Posts by Ron Recinto

  • No cell phones allowed: Some colleges ban modern-day gadgets

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 1 yr ago

    Erin Milligan has to surrender her cell phone to school officials before going back to college this year. Milligan isn’t being punished for violating any rules. She’s just following Wyoming Catholic College’s technology policy, which bans cell phones at the small liberal arts school. And even more surprising, as someone who grew up in a generation that has never known a world without the Internet, Milligan says she likes it. “It’s a release, really, not having a cell phone,” said Milligan, a 20-year-old junior from New Hampshire. “When you are no longer captivated by technology, you find your true and real self.” Also banned at Milligan’s school are televisions and access to most websites in dorm rooms. Administrators allow only limited Internet connectivity throughout the campus, so students can do online research. Before the start of each school year, Milligan and her 111 classmates at the college relinquish the devices most of their peers elsewhere use to stay constantly connected to friends, family and classmates. Student leaders lock the phones in a box in each dorm room. Students can check them out for emergencies or if they leave campus for travel. “We are so tech savvy these days,” Milligan said. “But something that is really prevalent is our inability to genuinely communicate at a human-to-human, face-to-face level.” At Wyoming Catholic College, located in the picturesque mountain town of Lander, 150 miles northwest of Casper, the ban on technology is part of the school's mission to foster more traditional debate between students and their peers and also between students and faculty, Dean of Students Jonathan Tonkowich said. “We’ve all have the experience where you are talking to someone and their phone goes off, or their text goes off, and they stop talking to you and begin talking someone who is not there,” Tonkowich said. “I’m worried about that direction in our society, where people you aren’t with are more important than the people you are with.” Milligan said the students actually appreciate the freedom of being disconnected and become accustomed to the unusual policy after a few weeks at the school. “We realize that spending too much time on a computer prohibits us from doing something that we should be doing or something that is fun,” the college sophomore said. “I don’t want to be someone who is just texting friends and not talking to them, and have a Facebook profile to define who I am.” Tonkowich said in his four years at the school, there have been only two violations of the policy. One was a blatant violation where a student tried to sneak a cell phone onto campus and use it. The other incident was a misunderstanding where a student had signed out her phone because of a medical emergency and thought she could hold onto it longer than was allowed. Wyoming Catholic College has banned cell phones since its first class in 2007. The penalty for violating the technology policy is performing community service. The school is not entirely a Luddite utopia, however. Students in their dorms do have limited Internet access via personal laptops and Wi-Fi that allows them to access only a handful of sites. The college email service and Skype — to call home — are allowed. But if students tried to log on to Facebook or any other social media site, the site would be blocked. Video streaming sites are also not allowed. A few public computers scattered around campus allow access to a broader range of websites. Parents, not students, tend to grapple more with the tech ban. Parents go through a two-day orientation when students first enter the school to allay any fears about not being constantly connected with their sons or daughters during emergencies, and to also meet other students and families. Many of the college students have had cell phones since they were children, and their parents are accustomed to being able to reach them at any moment. The school is so small that administrators know where everyone is on campus at any given time, Tonkowich reassures the parents. And school officials — who are allowed to use cell phones — are always reachable by the students’ parents or guardians. The school’s policy represents a dramatic break with the trend of students using more and more technology in their daily lives and while studying. A comprehensive study by the Kaiser Family Foundation on the media habits of young people showed that more than 60 percent of people aged 8-18 do their schoolwork while also using some other form of media, such as TV or instant message. And two-thirds of college freshmen in a 2012 survey said they sometimes or frequently use social media sites while in class. Some researchers, led by Stanford Communications Professor Clifford Nass, say the constant multitasking encouraged by smartphones and other devices is making people less productive and worse at learning complex new concepts   . Even so, some education experts have encouraged universities to adapt to the expectations of this generation, by making classes more interactive and limiting the amount of time students are expected to focus on any one speaker or task. Wyoming Catholic College rejects this premise. “We don’t see this as thumbing our nose at tech and modern culture,” Tonkowich said. “We’re allowing a freedom and a vacation from all that so that students can work on something different: true friendship, true virtue, true study. The private coed university isn’t the only one to eschew the trappings and wires of modern day life. At Deep Springs College in Big Pine, Calif., the small student body recently voted to ban wireless Internet service in the living area at their elite two-year school, where tuition is free for the 13 students admitted each year.

  • Mich. judge calls Detroit bankruptcy unconstitutional; AG to appeal

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    DETROIT — It took less than 24 hours for the legal wrangling to start around the Detroit bankruptcy filing. First a county judge ruled the filing unconstitutional under Michigan law. Then the state's attorney general said he would appeal the ruling and asked that the judge's orders be stayed until the appeal.

    Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said the bankruptcy filing violated the state's constitution, which she says prohibits actions that will lessen pension benefits of public employees, including those in Detroit.

    She ordered Gov. Rick Snyder to ask Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr to immediately withdraw the bankruptcy filing and that no further Chapter 9 bankruptcies be filed that threaten pension benefits of public employees.

    Aquilina has a Democratic background. Snyder is a Republican. Earlier in the day, an adamant and focused Snyder said he decided to authorize the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history because “now is our opportunity to stop 60 years of decline” in Detroit.

    “The city is basically broke. It is $18 billion in debt,” Snyder told a packed news conference at Wayne State University in Detroit.

  • Detroit files for bankruptcy protection

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    DETROIT -- Saying he "didn't want to go in this direction," Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced the filing of Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection for the city, and that city leaders and residents "will have to make the best of it." Detroit is now the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history.

    "It's going to make the citizens better off," Bing said in a news conference "It's a new start for us."

    The 16-page filing outlined several factors contributing to the city's financial woes, including a long-dwindling tax base, population flight, financial mismanagement and overall decay of a city that once had more than 2 million residents and was the world's hub of auto manufacturing.

    According to the Detroit Free Press, the city is renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt. Chapter 9 bankruptcy would seek protection from creditors and unions.

    A spokeswoman for President Barack Obama weighed in on the matter Thursday.

  • Train derails in Paris, reports of at least 4 dead

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    At least four people are reported dead after a train derailed near Paris, according to reports.

    Images on social media site Twitter show twisted wreckage near what looks like a train station. Several train cars appear to be involved.

    The Le Parisien news is reporting 4 dead, 10 injured in the derailment near Bretigny-sur-Orge; 350 aboard seven-car train.

    Initial reports on social media sites said there were 'many casualties.' One government report said there may be 7 fatalities.

    Sky News reported at least one fatality, citing an unnamed police source.

    According to a Sky News report, "The train arrived at the station at high speed. It split in two for an unknown reason. Part of the train continued to roll while the other was left on its side on the platform," police source told the British news agency.

  • Unrest in Egypt captured on video

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    Unrest in Egypt reached a tipping point Wednesday when Egyptian Defense General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced in a televised statement that the country's Islamic-backed constitution has been temporarily suspended and the Head of Supreme Constitutional Court has been installed as interim Egyptian president — effectively removing Mohammed Morsi from power. Sisi has also called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. As the events unfolded, much of the unrest was captured on video.

    In this video from Lindsey Parietti of MadaMasr, opponents of President Mohammed Morsi cheered in Tahrir Square, Cairo as the military's July 3 deadline passed for an end to Egypt’s political crisis.

    YouTube/Lindsey Parietti/Madamasr.com

    Moheet.com

    This video credited to Nabd al-Ikhwan from a pro-Muslim Brotherhood media activist page shows supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in Minya, south of Cairo, on July 1. The description of the video reads: "Dr. Morsi legitimate president of the country."

    YouTube/Nabd al-Ikhwan

  • Researchers combat obesity with tech tools popular with teens

    Ron Recinto at The Lookout 2 yrs ago

    The best weapon in the battle against obesity may already be in the hands of children and teenagers.

    That’s the thinking behind the work of several researchers and technologists around the country who hope to turn cell phones into devices that can help young people make healthier food and lifestyle choices.

    A recent Pew Internet study found that 78 percent of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half of them – 47 percent -- own smartphones with computing capability.

    “It’s interesting because most often we think using technology is part of the problem,” said Dr. Susan Woolford of the Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center at the University of Michigan, pointing to video games and other uses of technology that have made teens more sedentary. “We actually hope that using this new technology will help us.”

    The initial test program had bout 25 volunteer participants -- overweight t eens who are participating in university's weight management program.

    “We aren’t going to suggest you play basketball as an activity if you said your interest was in water sports,” Woolford said.

  • Detroit reports highest homicide rate in 20 years

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    Violent crime in Detroit shadows the landscape like its rows of abandoned buildings, but now the city faces a new precedent, even as gun-related killings decline nationwide: More people were killed here last year than at any time in the past 20 years. "America has a problem with guns, but the epicenter seems to be here in Detroit," Interim Detroit Police Chief Chester Logan said at a news conference Thursday, as city officials reported 386 criminal homicides in 2012, the highest since 1992. "As the chief of police in the city of Detroit, I take a certain amount of blame for the spiraling gunplay in the city," he said, "but one of the things you should realize, and everybody here in this room should realize, is that gunplay is a national problem.” Logan is correct: The United States is in the throes of another cultural self-examination about guns after the horrific deaths of 20 children and six adults at the hands of a 20-year-old gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Other city officials and urban crime experts say the problem is not just guns. "At least two-thirds of the homicides in Detroit are related to drug sales, disputes between people selling drugs or disputes between people owing people money about drugs," said David Martin, director of the Urban Safety Program at Wayne State University in Detroit. Martin has researched police reports in all parts of the city to examine crime patterns. He says Detroit's police have to develop more effective methods of dealing with the city's drug economy and its consequences. "And that's very difficult," Martin told Yahoo News. Detroit reported 411 homicides in 2012, 25 of them deemed "justifiable" by FBI crime reporting standards. Still, the remaining 386 represent 54.6 homicides per 100,000 residents, according to the Detroit Free Press. In 1993 the rate was 57.6 homicides per 100,000 residents. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing also pointed toward community-based causes and, potentially, solutions, but he stopped short of singling out drugs or guns. "The release of annual crime statistics reminds us of the senselessness of crime and violence in our community; the challenges facing our police force; and the need to improve conflict resolution and other anti-crime initiatives," he said in a statement. Statistically, said Martin, Detroit harbors a range of factors that would contribute to a high homicide rate. The city has a high proportion of young men aged 20-29, he said. That age group accounted for 131 homicide victims and has demographic connections to the drug trade. The number of young men in the city who struggle with dysfunctional families and the high number of vacant homes in Detroit make matters worse. "Groups of thugs have taken over the neighborhoods, and they can do what they please," Martin said. "It's like the Wild West out there."

  • New-generation pacemaker could be powered by the heart

    Ron Recinto at Yahoo News 2 yrs ago

    The same material that sparks barbecue lighters to flame may soon be used to power pacemakers with the beat of the human heart instead of batteries, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

    A new generation of pacemakers, devices that regulate the human heartbeat via electrodes and current, could eventually rely on piezoelectric materials, which, when they vibrate, generate a small amount of electricity.

    Graduate research fellow Amin Karami and Daniel Inman, chair of the university’s aerospace engineering department, hope to develop a pacemaker that uses a tiny piezoelectric piece to collect pulses of electricity each time the heart beats. A hundredth-of-an-inch slice of brownish material vibrating in a contraption at their busy testing lab, in a building usually devoted to aerospace engineering, has already demonstrated it can generate 18 microwatts of power, enough to run 18 pacemakers.

    “We’ve proven that it’s definitely do-able,” said Karami.

  • Christmas trees, in good supply, defy record-breaking droughts

    Ron Recinto at The Lookout 2 yrs ago

    This year's severe drought in the U.S. may have wiped out corn and wheat crops, but people fond of live Christmas trees don't have to worry about the dry season's effects this holiday season or for years to come.

    "Farm trees harvested this year aren't impacted at all," said Rick Dungey, the National Christmas Tree Association's spokesman. "The trees have been in the ground for a number of years, and they have established a good root system and are less susceptible to weather changes."

    Data from the Palmer Drought Severity Index show 54.6 percent of the contiguous 48 states were in severe drought. According to a National Climatic Data Center report, it was the 10th-most severe drought since 1895.

    Dungey said since it takes conifers several years to grow to sizes customers want—between 5 feet to 9 feet—tree growers can manage crops over several seasons, accounting for damage done by the 2012 drought's scorching heat and dry conditions.

  • MIT micro-bots could make a lot of macro-jobs much easier

    Ron Recinto at The Lookout 2 yrs ago

    Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing the world's smallest chain robot, less than the size of a dime, designed to link up to others like them and shape-shift into a range of micro-tools.

    Put together, four of these machines, with a specialized engine and covered with rings and fittings, look like a tiny, brass mechanical inchworm, but with more versatility and usefulness. "It's a step toward the goal of programmable matter," said Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms where the micro-bots were created. "The goal is not to just to produce a shape. This is something that can change shape."

    Programmable matter is something that can change form based on external commands. Because of this micro-robot's size, a long string of them could be, in theory, programmed to turn into an infinite number of forms. For example, a chain of them could form a wrench. When that tool is no longer needed, the string of robots could be reprogrammed into a coffee cup.

    "I'm not talking just about just four of these, I'm thinking of a mile-long string of the devices," Gershenfeld said.