Amazon to open market in second-hand MP3s and e-books

A new market for second-hand digital downloads could let us hold virtual yard sales of our ever-growing piles of intangible possessions

WHY buy second-hand? For physical goods, the appeal is in the price – you don't mind the creases in a book or rust spots on a car if it's a bargain. Although digital objects never lose their good-as-new lustre, their very nature means there is still uncertainty about whether we actually own them in the first place, making it tricky to set up a second-hand market. Now an Amazon patent for a system to support reselling digital purchases could change that.

Amazon's move comes after last year's European Union ruling that software vendors cannot stop customers from reselling their products. But without technical support, the ruling has had no impact. In Amazon's system, customers will keep their digital purchases – such as e-books or music – in a personal data store in the cloud that only they can access, allowing them to stream or download the content.

This part is like any cloud-based digital locker except that the customer can resell previous purchases by passing the access rights to another person. Once the transaction is complete, the seller will lose access to the content. Any system for reselling an e-book, for example, would have to ensure that it is not duplicated in the transaction. That means deleting any copies the seller may have lying around on hard drives, e-book readers, and other cloud services, since that would violate copyright.

Amazon may be the biggest company to consider a second-hand market, but it is not the first. ReDigi, based in Boston, has been running a resale market for digital goods since 2011. After downloading an app, users can buy a song on ReDigi for as little as 49 cents that would costs 99 cents new on iTunes.

When users want to sell an item, they upload it to ReDigi's servers via a mechanism that ensures no copy is made during the transfer. Software checks that the seller does not retain a copy. Once transferred, the item can be bought and downloaded by another customer. ReDigi is set to launch in Europe in a few months.

Digital items on ReDigi are cheaper because they are one-offs. If your hard drive crashes and you lose your iTunes collection you can download it again. But you can only download an item from ReDigi once – there is no other copy. That is the trade-off that makes a second-hand digital market work: the risk justifies the price. The idea has ruffled a few feathers – last year EMI sued ReDigi for infringement of copyright. A judge denied the claim, but the case continues.

Used digital goods can also come with added charm. ReDigi tracks the history of the items traded so when you buy something, you can see who has owned it and when. ReDigi's second-hand marketplace has grown into a social network. According to ReDigi founder John Ossenmacher, customers like seeing who has previously listened to a song. "It's got soul like an old guitar," he says. "We've introduced this whole feeling of connectedness."

It could be good for business too if the original vendors, such as iTunes, were to support resale and take a cut of the resell price. Nevertheless, Amazon's move bucks the industry trend. Microsoft's new Xbox, for example, is expected not to work with second-hand games.

But the market could change rapidly now that Amazon's weight is behind this, says Ossenmacher. "The industry is waking up."

This article appeared in print under the headline "Old MP3, one careful owner"

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Maldivain ex-leader exits Indian embassy: New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed left the Indian embassy in the capital Male on Saturday, an Indian official said, 10 days after he sought refuge in the mission in a bid to avoid arrest.

Nasheed's exit came after a Maldivian court earlier this week postponed his trial for abuse of power when he was in office and India sent an envoy to the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims to try and end the political standoff.

"He (Nasheed) entered India's mission on February 13th of his own volition and decided to leave on his own," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi.

Nasheed, 45, is accused of abusing his powers after he won the first free elections in 2008 in the Indian Ocean holiday destination. The pro-democracy campaigner was ousted last year following a mutiny by police and troops.

"He is not planning to go back (to the embassy). He has ended seeking refuge there," Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party spokeswoman Shauna Aminath told AFP.

Nasheed, a famed global warming activist, has condemned the charges of abuse of power against him as a "politically motivated sham".

The Maldivian court postponed the hearing scheduled for last Wednesday after police said they were unable to arrest the former president and bring him before the magistrate, according to Nasheed's party.

Presidential spokesman Masood Imad had confirmed the hearing had been cancelled but said that the case was still pending.

Nasheed's taking refuge at the Indian embassy in Male had strained relations between India and its tiny neighbour.

The Maldivian foreign ministry last weekend summoned Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) D.M. Mulay and accused India of allowing Nasheed to use its embassy for political activities.

India had appealed to its neighbour to guarantee "the integrity of the electoral process" before the presidential election set for September, but had strongly denied interfering in politics in the Maldives.


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Drew Peterson: 'I don't do well in incarceration'

With a 38-year sentence at age 59, Drew Peterson most likely will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The former Bolingbrook police officer acknowledged as much in a tearful, rage-filled monologue before his sentencing Thursday. Barring a successful appeal, Peterson will not be eligible for release until he's 93. But he estimated he would not make it that long because he has developed high cholesterol and has been twice diagnosed with skin cancer since his incarceration at the Will County Jail.

"I'm not looking for any sympathy, but anything you sentence me to, you're sentencing me to the Department of Corrections to die," Peterson told the court in a raised voice choked with emotion.

Peterson's new life will stand in stark contrast to the one he knew as a police sergeant, when he busied himself by riding motorcycles, flying airplanes and chasing younger women. But it won't be that different from the nearly four years he has spent in jail after being charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Peterson was transferred to the Stateville Correctional Center on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after receiving his sentence. He stayed there only a few hours before being sent to his new home at the Pontiac prison. He is in the maximum-security facility, which has a protective custody unit. The assignment was based on factors such as his conviction, length of sentence, program needs, and medical and mental health requirements, per Illinois Department of Correction protocol.

Officials have not said whether he has a cellmate or if he will be in solitary confinement as he had been during his jail stay.

As part of his daily routine there, he will remain in his cell for most of the day, though he will be allowed out for meals and showers. Most inmates also get about five hours of recreation time outside per week, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

Peterson already seemed to be envisioning a dreary existence.

"I don't do well in incarceration," he said during his 40-minute courtroom soliloquy. "Due to the bad food and lack of exercise (in jail), I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, borderline diabetes, a variety of skin issues, and I've had two bouts with skin cancer."

Prisoners can earn work privileges and be assigned menial jobs in the kitchen, laundry room or other areas of the detention center. The shifts, which are not daily, are at least four hours long, Solano said.

Though the Will County Jail has a similar jobs program, Peterson did not participate in it because he was kept separate from the rest of the jail population. The sheriff's department, which oversees the facility, kept him segregated there amid concerns that his high-profile case and law-enforcement background could make him a target of inmates looking to build tough-guy reputations.

As such, Peterson had been kept in the jail's medical unit since his May 2009 arrest. He spent most of his time in his cell, which was 8 feet wide by 5 feet deep. He was given an hour or two in an adjacent day room each day, but that's about it.

His attorney Joseph Lopez, however, said he does not believe such measures need to be taken in state prison. Though high-profile inmates often attract unwanted attention — Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, was slain in 1994 while serving multiple life terms — Lopez thinks Peterson can protect himself.

"He's got a black belt in karate. He knows how to defend himself," Lopez said. "He's a gregarious type of guy. I'm sure the inmates will love him once they get to know him."

Peterson did not seem as convinced on Thursday.

"Originally, I had some cute and funny things to end with," he said, "but in closing now it's time to sentence an innocent man to a life of hardship and abuse (in) prison, and I don't deserve this."

Illinois Department of Corrections officials would not say what safety precautions would be taken in their facilities, but Solano said such issues are considered during an inmate's initial evaluation.

"IDOC will continue to ensure proper placement of all offenders as the health, safety and security of inmates and staff remain the department's top priority," she said.

Peterson will be allowed visits in prison, with some facilities allowing up to five per month. He had similar privileges in jail, but few people had actually come to see him. A visitor's list released shortly before his murder trial included his brother, sister and a small number of friends. Only two of his six children — his sons Thomas and Kris with Savio — went to see him in jail.

His older son, Stephen, who is raising his father's two youngest children, had not visited in the three years leading up to the trial. However, the two communicate frequently via collect phone calls from the jail. Illinois prisoners also have regular telephone contact — as long as it's collect — with people on their approved contacts list, Solano said.

Peterson's attorneys informed him after court Thursday that he could be transferred to Stateville as early as Friday. Despite his rage-filled monologue in court, he seemed to take the prison transfer in stride.

"He's ready for it," Lopez said. "He says he wants a change of scenery."

And that's just fine with Savio's family.

"I think he should have gotten 60 (years) myself," her brother Henry Savio Jr. said. "But he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail so I'm OK with it. He deserves to die there."

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Space Pictures This Week: Space Rose, Ghostly Horses


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Great Energy Challenge Blog

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Cyberattacks Bring Attention to Security Reform

Recent accusations of a large-scale cyber crime effort by the Chinese government left many wondering what immediate steps the president and Congress are taking to prevent these attacks from happening again.

On Wednesday, the White House released the administration's Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets as a follow-up to the president's executive order. The strategy did not outwardly mention China, but it implied U.S. government awareness of the problem.

"We are taking a whole of government approach to stop the theft of trade secrets by foreign competitors or foreign governments by any means -- cyber or otherwise," U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel said in a White House statement.

As of now, the administration's strategy is the first direct step in addressing cybersecurity, but in order for change to happen Congress needs to be involved. So far, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is the most notable Congressional legislation addressing the problem, despite its past controversy.

Last April, CISPA was introduced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. The act would allow private companies with consumer information to voluntarily share those details with the NSA and the DOD in order to combat cyber attacks.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The companies would be protected from any liabilities if the information was somehow mishandled. This portion of the act sounded alarm bells for CISPA's opponents, like the ACLU, which worried that this provision would incentivize companies to share individuals' information with disregard.

CISPA passed in the House of Representatives, despite a veto threat from the White House stemming from similar privacy concerns. The bill then died in the Senate.

This year, CISPA was reintroduced the day after the State of the Union address during which the president declared an executive order targeting similar security concerns from a government standpoint.

In contrast to CISPA, the executive order would be initiated on the end of the government, and federal agencies would share relevant information regarding threats with private industries, rather than asking businesses to supply data details. All information shared by the government would be unclassified.

At the core of both the executive order and CISPA, U.S. businesses and the government would be encouraged to work together to combat cyber threats. However, each option would clearly take a different route to collaboration. The difference seems minimal, but has been the subject of legislative debates between the president and Congress for almost a year, until now.

"My response to the president's executive order is very positive," Ruppersberger told ABC News. "[The president] brought up how important information sharing is [and] by addressing critical infrastructure, he took care of another hurdle that we do not have to deal with."

Addressing privacy roadblocks, CISPA backers said the sharing of private customer information with the government, as long as personal details are stripped, is not unprecedented.

"Think of what we do with HIPAA in the medical professions; [doctors do not need to know] the individual person, just the symptoms to diagnose a disease," Michigan Gov. John Engler testified at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in an attempt to put the problem into context.

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Curiosity offers up first scoop of buried Martian dust

Jacob Aron, reporter


(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Fresh powdered Mars, anyone? The upturned palm of NASA's Curiosity rover almost seems to be offering its first sample of Mars's insides to any passing geologists, but unfortunately they are all back on Earth. Drilled out of the Martian rock a couple of weeks ago, NASA scientists are now waiting for the rover to chow down on the sample, analyse it using an onboard chemistry lab and beam back the results.

The sample should give researchers a glimpse into Mars's past, as the newly exposed rock won't have undergone the same chemical weathering as the surface. It's already apparent that the grey powder in Curiosity's scoop is strikingly different from the rust-coloured soil we associate with the Red Planet. Ultimately the rover is looking for signs that Mars has ever been capable of supporting life.

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ECB says banks to repay US$80.5b in ultra-cheap loans

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank said on Friday that 356 eurozone banks will repay early 61.1 billion euros ($80.5 billion) of a second batch of ultra-cheap three-year loans made available to them a year ago in emergency liquidity measures.

Under the ECB's special long-term refinancing operations or LTROs, which it launched to avert a looming credit crunch in the single currency area, banks had the option of repaying any part of the money after just one year.

"Accordingly, on February 27 ... 61.1 billion will be repaid in the tender by 356 counter parties," the ECB said in a short statement.

The LTROs, injections of liquidity into the banking system with ultra-long maturities of three years, were launched in two batches -- 468 billion euros in December 2011 and 529 billion euros in February 2012.

At the time, they were widely credited with pulling Europe back from the brink of a dangerous credit crunch.

Both rounds of LTRO included provisions to allow early repayment after one year, if banks so chose, with the first repayment window opening on January 30, and the second on February 27. After that, repayments can continue on a weekly basis, depending on demand.

At the first repayment of the first batch on January 30, 278 banks repaid 137 billion euros.

- AFP/al

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Overnight snow hampering Chicago-area commute

About three inches of snow fell across the Chicago region, though the snow is expected to turn to freezing drizzle this morning, coating the area with ice.

The 2.7 inches at O'Hare International Airport tied the highest total for this year, according to the National Weather Service. Some flurries are still fallign so the total could tick upward by a tenth of an inch or two, said Ben Deubelbeiss, a NWS meteorologist.

Some of the snow in southern suburbs has already started turning to rain and might create a "light glaze" on the roadways, he said.

Dozens of schools closed or are delaying start times because of the storm.

The accumulation was more or less consistent across the area, from Rockford in north central Illinois east to Portage, Ind.

The weather caused between 20 and 30 spinouts on highways across the city and suburbs, according to state police, who described the conditions as "horrible." 

State Police are in a "snow plan" and aren't responding to accidents without injuries - those are supposed to be reported later.

"It will be tapering off from the south in the next couple hours, possibly some freezing drizzle across whole area," said Mark Ratzer, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "We may end up coming in a little less."

The city of Chicago has sent 284 plows to work clearing main thoroughfares, according to the streets and sanitation department.

Temperatures today should peak around 34 degrees with winds gusting out of the east around 20 or 25 miles an hour.

"The wind should be diminishing today to around 10 miles an hour," Deubelbeiss said.

Flurries could linger into the weekend with a chance for light snow on Saturday. Deubelbeiss said he didn't expect any significant weather Sunday. High temperatures both days should be around 30, with lows in the low 20s and high teens both mornings.

Check back for more information.

Midwest storm hits Kansas hardest

A major winter storm blanketed states from Minnesota to Ohio with a mix of blinding snow, sleet and freezing rain Thursday and into Friday morning.

The same storm dumped more than a foot of snow in Kansas, stranded motorists on highways and forced airports to cancel hundreds of flights.

The storm is expected to eventually reach the East Coast this weekend, delivering heavy snow to parts of New England for a third straight weekend, from northern Connecticut to southern Maine.

Kansas bore the brunt of the storm, with up to 15 inches of snow in some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service. A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in central Kansas was closed and strewn with cars stuck in snow.

National Guard troops riding in Humvees were dispatched to look for stranded motorists along the interstate and other highways, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for Kansas emergency management services.

The fierce storm triggered severe thunderstorms from eastern Texas to Georgia.

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Oldest Known Wild Bird Hatches Chick at 62

Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird, has yet another feather in her cap—a new chick.

The Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)—62 years old at least—recently hatched a healthy baby in the U.S. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, her sixth in a row and possibly the 35th of her lifetime, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) North American Bird Banding Program. (Related: "51-Year-Old Albatross Breaks N. American Age Record [2003].")

But Wisdom's longevity would be unknown if it weren't for a longtime bird-banding project founded by USGS research wildlife biologist Chandler Robbins.

Now 94, Robbins was the first scientist to band Wisdom in 1956, who at the time was "just another nesting bird," he said. Over the next ten years, Robbins banded tens of thousands of black-footed albatrosses (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan albatrosses as part of a project to study the behavior of the large seabirds, which at the time were colliding with U.S. Navy aircraft.

Robbins didn't return to the tiny Pacific island—now part of the U.S. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—until 2002, when he "recaptured as many birds as I could in hopes that some of them would be the old-timers."

Indeed, Robbins did recapture Wisdom—but he didn't know it until he got back to his office at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, and checked her band number in the database.

"That was real exciting, because we didn't think the chances of finding one that old would be that good," Robbins said Wednesday in an interview from his office at the Patuxent center, where he still works.

Chandler Robbins counts birds.

Chandler Robbins counts birds in Maryland's Patuxent Research Refuge.

Photograph by David H. Wells, Corbis

Albatrosses No Bird Brains

Bigger birds such as the albatross generally live longer than smaller ones: The oldest bird in the Guinness Book of Animal Records, a Siberian white crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus), lived an unconfirmed 82 years. Captive parrots are known to live into their 80s. (See National Geographic's bird pictures.)

The Laysan albatross spends most of the year at sea, nesting on the Midway Atoll (map) in the colder months. Birds start nesting around five years of age, which is how scientists knew that Wisdom was at least five years old in 1956.

Because albatrosses defend their nests, banding them doesn't require a net or a trap as in the case of other bird species, Robbins said—but they're far from tame.

"They've got a long, sharp bill and long, sharp claws—they could do a job on you if you're not careful how to handle them," said Robbins, who estimates he's banded a hundred thousand birds.

For instance, "when you're not looking, the black-footed albatross will sneak up from behind and bite you in the seat of the pants."

But Robbins has a fondness for albatrosses, and Wisdom in particular, especially considering the new dangers that these birds face.

Navy planes are no longer a problem—albatross nesting dunes were moved farther from the runway—but the birds can ingest floating bits of plastic that now inundate parts of the Pacific, get hooked in longlines meant for fish, and be poisoned by lead paint that's still on some of Midway Atoll's buildings. (Also see "Birds in 'Big Trouble' Due to Drugs, Fishing, More.")

That Wisdom survived so many years avoiding all those hazards and is still raising young is quite extraordinary, Robbins said.

"Those birds have a tremendous amount of knowledge in their little skulls."

"Simply Incredible"

Wisdom's accomplishments have caught the attention of other scientists, in particular Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, who said by email that Wisdom is a "symbol of hope for the ocean." (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

Earle visited Wisdom at her nest in January 2012, where she "appeared serenely indifferent to our presence," Earle wrote in the fall 2012 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

"I marveled at the perils she had survived during six decades, including the first ten or so years before she found a lifetime mate. She learned to fly and navigate over thousands of miles to secure enough small fish and squid to sustain herself, and every other year or so, find her way back to the tiny island and small patch of grass where a voraciously hungry chick waited for special delivery meals."

Indeed, Wisdom has logged an estimated two to three million miles since 1956—or four to six trips from Earth to the moon and back, according to the USGS. (Related: "Albatross's Effortless Flight Decoded—May Influence Future Planes.")

Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the North American Bird Banding Program, called Wisdom's story "simply incredible."

"If she were human, she would be eligible for Medicare in a couple years—yet she is still regularly raising young and annually circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean," he said in a statement.

Bird's-Eye View

As for Robbins, he said he'd "love to get out to Midway again." But in the meantime, he's busy going through thousands of bird records in an effort to trace their life histories.

There's much more to learn: For instance, no one has ever succeeded in putting a radio transmitter on an albatross to follow it throughout its entire life-span, Robbins noted.

"It would be [an] exciting project for someone to undertake, but I'm 94 years old," he said, chuckling. "It wouldn't do much for me to start a project at my age."

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Oscar Pistorius Sobs as Bail Ruling Is Expected

The fourth and likely final day of the bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian accused of murdering his girlfriend Feb. 14, opened with arguments from the prosecution that the runner's version of events is improbable and the defense countering that Pistorius had no intent to kill the woman.

Pistorius, who gained global acclaim for racing at the 2012 London Olympics, shot his model-girlfriend through a closed bathroom. He says he killed Reeva Steenkamp accidentally, but prosecutors allege that he took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs, indicating that he thought out and planned to kill Steenkamp when he shot her three times through the bathroom door.

Pistorius sobbed today in court. Barry Roux, his defense attorney, said the prosecution has misinterpreted the assigning of intent, meaning that the runner's intent to shoot at a supposed intruder in his home cannot be transferred to someone else who was shot -- in this case, Steenkamp.

"He did not want to kill Reeva," Roux told the court.

PHOTOS: Paralympics Champion Charged in Killing

When Magistrate Desmond Nair, who has been overhearing the bail hearing, asked Roux what the charges should be if Pistorius intended to kill an intruder, the defense attorney responded that he should be charged with culpable homicide.

Culpable homicide is defined in South Africa as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being."

Oscar Pistorius: Detective Facing Attempted Murder Charges Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius: Investigator Faces Attempted Murder Charges Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius's Bail Hearing: Prosecutors Argue Premeditated Murder Watch Video

Roux also made light of the prosecution's argument that Pistorius is a flight risk, saying that every time the double-amputee goes through airport security, it causes a commotion. He said that Pistorius' legs need constant maintenance and he needs medical attention for his stumps.

The prosecution argued today that the onus is on Pistorius to provide his version of events, and his version is improbable.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel also spoke of Pistorius' fame and his disability, even relating him to Wikipedia founder Julian Assange, who is now confined to Ecuador's London Embassy, where he has been granted political asylum.
"[Assange's] facial features are as well known as Mr. Pistorius' prostheses," Nel said.

Nel argued that Pistorius' prostheses do not set him apart, stating that it's no different to any other feature, and the court cannot be seen to treat people with disabilities accused of a crime, or famous people accused of crime, any differently.

Pistorius has said that in the early hours of Feb. 14 he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.

But prosecutors say that's implausible, that the gun's holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn't there. Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.

Meanwhile, Lt. General Vinesh Moonoo was named Thursday the new chief investigator to the murder case after the surprise revelation that the former head detective and the prosecution's key witness, Hilton Botha, was charged with seven counts of attempted murder in connection to a 2011 shooting. The charges against Botha amount to an significant oversight by the state, which could sway the court's opinion.

Prosecutors maintain that Pistorius was out to kill on the night of Valentine's Day, prompting him to fire four shots into the locked bathroom door that Steenkamp was behind.

Friends of the couple say they were happy, and there is no reason why Pistorius would intentionally hurt Steenkamp.

"If Oscar was to ask her to get married, she would have said yes," friend Kevin Lerena said. "That's how happy and joyful their relationship was."

Ampie Louw, Pistorius' trainer, spoke with reporters outside the courthouse today, saying that he hopes Pistorius gets bail and can start training again, but that he won't push it.

"I'm not the legal side of it. But I'm ready," he said. "We can start training Monday if he's out."

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Sharing and streaming at heart of new PlayStation 4

Douglas Heaven, reporter


Sony's Andrew House introduces the PlayStation 4 at a news conference yesterday (Image: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

It's typically only spoilt children and brilliant eccentrics that get away with not turning up to their own party. Sony's long-awaited announcement last night of the PlayStation 4 games console - its successor to the seven-year-old and 70-million-selling PS3 - put an end to speculation, but was most notable for the no-show of the console itself. Was this meant to prolong the hype until the "Holiday 2013" launch, as Sony claims, or because the company hasn't yet solved cooling problems, as cynics have suggested?

What we do have is an official spec sheet which reads more like one for a supercharged PC. The PS4 specs certainly carry enough punch to support spectacular graphics by today's standards, and a large part of last night's show was devoted to showing this off. But will it still feel fresh in seven years when PC architecture has moved on?

The key new technology in this console generation is likely to be the live streaming of games. After acquiring Gakai - one of the pioneers of game-streaming technology - Sony is leading the way and making live streaming a big part of the player experience.

This has let Sony build game spectating into the hardware: the console will continuously encode a video stream of your game footage while you play. A "share" button on the new controller will then let you immediately start streaming video of your in-game play to friends.

Friends may even be able to jump in remotely and lend a hand if you get stuck, either by taking temporary control for that infuriating boss fight or by acting as a game director who drops helpful items into your game.

Streaming tech will also let you jump in and play demos of games in the online PlayStation Store, something that's only possible now by waiting out a lengthy download. Personalisation is also getting a big push: The PlayStation Store will learn what type of games you like, and possibly even take the liberty of pre-empting a purchase by downloading games it thinks you might want to buy to your console's hard disc.

Backwards compatibility with PS3 games isn't clear. Older games - including titles from the original PlayStation and PS2 - will be available via streaming, but Sony hasn't yet said whether this will require repurchasing an entire games collection. However, physical copies of second-hand games may well be supported, according to Eurogamer, which apparently puts Sony at odds with Microsoft.

Finally, Sony says it wants all PS4 games to be playable on mobile devices - the PlayStation Vita and possibly certain phones and tablets - again by streaming directly from the PS4 via Wi-Fi. This could be handy if you want to play while someone else hogs the widescreen TV.

The take-home message is that Sony's new console wants to be the centre of a new kind of gaming experience - one that's more social, more flexible, more mobile. Pity it's still stage-shy.

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Chingay Parade expected to draw 150,000 spectators

SINGAPORE: Organisers of this year's Chingay Parade are expecting a crowd of 150,000 people to turn up for the event.

After 15 months of preparation, performers are finally ready for the stage.

Rehearsals for the parade started on Thursday, and the parade will start at 8pm on Friday and on Saturday.

The Chingay Parade will kick off with an opening act - a giant centipede made up of 60 performers from Guangdong, China.

The performers hail from all corners of the globe including stilt-walkers from France, who will perform with a local youth group.

Other acts include traditional dances from South Korea and the Philippines.

The parade will culminate in a finale involving 1,000 Singaporeans and a fire torch.

- CNA/de

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Are you getting the fish you paid for?

Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk's Fish Gourmet Shop on February 19, 2013 says fish substitution in the restaurant industry is a common phenomena driven by profits. (Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune)

Chicago diners who think they are eating red snapper may actually be munching on goldbanded jobfish.

Those who order Alaskan cod may really be tucking into a threadfin slickhead. And fans of yellowtail could just be getting a fish tale.

These are some of the findings of a Chicago fish fraud investigation to be released Thursday by conservancy group Oceana.

After its troubling seafood fraud investigations in East and West Coast cities over the last two years, the group expanded its testing to other cities, including Chicago. Thirty of 93 fish samples taken from Chicago restaurants, retail chains and sushi bars were mislabeled, mirroring percentages found in other cities.

Eight of nine Chicago red snapper samples tested by Oceana turned out to be different fish, the report said. And none of the three yellowtail samples tested was actually yellowtail. Single samples sold as corvina, jack, mackerel and even perch did not match those descriptions, according to Oceana's DNA tests.

The ocean conservancy organization does not list the names of the restaurants or stores where it bought the fish because "we didn't know where, along the supply chain, the mislabeling first occurred," said Beth Lowell Oceana's seafood fraud campaign director."So we didn't want to call out businesses that may not have known their fish was mislabeled."

Improperly labeled fish can cost consumers financially, but these substitutions also can have health consequences. As in many cities, Chicago purveyors were found marketing white tuna that was actually escolar, which is cheaper and can cause severe digestive problems.

On a reassuring note for local fish fans, every one of the 22 salmon samples Oceana tested in the area checked out just fine. Ditto for the seven halibut and seven grouper samples — a surprise, Oceana noted, because grouper has frequently been found mislabeled elsewhere.

Among the places where testers bought the samples, sushi bars fared the worst, with 64 percent (or 14 out of 22) of the samples coming back as erroneously labeled. In contrast, 20 percent of fish sold at other types of restaurants and 24 percent of the seafood sold at grocery stores was mislabeled. Oceana said it focused mainly on large grocery chains.

Lowell says consumers can minimize their risk by patronizing businesses that make an effort to source sustainable fish, are willing to answer lots of questions about the product, and can show you the whole fish even if you are only going to buy a fillet.

Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop in Lincoln Park, says he does all that, but he's not surprised that others don't.

"It's unfortunate, but this has been going on in the seafood business for a long time," said Fucik, a veteran fishmonger and a former co-owner of Burhop's. "The U.S. imports about 25 million pounds of a Vietnamese catfish called basa (also called pangasius) every year. When's the last time you saw that on a menu?"

Americans may be particularly vulnerable to fish fraud because of their preference for white-fleshed fish with little taste variation.

"Most other countries show a preference for oiler, more flavorful fish, but Americans like their fish on the milder side," said Christopher Martinez, a manager at Dirk's. "And with a lot of those mild varieties, if you remove the fillet from the fish and take off the skin, you can call it just about anything."

Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, a trade group, says he's always glad to see "people shining a light on fish fraud."

But, he said, he thinks reports like Oceana's "can negatively impact the whole community, and disproportionately those who are not engaging" in fraud.

It would be more helpful to go deeper, he said, and find where the fraud originates: at the dock, the distributor, the retailer or some point in between. "We feel like these investigations leave the loop unclosed," he said.

A 2011 investigative series by the Boston Globe reported that at least some of the fraud started at the distribution level. It said suppliers had been labeling escolar, for example, interchangeably with white/albacore tuna. The Globe noted that the less expensive escolar is not even in the tuna family.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibits the mislabeling of food. In October, after another Oceana report, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and scores of seafood advocates sent letters to the FDA urging it to combat fraud with stepped-up inspections.

Boxer noted in her letter that fraud isn't just "deceptive marketing, but it can also pose serious health concerns, particularly for pregnant women seeking to limit exposure to heavy metals or individuals with serious allergies to certain types of fish."

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NASA's Mars Rover Makes Successful First Drill

For the first time ever, people have drilled into a rock on Mars, collecting the powdered remains from the hole for analysis.

Images sent back from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Wednesday confirmed that the precious sample is being held by the rover's scoop, and will soon be delivered to two miniature chemical labs to undergo an unprecedented analysis. (Related: "Mars Rover Curiosity Completes First Full Drill.")

To the delight of the scientists, the rock powder has come up gray and not the ubiquitous red of the dust that covers the planet. The gray rock, they believe, holds a lot of potential to glean information about conditions on an early Mars. (See more Mars pictures.)

"We're drilling into rock that's a time capsule, rocks that are potentially ancient," said sampling-system scientist Joel Hurowitz during a teleconference from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

A Place to Drill

The site features flat bedrock, often segmented into squares, with soil between the sections and many round gray nodules and white mineral veins.

Hurowitz said that the team did not attempt to drill into the minerals or the gray balls, but the nodules are so common that they likely hit some as they drilled down 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters).

In keeping with the hypothesis that the area was once under water, Hurowitz said the sample "has the potential of telling us about multiple interactions of water and rock."

The drill, located at the end of a seven-foot (two-meter) arm, requires precision maneuvering in its placement and movement, and so its successful initial use was an exciting and welcome relief. The rover has been on Mars since August, and it took six months to find the right spot for that first drill. (Watch video of the Mars rover Curiosity.)

The flat drilling area is in the lower section of Yellowknife Bay, which Curiosity has been exploring for more than a month. What was previously identified by Curiosity scientists as the dry bed of a once-flowing river or stream appears to fan out into the Yellowknife area.

The bedrock of the site—named after deceased Curiosity deputy project manager John Klein—is believed to be siltstone or mudstone. Scientists said the veins of white minerals are probably calcium sulfate or gypsum, but the grey nodules remain something of a mystery.


To the team that designed and operates the drill, the results were a triumph, as great as the much-heralded landing of Curiosity on the red planet. With more than a hundred maneuvers in its repertoire, the drill is unique in its capabilities and complexities. (Watch video of Curiosity's "Seven Minutes of Terror.")

Sample system chief engineer Louise Jandura, who has worked on the drill for eight years, said the Curosity team had made eight different drills before settling on the one now on the rover. The team tested each drill by boring 1,200 holes on 20 types of rock on Earth.

She called the successful drilling "historic" because it gives scientists unprecedented access to material that has not been exposed to the intense weathering and radiation processes that affect the Martian surface.


The gray powder will be routed to the two most sophisticated instruments on Curiosity—the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin).

SAM, the largest and most complex instrument onboard, operates with two ovens that can heat the sample up to 1,800°F (982°C), turning the elements and compounds in the rock into gases that can then be identified. SAM can also determine whether any carbon-based organic material is present.

Organics are the chemical building blocks of life on Earth. They are known to regularly land on Mars via meteorites and finer material that rains down on all planets.

But researchers suspect the intense radiation on the Martian surface destroys any organics on the surface. Scientists hope that organics within Martian rocks are protected from that radiation.

CheMin shoots an X-ray beam at its sample and can analyze the mineral content of the rock. Minerals provide a durable record of environmental conditions over the eons, including information about possible ingredients and energy sources for life.

Both SAM and CheMin received samples of sandy soil scooped from the nearby Rocknest outcrop in October. SAM identified organic material, but scientists are still trying to determine whether any of it is Martian or the byproduct of organics inadvertently brought to Mars by the rover. (See "Mars Rover Detects Simple Organic Compounds.")

In the next few days, CheMin will be the first to receive samples of the powdered rock, and then SAM. Given the complexity of the analysis, and the track record seen with other samples, it will likely be weeks before results are announced.

The process of drilling and collecting the results was delayed by several glitches that required study and work-arounds. One involved drill software and the other involved a test-bed problem with a sieve that is part of the process of delivering samples to the instruments.

Lead systems engineer Daniel Limonadi said that while there was no indication the sieve on Mars was malfunctioning, they had become more conservative in its use because of the test bed results. (Related: "A 2020 Rover Return to Mars?")

Author of the National Geographic e-book Mars Landing 2012, Marc Kaufman has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including the past 12 as a science and space writer, foreign correspondent, and editor for the Washington Post. He is also author of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth, published in 2011, and has spoken extensively to crowds across the United States and abroad about astrobiology. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife, Lynn Litterine.

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Lead Pistorius Cop Facing Attempted Murder Charge

Hilton Botha, the detective at the center of the Oscar Pistorius murder case, is facing his own attempted murder charges in connection with a 2011 shooting in which he and other police officers allegedly fired a gun at passengers in a vehicle.

Botha is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder in connection to the October 2011 incident in which he and two other officers allegedly fired shots at a minibus they were attempting to stop. It's unclear whether any of the passengers were injured.

Botha has been outlining details this week at the Olympic runner's bail hearing of his investigation into the Feb. 14 shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp at Pistorius' home in Pretoria, South Africa. Botha was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene, where Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, was found fatally shot three times.

PHOTOS: Paralympic Champion Charged in Killing

Pistorius, a double-amputee who walks on carbon fiber blades, says he killed his girlfriend accidentally.

Prosecutors say they were unaware of the charges against the detective when he took the stand this week, according to The Associated Press.

Oscar Pistorius Bail Hearing: New Evidence Revealed Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius: Defense Presents New Evidence Watch Video

"The prosecutors were not aware of those charges [against Botha]," Medupe Simasiku of the National Prosecution Agency said. "We are calling up the information so we can get the details of the case. From there, we can take action and see if we remove him from the investigation or if he stays."

FULL COVERAGE: Oscar Pistorius Case

Botha muddled testimony and eventually admitted Wednesday at Pistorius' bail hearing that the suspect's account of the Valentine's Day shooting did not contradict the police's version of events.

A spokesman for the NPA admitted today that charges pending against Botha were not helpful for the credibility of the prosecution's case, but that the case would hinge on forensic evidence, not the testimony of a police officer.

Pistorius has argued in court that he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom. Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.

But prosecutors say that's implausible, that the gun's holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn't there. Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.

Defense attorneys representing Pistorius tore into investigators Wednesday, accusing them of sloppy police work and saying the substance that police identified as testosterone, which they found in his bathroom, was an herbal supplement.

In a statement overnight, Pistorius' family said the new testimony brought "more clarity" to the hearing.

Meanwhile, Steenkamp's cousin told CNN that she wants to believe Pistorius' story.

"That is what in my heart, I hope and wish is the truth, because I would not like to think my cousin suffered," Kim Martin, Steenkamp's cousin, told CNN's Piers Morgan. "I would not like to think that she was scared."

Steenkamp's brother Adam Steenkamp said the family is trying to focus on better days.

"We're remembering the positive," he said. "We're remembering the good."

Pistorius today was dropped by two of his sponsors, Nike and Thierry Mugler.

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Today on New Scientist: 19 February 2013

Doctors would tax sugary drinks to combat obesity

Hiking the price of fizzy drinks would cut consumption and so help fight obesity, urges the British Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

Space station's dark matter hunter coy about findings

Researchers on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which sits above the International Space Station, have collected their first results - but won't reveal them for two weeks

Huge telescopes could spy alien oxygen

Hunting for oxygen in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets is a tough job, but a new wave of giant telescopes should be up to the task

Evolution's detectives: Closing in on missing links

Technology is taking the guesswork out of finding evolution's turning points, from the first fish with legs to our own recent forebears, says Jeff Hecht

Moody Mercury shows its hidden colours

False-colour pictures let us see the chemical and physical landscape of the normally beige planet closest to the sun

LHC shuts down to prepare for peak energy in 2015

Over the next two years, engineers will be giving the Large Hadron Collider the makeover it needs to reach its maximum design energy

Insert real news events into your mobile game

From meteor airbursts to footballing fracas, mobile games could soon be brimming with news events that lend them more currency

3D-printing pen turns doodles into sculptures

The 3Doodle, which launched on Kickstarter today, lets users draw 3D structures in the air which solidify almost instantly

We need to rethink how we name exoplanets

Fed up with dull names for exoplanets, Alan Stern and his company Uwingu have asked the public for help. Will it be so long 2M 0746+20b, hello Obama?

A shocking cure: Plug in for the ultimate recharge

An electrical cure for ageing attracted the ire of the medical establishment. But could the jazz-age inventor have stumbled upon a genuine therapy?

Biofuel rush is wiping out unique American grasslands

Planting more crops to meet the biofuel demand is destroying grasslands and pastures in the central US, threatening wildlife

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Football: Manchester Utd chief executive David Gill to step down

LONDON: David Gill is to step down as chief executive of Manchester United on June 30, the English football giants announced on Wednesday.

In a statement on the club's official website, the 55-year-old Gill said his post-season exit would allow the Premier League leaders to "refresh themselves with new management and ideas".

United added that executive vice chairman Ed Woodward would replace Gill.

Gill is a vice-chairman of England's governing Football Association and one of his country's most highly regarded football administrators.

United co-chairman Joel Glazer said Gill, who will remain on the board at Old Trafford, was stepping down in part to advance his bid for election to the executive committee of European football's governing body, UEFA.

Gill himself made no comment about his post-United future in the statement, saying only it had been a hard decision to end 16 years of day-to-day involvement at Old Trafford, having joined the club as financial director in 1997 before becoming chief executive in September 2003.

"I've experienced some incredible highs, such as the Treble in 1999 and the League and Champions League double in 2008, and lows, like losing the title with the last kick of the season last year," he said.

"But that is what makes this club and this sport so compelling. It has been a very hard decision because I love this club and, as the fans' banner says, it is, 'more than a religion'.

"However, I have always been conscious of the fact that, as a member of staff, I was always just a temporary custodian of this marvellous institution.

"I am also of the view that all businesses need to refresh themselves with new management and ideas and after 10 years in charge, I believe it is appropriate for someone new to pick up the baton."

United manager Alex Ferguson, who has been at Old Trafford since 1986, paid tribute to Gill.

"I have been at United for over 26 years and for 23 of those years, my boss has been one of only two men: Martin Edwards, who brought me to the club, and David Gill," he said. "I have enjoyed working with both.

"Him stepping down is a big loss to me but the fact that he is staying on the board encourages me that the reason for his departure is heartfelt, that he believes it is time for the club to move on."

Glazer gave his backing to Gill's attempt to be elected to UEFA's executive committee.

"I hope that the decision he has made will be to the benefit of the game in Europe as a whole, as he seeks election to UEFA's executive committee," he said.

- AFP/de

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Jesse Jackson Jr., Sandi Jackson expected to plead guilty today

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, are expected to plead guilty to federal charges today, when more details may emerge about an alleged crime spree in which he is accused of spending more than $750,000 in campaign cash to buy luxury items, memorabilia and other goods.

Attorneys familiar with public corruption investigations said the amount of campaign cash allegedly converted to personal use in this case is the largest of any that they can remember.

Jackson Jr., who has been largely out of the public eye for eight months, is to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Chicago time. His wife is to appear at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Both Jacksons will stand before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins.

Sentencing is not expected for several weeks. Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison, while she faces up to three years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Jackson Jr., 47, was in the House of Representatives for 17 years until he resigned last November. Sandi Jackson, 49, was a Chicago alderman from 2007 until she stepped down in January.

He is charged with conspiracy in a case involving a $43,350 men’s Rolex watch, nearly $9,600 in children’s furniture and $5,150 in cashmere clothing and furs, court papers show. She is charged with filing false tax returns for six years, most recently calendar year 2011.

When separate felony charges were filed against them Friday, their attorneys said the two would plead guilty.

Prosecutors also are seeking a $750,000 judgment against Jackson Jr. and the forfeiture of thousands of dollars of goods he purchased, including cashmere clothing, furs and an array of memorabilia from celebrities including Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackson Jr. began a mysterious medical leave of absence last June for what was eventually described as bipolar disorder. Though he did not campaign for re-election, he won another term last Nov. 6 while being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He left office two weeks later, saying he was cooperating with federal investigators.

Married for more than 20 years, the Jacksons have a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. The family has homes in Washington and on Chicago’s South Side.

Washington defense attorney Stan Brand, the former general counsel of the House of Representatives, said Tuesday that Jackson Jr.’s case involved the largest sum of money he’s seen in a case involving personal use of campaign money. “Historically, there have been members of Congress who either inadvertently or maybe purposefully, but not to this magnitude, used campaign funds inappropriately,” he said.

Brand said that when the dollar figure involved is low, a lawmaker may be fined and ordered to reimburse the money. “This is so large, the Department of Justice decided to make his case criminal,” he said.

Other attorneys said they could not remember a bigger case of its kind. Washington attorney Ken Gross, a former lawyer for the Federal Election Commission, said: “Directly dipping into your campaign coffers, and spending money on personal items, I can’t recall a case where it involved this much money.”

Brand once represented another disgraced Illinois Democratic congressman, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, who in 1996 pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud. Rostenkowski was later represented by attorney Dan Webb, who is Sandi Jackson’s counsel.

Rostenkowski, who died in 2010, entered his pleas and received his punishment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — the same venue on the Jacksons’ calendars on Wednesday.

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Florida Python Hunt Captures 68 Invasive Snakes

It's a wrap—the 2013 Python Challenge has nabbed 68 invasive Burmese pythons in Florida, organizers say. And experts are surprised so many of the elusive giants were caught.

Nearly 1,600 people from 38 states—most of them inexperienced hunters—registered for the chance to track down one of the animals, many of which descend from snakes that either escaped or were dumped into the wild.

Since being introduced, these Asian behemoths have flourished in Florida's swamps while also squeezing out local populations of the state's native mammals, especially in the Everglades. (See Everglades pictures.)

To highlight the python problem, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its partners launched the 2013 Python Challenge, which encouraged registered participants to catch as many pythons as they could between January 12 and February 10 in state wildlife-management areas within the Everglades.

The commission gave cash prizes to those who harvested the most and longest pythons.

Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida and scientific leader for the challenge, said before the hunt that he would consider a harvest of 70 animals a success—and 68 is close enough to say the event met its goals.

It's unknown just how many Burmese pythons live in Florida, but catching 68 snakes is an "exceptional" number, added Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

Snakes in the Grass

Finding 68 snakes is impressive, experts say, since it's so hard to find pythons. For one, it's been unusually warm lately in Florida, which means the reptiles—which normally sun themselves to regulate their body temperature—are staying in the brush, making them harder to detect, Krysko said.

On top of that, Burmese pythons are notoriously hard to locate, experts say.

The animals are so well camouflaged that people can stand right next to one and not notice it. "It's rare that you get to see them stretched out—most of the time they're blending in," said Cheryl Millett, a biologist at the Nature Conservancy, a Python Challenge partner.

What's more, the reptiles are ambush hunters, which means they spend much of their time lying in wait in dense vegetation, not moving, she said.

That's why Millett gave the hunters some tips, such as looking along the water's edge, where the snakes like to hang out, and also simply listening for "something big moving through the vegetation."

Even so, catching 68 snakes is "actually is a little more than I expected," said Millett.

No Walk in the Park

Ruben Ramirez, founder of the company Florida Python Hunters, won two prizes in the competition: First place for the most snakes captured—18—and second place for the largest python, which he said was close to 11 feet (3.4 meters) long. The biggest Burmese python caught in Florida, nabbed in 2012, measured 17.7 feet (5.4 meters).

"They're there, but they're not as easy to find as people think," said Ramirez. "You're not going to be stumbling over pythons in Miami." (Related blog post: "What It's Like to Be a Florida Python Hunter.")

All participants, some of whom had never hunted a python before, were trained to identify the difference between a Burmese python and Florida's native snakes, said Millett. No native snakes were accidentally killed, she said.

Hunters were also told to kill the snakes by either putting a bolt or a bullet through their heads, or decapitating them-all humane methods that result "in immediate loss of consciousness and destruction of the brain," according to the Python Challenge website.

Ramirez added that some of the first-time or amateur hunters had different expectations. "I think they were expecting to walk down a canal and see a 10-foot [3-meter], 15-foot [4.5-meter] Burmese python. They thought it'd be a walk in the park."

Stopping the Spread

Completely removing these snakes from the wild isn't easy, and some scientists see the Python Challenge as helping to achieve part of that goal. (Read an opposing view on the Python Challenge: "Opinion: Florida's Great Snake Hunt Is a Cheap Stunt.")

"You're talking about 68 more animals removed from the population that shouldn't be there—that's 68 more mouths that aren't being fed," said the Florida museum's Krysko. (Read about giant Burmese python meals that went bust.)

"I support any kind of event or program that not only informs the general public about introduced species, but also gets the public involved in removing these nonnative animals that don't belong there."

The Nature Conservancy's Millett said the challenge had two positive outcomes: boosting knowledge for both science and the public.

People who didn't want to hunt or touch the snakes could still help, she said, by reporting sightings of exotic species to 888-IVE-GOT-1, through free IveGot1 apps, or

Millett runs a public-private Nature Conservancy partnership called Python Patrol that the Florida wildlife commission will take on in the fall. The program focuses not only on eradicating invasive pythons but on preventing the snake from moving to ecologically sensitive areas, such as Key West.

Necropsies on the captured snakes will reveal what pythons are eating, and location data from the hunters will help scientists figure out where the snakes are living—valuable data for researchers working to stop their spread.

"This is the most [number of] pythons that have been caught in this short of a period of time in such an extensive area," said the University of Florida's Mazzotti.

"It's an unprecedented sample, and we're going to get a lot of information out of that."

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Pistorius Shots Said to Come From High Angle

At the second day of a bail hearing for Olympian Oscar Pistorius, a South African investigator who arrived at the scene of the Feb. 14 fatal shooting said that Reeva Steenkamp was shot from a high angle, which prosecutors say contradicts the runner's account that he was not wearing his prosthetics when he shot his girlfriend to death.

Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades, appeared in court for the second day in a row after his arrest in the death of girlfriend Steenkamp at his gated home in Pretoria, South Africa.

Read Oscar Pistorius' Full Statement to the Court

PHOTOS: Paralympic Champion Charged in Killing

Arresting officer Hilton Botha told the court today that the 26-year-old was standing in the master bathroom when he shot the supermodel, who was crouched in a defensive position behind a locked door in a smaller powder room. He also said that the bullets that were fired had been fired from high up, and the bullets seemed to be coming in a downward direction.

"[The angle] seems to me down. Fired down," Botha told the court.

Pistorius said Tuesday that he went to the bathroom and fired through the door before putting on his prosthetic legs.

'Blade Runner' Appears in Court to Hear Murder Charges Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius Charged With Premeditated Murder Watch Video

Oscar Pistorius: Was Shooting Premeditated? Watch Video

He said he mistakenly shot his girlfriend, thinking she was an intruder.

Prosecutors also said that they found two boxes of testosterone in the bedroom, although the defense disputes that, saying it's just herbal supplements.

The court also heard that a witness, a neighbor who lives about 2,000 feet away from Pistorius' home, heard nonstop fighting the morning of the shooting.
"We have a witness who says she heard non-stop shouting and fighting between 2 and 3 a.m.," said prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who added that another witness saw lights on at the time of the gunshots.

Pistorius says he spent a quiet night with Steenkamp before the shooting.

Nel said that Pistorius' actions and phone calls on the night indicate pre-planning, and that there was a "deliberate aiming of shots at the toilet from about 1.5 meters [about 5 feet]."

He says Steenkamp was shot on the right side of her body.

Officer Botha also said Pistorius should be considered a flight risk because investigators discovered that he has offshore bank accounts and a house in Italy.

"I think it would be hard to get him back," Botha told the court. "This is a very serious crime, shooting an unarmed woman behind closed door."

Prosecutors also say they may file more charges for unlicensed ammunition, after a special-caliber .38 round was found in a safe in Pistorius' home.

Botha told the court today that he arrived at Pistorius' home at 4:15 a.m. Valentine's Day to find Steenkamp already dead, dressed in a white shorts and a black vest, and covered in towels. The only thing that Pistorius said was, 'I thought it was a burglar,'" according to Botha.

The 26-year-old sprinter Tuesday denied that he willfully killed Steenkamp, telling the court that he shot the woman through his bathroom door because he believed she was an intruder.

Botha said today that he attended Steenkamp's postmortem, and that she had three entrance wounds: one on the head, one in the elbow and one in the hip.

Describing the scene to the court, Botha said that the shots fired into the bathroom were aimed at the toilet bowl.

The shooter "would have to walk into the bathroom and turn directly at the door to shoot at the toilet the way the bullets went," he said.

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