Undersea explorers reveal new images of the Titanic wreckage

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019   •   1052

Underwater image of the RMS Titanic wreckage | Courtesy: Atlantic Productions

New images from the Titanic wreckage have been revealed by explorers.

Video and photographs taken by high-powered, specially adapted cameras captured the bacteria-eaten ship at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Explorer Victor Vescovo is leading a mission to the bottom of the five oceans. Known at the Five Deeps Expedition, Vescovo pilots a special submersible vehicle that took more than three years to build.

The mission 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) to the bottom of the ocean captured the first images of the sunken British passenger liner in 14 years.

Vescovo said the team made a total of five dives to the wreck over eight days in early August.

“It’s big. It is a big wreck. I wasn’t fully ready for just how large it was. And when it came up on sonar, it really stood out,” said the explorer.

While underwater, the team performed photogrammetry passes on the ship. That information will be used to make to 3D models for use on augmented reality and virtual reality platforms. The images may also help scientists predict how the wreck will continue to deteriorate.

“It was just extraordinary just to see it all,” Vescovo added. “The most amazing moment came when I was going along the side of the Titanic and the bright lights of the submersible, the first time when they reflected off of a portal and came right back. It was like the ship was winking at me. It was really amazing.”

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage, traveling from Southampton, England, to New York. Onboard were a number of prominent people, including American businessman Benjamin Guggenheim, British journalist William Thomas Stead, and Macy’s department store co-owner Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida.

The liner struck an iceberg late on April 14 and sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Of the 2,223 passengers and crew aboard the ship, dubbed “unsinkable” before departure, 1,517 died. (Reuters)

Fire in Liberia school kills at least 27 children

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

A fire at an Islamic school in Liberia has killed at least 27 children, police said on Wednesday (September 18).

The police spokesman Moses Carter said the blaze was caused by an electrical issue and the kids were learning the Koran when the fire broke out. He added that further investigations were ongoing.

Carter had originally said 30 children were killed before revising the death toll down to 27. Two survivors were taken to the hospital, he said.

The fire started late on Tuesday (September 17) in the suburbs of the capital Monrovia, President George Weah said in a tweet.

“My prayers go out to the families of the children that died last night in Paynesville City,” Weah said. “This is a tough time for the families of the victims and all of Liberia.”

It is common for buildings to collapse in blazes linked to faulty electrics in Liberia’s big cities, however, these are rarely deadly. (Reuters)

(Production: Soraya Ali)

India becomes latest country to ban sale of e-cigarettes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

India became the latest country after Brazil and Thailand to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in what could potentially be the biggest move against vaping globally over growing health concerns.

The ban, which also covers the production, import and advertising of e-cigarettes, cuts off a huge future market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining.

“There has been a 77 percent increase in addiction of e-cigarettes among school-going or college-going young adults, teenagers, and children because nicotine addiction is quick and it is harmful as well,” Indian Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Preeti Sudan said.

India has 106 million smokers, second only to China.

The ban could also dash the expansion plans of companies such as Altria, backed Juul Labs, and Philip Morris International into the country.

“$150 billion opportunity, now that’s what is estimated, the nicotine market is going to be, why are we denying our farmers that, why are we denying our citizens a right to a less harmful product, these are questions that I would really like to ask the government,” Praveen Rikhy, Trade Representatives of endsin India said. (Reuters)

(Production: Soraya Ali)

Facebook unveils new Portal video chat, TV streaming devices

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

Facebook Inc. unveiled new models of its Portal video chatting devices on Wednesday (September 18), making the company’s first foray into TV streaming hardware but offering a limited selection of subscription services.

The launch comes as Facebook is trying to pivot toward more private forms of communication, after years of slowing user growth, data-sharing scandals and calls for change to its hands-off approach to content moderation.

The company is already one of the biggest global players in private messaging, with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram apps used by 2.4 billion people each month.

It is keeping the focus of its new Portal line on video calling, adding the capability for WhatsApp calls along with improvements to a wide-angle camera that keeps users in focus as they move about a room.

Facebook is also expanding Portal sales into countries including the UK, France and Australia, while lowering prices to more closely compete with industry-leading smart speakers from Amazon and Google that sell for under $100.

Standard models of the Portal, which ship on Oct. 15, will come in $129 and $179 versions. Portal TV will cost $149 and hit the shelves on Nov. 5.

Facebook is hoping the social nature of its products will be their selling point, allowing users to watch shows together while interacting via video call on the same screen.

“I think that in a couple years’ time, if you have a smart streaming device that doesn’t have a camera allowing you to video call people, you’re not going to have a competitive product,” said vice president of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth. “I think this is the killer feature for a device like this.”

Bosworth also touted privacy protections like local processing of smart features on the devices, which means most user data will not be sent back to Facebook servers.

But Portal TV offers only a few music apps and has limited options for TV programming, meaning it could face a stiff challenge in attracting consumers used to content-rich rivals like Apple TV, Netflix and Roku.

At a demonstration in San Francisco on Tuesday, the only way to stream shows appeared to be via Facebook’s Watch app. Executives said Portal TV would have Amazon’s Prime Video app loaded by the time it is available.

The company declined to say whether it had approached other content providers like HBO, Hulu or Disney.

Facebook does not disclose how many Portals it has sold since the device’s launch late last year, but hardware accounts for a tiny slice of the company’s total sales.

The social media giant makes less than 2 percent of its revenue from non-advertising sources. (Reuters)

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