women and the stories behind the words.

Pauline Weger, the woman behind the website, has now compiled 110 of the quotes and stories into a book, Beautifully Said: Quotes by Remarkable Women and Girls, Designed to Make You Think. She says making you think is what the most powerful quotes have done for centuries.

“People would collect snippets in order to spark their interest in a concept or innovate an idea,” Weger says. “So quotations actually have a wonderful legacy of being a spark for writing. In today’s modern world, it’s fueled even further by how they’re spread through social media.”

The quotes in Beautifully Said come from women around the world, and across the centuries, commenting on all aspects of life.

It includes a quote from Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid, who passed away last year: “There are 360 degrees, why stick to one?” “She’s saying bring dimension to what you’re doing,” Weger explains. “I think she’s a good example of someone who really had to pave the way in a challenging world for women to succeed.”

Pakistani activist for girls’ education, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, said, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Weger includes a quote from chef and cookbook author Grace Young: “Preserve your culinary legacy, some day those recipes could be the one link we have to reach our loved ones.”

“We found that quotation through a blog post that she wrote about two years ago right before the Chinese New Year,” Weger says. “The story was that her mother would always for years prepare this traditional Chinese meal. And yet now her mother was dealing with dementia, so could not remember how to prepare a meal or anything really, frankly, about the Chinese New Year. So what Grace found was that when she prepared this meal, it created connections with her mother.”

Survivor, not a victim

Weger says many of the most powerful quotations in the book reflect women’s thoughts when facing challenges, such as this one from dancer Adrianne Haslet: “I’m not a victim defined by what happened in my life, I’m a survivor defined by how I live my life.”

Haslet lost part of her leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but a year later, was dancing again on a bionic leg. The quote is from a TV interview after the attack.

“One of the producers or someone said, ‘The victim in this’ and I said, ‘I’m not a victim,” she recalls. “A victim means that I belong to someone.’ Then I said, ‘I’m not a victim defined by what happened in my life, I’m a survivor defined by how I live my life.’ So, I refused to be called a victim. So they said, ‘Wait, say that again.’ And I said, ‘What did I say?’ Because I was so in the moment. When I wrote it down that time, it became a mantra in my life.”

 Going backward to move forward

Climbing mountains is the inspiration behind the quote from Alison Levine, the team captain for the first American women’s Everest expedition: “Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to eventually get to where you want to be.”

“People mistakenly think that we need to climb straight up the mountain, from base camp to Camp 2 to Camp 3 to Camp 4 then to the summit. That’s not how it works,” Levine says. The climber has to repeatedly come down to base camp to let the body slowly get used to the altitude.

“This process is called acclimatization,” she explains. “When you’re high on a mountain, your muscles are starting to deteriorate, and your body is getting weaker. So you need to spend some time up to get used to the altitude, but you have to keep coming back down low so you can eat, sleep, hydrate and regain some strength. So you have to actually climb back down the mountain in order to get to the summit.”

Levine says that’s also a wise approach to life.

“Sometimes when people don’t get a job they wanted or they don’t get a promotion that they want, or get transferred to another division in their company, they feel like it’s not a step forward. They feel like it’s a step back,” she said. “You have to look at these things differently. Look at it as an opportunity to regain some strength so you’re going to be even better in the future.”

Author Weger says she hopes Beautifully Said will inspire women and girls to create their own quotable quotes.

Arts & Entertainment

Top 5 Songs for Week Ending July 29

We’re off and running with the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending July 29, 2017.

The deck gets shuffled this week, but my friends…the cards remain the same.

Number 5: Ed Sheeran “Shape of You”

Ed Sheeran is still your man in fifth place with his former title-holder “Shape Of You.”

Ed created controversy with his cameo role on the season premiere of “Game Of Thrones” – many viewers seemed to hate it. Sophie Turner, who portrays Sansa Stark on the series, accidentally told her friend and co-star Maisie Williams that Ed would be on the show. Maisie is a Sheeran superfan, and the show’s creators arranged his appearance as a surprise for her.

Number 4: Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like”

No real surprises in fourth place: Bruno Mars slips a slot with “That’s What I Like.” This song is now the longest-running champion single in the history of Billboard Magazine’s Hot R & B Songs chart. It’s no longer number one – but it held the title for 20 consecutive weeks. The chart has only been around since 2012, but still…well done, Bruno.

…and well done, Justin Bieber, who turns up in not one but two songs this week.

Number 3: DJ Khaled Featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil Wayne “I’m The One”

DJ Khaled steps back a slot to third place with “I’m The One,” featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil Wayne.

This week, Justin cancelled the remaining dates of his Purpose world tour. His management cited “unforeseen circumstances,” while manager Scooter Braun mentioned concerns over Justin’s “soul and well-being.” Justin Bieber has been on the road for most of the past 16 months.

Number 2: DJ Khaled Featuring Rihanna & Bryson Tiller “Wild Thoughts”

DJ Khaled jumps two notches to second place with “Wild Thoughts,” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller. It just went number one in the United Kingdom, becoming Khaled’s second U.K. chart champ after “I’m The One.” It’s Bryson Tiller’s first trip to number one, but Rihanna has been here before: this is her ninth career U.K. pop singles title.

Number 1: Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber “Despacito”

Here in the States, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber still rule the roost with “Despacito.” 

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for using “Despacito” at a political rally. Both Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee went on social media to denounce his use of the song.

That’s it for this week…join us in seven days for another star-packed lineup.

Arts & Entertainment

George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro on Venice Film Fest Slate

This year’s Venice Film Festival will include a crime comedy by George Clooney, a Guillermo del Toro fantasy and a Darren Aronofsky thriller.

Organizers of the world’s oldest film festival announced a 21-film competition lineup Thursday that features the Clooney-directed “Suburbicon,” the story of a home invasion gone wrong that stars Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, with a script by Joel and Ethan Coen.


Venice’s late-summer time slot — starting a few days ahead of the Toronto festival — has made it a major awards-season springboard. In recent years it has presented the world premieres of major Oscar winners including “Spotlight” and “La La Land.”


This year’s contenders for Venice’s top Golden Lion award include del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” starring Sally Hawkins as a woman who forges a relationship with a sea creature, and Aronofsky’s secrecy-shrouded “Mother!” starring Jennifer Lawrence.


The 74th Venice festival opens Aug. 30 in the canal-crossed Italian city with Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing,” about a man — Damon again — who decides to shrink himself. It closes Sept. 9 with Takeshi Kitano’s gangster thriller “Outrage Coda.”


The winner of the Golden Lion and other prizes will be decided by a jury led this year by actress Annette Bening.


Films in competition include “Human Flow,” a documentary about migration by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei; “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” by Ireland’s auteur of tragicomedy, Martin McDonagh; “The Third Murder,” by Japan’s Hirokazu Koreeda; and “Mektour, My Love: Canto Uno” by French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche, director of the Cannes winner “Blue is the Warmest Color.”


Competing directors are drawn from around the globe, with films from Australia’s Warwick Thornton (“Sweet Country”), Israel’s Samuel Maoz (“Foxtrot”), and Lebanon’s Ziad Doueiri (“The Insult”). But only one director among the 21 is a woman — China’s Vivian Qu, whose “Angels Wear White” centers on two girls assaulted by a man in a small seaside town.


Outside the main competition, high-interest entries include Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s “Loving Pablo,” starring Javier Bardem as Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, and Stephen Frears’ reality-based historical drama “Victoria & Abdul,” with Judi Dench as Britain’s Queen Victoria and Ai Fazal as her Indian servant Abdul Karim.


The streaming service Netflix, which has shaken up the business of making and distributing movies, will debut the miniseries “Our Souls at Night,” a late-life romance starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.


Arts & Entertainment

Jury: Michael Jackson Estate Owes Quincy Jones $9.4 Million

A jury on Wednesday found that Michael Jackson’s estate owes Quincy Jones $9.4 million in royalties and production fees from “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” and more of the superstar’s biggest hits.

The award from a Los Angeles Superior Court jury fell short of the $30 million the legendary producer sought in the lawsuit filed nearly four years ago, but well above the approximately $392,000 the Jackson estate contended Jones was owed.


The jury of 10 women and two men had been deliberating since Monday.


“This lawsuit was never about Michael, it was about protecting the integrity of the work we all did in the recording studio and the legacy of what we created,” Jones wrote in a statement. “Although this [judgment] is not the full amount that I was seeking, I am very grateful that the jury decided in our favor in this matter. I view it not only as a victory for myself personally, but for artists’ rights overall.”


Estate attorney Howard Weitzman said he and his team were surprised by the verdict and would appeal it.


Weitzman and co-counsel Zia Modabber wrote in a statement that Jones was seeking money that wasn’t owed to him.


“Any amount above and beyond what is called for in his contracts is too much and unfair to Michael’s heirs,” the lawyers said. “Although Mr. Jones is portraying this is a victory for artists’ rights, the real artist is Michael Jackson and it is his money Mr. Jones is seeking.”


Jones claimed in the lawsuit that Jackson’s estate and Sony Music Entertainment owed him for music he had produced that was used in the concert film “This Is It” and two Cirque du Soleil shows that used Jackson’s songs.


The lawsuit said the entities had improperly re-edited the songs to deprive Jones of royalties and production fees, and that he had a contractual right to take first crack at any re-edit or remix.


The Jackson camp held that Jones should only be paid licensing fees for songs used in those three productions. Jones claimed he was entitled to a share of the overall receipts from them.


The trial centered on the definitions of terms in the two contracts Jackson and Jones signed in 1978 and 1985.


Under the deals, for example, Jones is entitled to a share of net receipts from a “videoshow” of the songs. The Jackson attorneys argued that the term was meant to apply to music videos and not feature films.


Jury foreman Duy Nguyen, 28, said the contracts were the strongest pieces of evidence the jury considered, and said hearing Jones’ testimony was also helpful.


He said he and many members of the jury are Jackson fans, but that didn’t factor into the deliberations. He said the verdict amount was a compromise figure based on an expert’s testimony.


Jones took the stand during the trial, and was asked by Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman whether he realized he was essentially suing Jackson himself.


Jones angrily disagreed.


“I’m not suing Michael,” he said. “I’m suing you all.”


The defense attorneys pointed out that Jackson’s death in 2009 has already been lucrative for Jones, who made $8 million from his share of their works in the two years after the singer’s death, versus $3 million in the two years previous.


“You don’t deserve a raise,” Weitzman said during closing arguments. “You can’t have any more of Michael Jackson’s money.”


Jones insisted he was seeking his due for the work he has done rather than merely seeking money.


His attorney Scott Cole accused the defense of using “word games and loopholes” to deny Jones, the Hollywood Reporter said.


The producer worked with Jackson on the three-album run widely considered the performer’s prime: “Off the Wall,” “Thriller” and “Bad.”


Jackson’s hits from those albums including “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” are among the songs Jones claims were re-edited.


The lawsuit initially set the amount Jones sought at least $10 million, but his attorneys later arrived at $30 million after an accounting of the estate’s profits from the works.


Jones and Jackson proved to be a perfect partnership starting with 1979’s “Off the Wall.” Jackson gave a youthful pop vitality to Jones, who was known primarily as a producer and arranger of jazz and film soundtracks. And Jones lent experience and gravitas to Jackson, who was still best known to most as the child prodigy who fronted the Jackson 5.

Science & Health

WHO: Hepatitis B, C Could Be Eliminated by 2030

On the eve of World Hepatitis Day, the World Health Organization is calling for stepped up action to eliminate Hepatitis B and C by 2030. It says the goal can be reached by scaling up diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the diseases, which can cause death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

WHO reports viral Hepatitis B and C affected 325 million people and caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, and is calling for the elimination of the public health threat by reducing new infections by 90 percent and death by 65 percent by 2030.

Officials say it can be done if countries show the political will and invest in available tools to rid the world of the ailment. They say the epidemic of Hepatitis B, which mainly affects the African and Western Pacific regions, can be prevented by vaccinating infants against the disease.

In regard to Hepatitis C, the director of the WHO Department of HIV Global Hepatitis Program, Gottfried Hirnschall, says there has been a sea change in the treatment of this disease. He tells VOA until four years ago no good treatment existed for Hepatitis C, which kills nearly 400,000 people annually.

“Then we saw the revolution. New drugs came on the market that are really fantastic drugs,” Hirnschall noted. “They have very limited side effects. You only have to take them for three months and 95 percent of people are cured. And, even those who are not cured in the first round, we now have even alternatives that we can provide to those.”

Hirnschall notes the revolutionary kickoff of the new drugs was hampered by the huge $84,000 cost for the three-month course of treatment. But he says the cost in developing countries now has dropped to between $260 and $280.

A survey of 28 countries, representing about 70 percent of the global hepatitis burden, finds efforts to eliminate hepatitis are gathering speed. It says nearly all the countries have set up high-level elimination committees and more than half are allocating money to move the process forward.

Economy & business

After Drought, California Looks to Replenish Aquifers

At the Terranova Ranch near Fresno, California, general manager Don Cameron examines grapes in a vineyard that workers flooded last spring.

Winter rains had ended a severe drought and he was engaged in “groundwater recharge,” returning unused water from the North Fork of the Kings River to an underground aquifer, the source of irrigation for this region. Some were skeptical because he was flooding a working vineyard and not a special basin designed for the purpose.

“We’ve been through a five-year drought,” Cameron explained. “Our groundwater has been depleted during that period, and long term, we want to rebuild what we’ve lost.”

Recharging groundwater on fields that are in production was a test, and the vines were closely monitored. They held up well to the thousands of cubic meters of water that flooded the fields and percolated down to nature’s underground storage system.

A research team led by hydrologist Helen Dahlke at the University of California, Davis, wants to test this concept throughout the Central Valley.

California produce

The 50,000-square-kilometer swath of California farmland produces one-quarter of the food for Americans, and 40 percent of their fruits, nuts and vegetables.

The Terranova Farm grows 25 crops, from tomatoes to onions, and Cameron wants to see how other crops respond to the winter flooding. He is expanding the farm’s recharge project with help from a $5 million grant from the California state government, and envisions recharge efforts at farms around the state.

Aquifers are like a banking system, says Graham Fogg, a UC Davis geologist and water expert who says depleted aquifers have three times the available storage capacity of surface reservoirs. “If you’re looking for places to store water, it’s a no-brainer,” he said.

The idea of groundwater banking took root in the 1990s, when water authorities such as the Semitropic Water Storage District near Bakersfield, California, created exchange systems to credit farmers for surplus water returned to canals and reservoirs when it is not needed.

Farmers later use that water instead of pumping water from the ground. The district also floods recharge basins to let the water seep down to replenish the aquifer.

Surface and groundwater are parts of the same system, says district general manager Jason Gianquinto, “so we can take advantage of the wet years and put a lot of water in storage and then fall back on the groundwater in the dry years.”

Groundwater measures

In 2014, California legislators imposed restrictions on pumping groundwater and gave local authorities until 2020 to implement measurements and controls.

The law aims to stop aquifer depletion within two decades and create a record of groundwater use, something already seen in many other Western states.  

Hydrologist Fogg says intervention was needed because Central Valley aquifers have been dramatically lowered in places, which has led to subsidence or sinking of the ground that could potentially lead to the collapse of some aquifers. He notes that aquifer depletion is also a problem in many developing nations, including China and India.

Issues surrounding water in California are politically charged and pit residents of the north against those of the south, cities against farmers, and environmentalists against agricultural interests.

Regulations to regulate the pumping of groundwater are being drawn up by local agencies, and it needs to be done right, says farm manager Cameron, or “you’re going to have fewer jobs. It’s a ripple effect through the economy.”

He says that farmers could face a stark choice of pumping less groundwater or growing fewer crops.

Whatever happens, Cameron says, “it’s going to be a real game-changer for this area when we get to 2020,” when the groundwater management system is in place.