Voice-operated dashboard technology still risky
WASHINGTON (AP) – Dashboard technology that lets drivers text and email with voice commands – marketed as a safer alternative – actually is more distracting than simply talking on a cellphone, a new AAA study found.
Automakers have been trying to excite new-car buyers, especially younger ones, with dashboard infotainment systems that let drivers use voice commands to do things like turning on windshield wipers, posting Facebook messages or ordering pizza. The pitch has been that hands-free devices are safer because they enable drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
But talking on a hands-free phone isn't significantly safer for drivers than talking on a hand-held phone, and using hands-free devices that translate speech into text is the most distracting of all, researchers reported in a study released Wednesday. Speech-to-text systems that enable drivers to send, scroll through, or delete email and text messages required greater concentration by drivers than other potentially distracting activities examined in the study like talking on the phone, talking to a passenger, listening to a book on tape or listening to the radio.
NSA director: Programs disrupted dozens of attacks
WASHINGTON (AP) – The director of the National Security Agency said Wednesday that once-secret surveillance programs disrupted dozens of terrorist attacks, explicitly describing for Congress how the programs worked in collecting Americans' phone records and tapping into their Internet activity.
Vigorously defending the programs, Gen. Keith Alexander said the public needs to know how the programs operate amid growing concerns that government efforts to secure the nation are encroaching on Americans' privacy and civil liberties.
Alexander said he will provide additional information to the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session on Thursday and hopes to have as many details as possible within a week. He said he wants the information to be checked first by other agencies to ensure that the details are correct.
ESPN to kill 3-D broadcasts by end of year
NEW YORK (AP) – ESPN will stop broadcasting in 3-D by the end of the year, the network said Wednesday, dealing a major blow to a technology that was launched with great fanfare but has been limping along for years.
The sports network said there were too few viewers to make 3-D broadcasts worthwhile. It didn't say exactly how many viewers it had, but the number was "extremely limited and not growing."
Last year only 2 percent of TVs in the U.S. were able to show 3-D programming, according to the most recent data from research firm IHS Screen Digest.
Baby Bounce: Royal infant may help UK economy
LONDON (AP) – British officials are hoping that the impending royal birth will produce a bouncing baby buoy for the economy.
With the Duchess of Cambridge due to give birth to an heir to the throne next month, it's time for citizens and groups to consider how to best mark the moment.
Happy occasions often boost consumer confidence, sparking a spring in the step that leads right to the shopping mall for street party snacks, summer frocks and suntan lotion. And happy national occasions with the royal family and a new heir hit an emotional jackpot in Britain – boosting national pride along with tea, cakes and commemorative china.
BP: Global demand for energy slows
LONDON (AP) – Global demand for oil, gas, coal and nuclear power grew at a slower pace last year due to weak economic growth, recession and increased efficiency, energy company BP said Wednesday.
In an annual review of the world energy market, BP PLC said growth in energy consumption slowed to 1.8 percent from 2.4 percent in 2011. Demand continued to grow in China and India, which together accounted for almost 90 percent of the global increase. But even growth in developing countries was slower than it has been over the last decade.
Energy demand in the United States fell 2.8 percent, leading an overall decline of 1.2 percent in developed countries.
Facebook introduces hashtags
NEW YORK (AP) – Facebook is introducing hashtags, the number signs used on Twitter, Instagram and other services to identify topics being discussed and allow users to search for them.
Facebook Inc. said in a blog post Wednesday that users will be able to click a hashtag to see a feed of discussions about a particular topic. For example, typing a hashtag in front of "ladygaga" or "sunset" will turn the words into a link that users can click on to find posts about Lady Gaga or sunsets.
Facebook said hashtags are a first step toward making it easier for users to find out what others are discussing. The company is not giving exact details about other tools it might introduce. If Twitter's use of hashtags is any indication, Facebook will likely incorporate them into its advertising business.
New Myspace takes it back to the future
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tim and Chris Vanderhook think Myspace had it right – at one point. And they believe they've revived and improved that formula for success as the revamped first titan of social media debuts its latest incarnation.
The Vanderhooks unveiled the new Myspace.com Wednesday, revealing a site focused on entertainment that combines social networking with streaming music. There are new features aimed at helping musicians, writers and other artists connect with their followers, an app and a radio function.
The launch comes nearly two years after the Irvine, Calif.-based Specific Media owners teamed with Justin Timberlake to buy the ailing website for $35 million, a fraction of the $560 million News Corp. paid for it in 2005.
Cooper CEO says buyer committed to US operations
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – A tire maker whose main market is India is buying Ohio's Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. for $2.2 billion and making a commitment to maintain the company's three U.S. manufacturing plants and retain its management operation in Ohio, Cooper's CEO said Wednesday.
India's Apollo Tyres Ltd. said the combined company will be the world's seventh-largest tire maker and have a strong foothold across four continents.
Their tire brands include Apollo, Cooper, Roadmaster and Vredestein.
The deal gives Apollo access to markets in the U.S. and China while Cooper gets a premium price per share and some assurances that its domestic operations won't be gutted.
Yahoo to release IDs of inactive email accounts
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Yahoo is trying to breathe new life into inactive email accounts by giving away the identifications beginning next month.
The program announced Wednesday will give Web surfers an opportunity to claim a new handle that had previously been unavailable. It also represents a last chance for Yahoo users who haven't logged in for at least a year to keep the address.
Yahoo Inc. plans to release the inactive accounts unless the current owner logs in again before July 15. After that, the identifications will be available to all comers and will be ready to use again in mid-August.
Strike over EU plan snarls France, UK airports
PARIS (AP) – A strike by air traffic controllers forced cancellations of more than 60 percent of flights around France and disrupted travel elsewhere in Europe on Wednesday, as workers protested a plan to simplify Europe's patchwork airspace.
More than 2,000 flights were canceled in France as more workers joined the second day of the strike, according to the civil aviation authority. The walkout started Tuesday and is scheduled to end by Thursday.
The umbrella union for air traffic controllers said 11 countries would take part. The biggest walkout was in France, but it had a ripple effect on other European countries.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 126.79 points, or 0.8 percent, to 14,995.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13.61 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,612.52. The Nasdaq composite sank 36.52 points, or 1 percent, to 3,400.43.