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Fake news story sets off Israel-Pakistan Twitter feud

Published: Sunday, December 25, 2016 @ 1:37 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 25, 2016 @ 1:37 PM
By: The Associated Press

A fake news story has touched off a tense Twitter confrontation between nuclear power Pakistan and Israel, widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal of its own, in an episode that underlines the potentially harmful impact of such stories in sensitive global affairs

In an apparent response to a fake story claiming Israel's former defense minister threatened a nuclear attack against Pakistan if it sends troops to Syria, Pakistan's Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif reminded Israel that "Pakistan is a nuclear state too."

Israel's Defense Ministry tweeted back Saturday, saying the original story on the site AWD News was "totally fictitious."

AWD has been identified by fact-checking organizations as a fake news site.

Israel maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying the existence of an arsenal. Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998. The countries have no diplomatic ties.

There was no immediate reaction from Pakistan to Israel's response.

Spotify helps listeners cook turkey with Thanksgiving-themed playlists

Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 @ 3:37 PM
By: Jackie Wang

Spotify helps listeners cook turkey with Thanksgiving-themed playlists
 (Spotify)

Spotify wants to help you cook your Thanksgiving turkey just right.

Time for Turkey, the streaming service's holiday-specific program,  gives users three steps for a perfectly-done turkey: provide the turkey's weight, choose what genre of music you'd like to listen to, and enjoy.

Genres include Americana, "Family Time," "Feeling Thankful," "Club Kitchen," "Freshly Baked" and "Golden Oldies." Each themed playlist name works off of the genre. For example,  the "Freshly Baked" playlist brings out the newest hits for you to enjoy some never-tasted-before singles. "Family Time" includes songs that every generation can enjoy, such as "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees or "Riptide" by Vance Joy.

Unfortunately, none of the playlists include the classic Thanksgiving songs of Bob's Burgers, including one of the best Thanksgiving song collaboration of all time.

While the songs themselves may not be Thanksgiving-themed, the variety of turkey accompaniment that Spotify has provided contributes so much to the dinner process. Even if only for timing purposes, Time for Turkey will add to your Thanksgiving feast. In an age where we see Christmas advertisements earlier and earlier each year, this feels like a good way for a company to give Thanksgiving a nod of acknowledgment.

Helmet for treating depression being used in Austin

Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 @ 5:18 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 5:54 PM
By: Omar L. Gallaga - American-Statesman Staff

Helmet for treating depression being used in Austin
Danny Pyka, a patient at Senior Adult Specialty Healthcare, is fitted with a helmet from Brainsway Ltd. on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, which is used for treatment of major depression. Pyka says he noticed immediate improvement the same week he started treatments. (Omar L. Gallaga)

Danny Pyka, an Austinite who worked for Mercedes-Benz for about 10 years, had been suffering from depression for so long and so severely that he was certain his suicidal thoughts would eventually lead to the end of his life.

"It was just miserable," said Pyka, who found work as a handyman, but found it difficult to have a normal life or relationships with his wife and 18-year-old daughter not affected by his condition. "I was secluding myself... I'd close the house off and just sleep pretty much the whole day."

Many attempts at medicating the problem over 10 to 15 years failed. He heard through a friend that studies were being done on a new technology, Deep TMS, or Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, from a New Jersey and Tel Aviv-based company called Brainsway. Pyka was able to get the treatment in Austin and says he noticed an improvement after the first week of about nine weeks of treatments.

"The suicidal thoughts were ruminating thoughts that affected me throughout my daily life. After the first week and so on, they just dissipated. I'm very fortunate and very happy that it worked for me," Pyka said.

Pyka had the treatment done at Senior Adults Speciality Healthcare in Northwest Austin, which has been working with TMS technology for about two and a half years. TMS works through a mounted helmet that generates an electrical pulse, not unlike the technology in an MRI. Patients cycle through two-second pulses followed by 20 seconds of rest for each sequence, called a "Train," and it's repeated for about 20 minutes. Treatments are done daily for about six weeks, followed by a three week tapering off period.

Different patients may require a different power intensity depending on each patient's motor threshold, the number of sequences is the same for all patience. The pulses for this particular treatment (there are others being tested for other afflictions) target the primary motor cortex. The low-level electrical charge affects mood regulation, retraining the nervous system to work correctly.

Dr. Jaron Winston says that unlike electroconvulsive treatment, or shock treatment, which can have severe side effects, TMS has proven for many of his patients to be the a less invasive treatment for chronic depression that works more effectively than medication.

"About 60 percent of patients (within our clinic) go into total remission of their depression; 60 to 70 percent had significant reduction of depressive symptoms," Winston said.

Clinical studies of the technology since its FDA approval for treating depression in 2008 have bolstered the view that it can be effective for some who have not gotten results from medication or for those who've relapsed into depression,.

The National Institute of Mental Health has funded studies into the technology, which lists it on its website alongside electroconsulsive therapy. The American Psychiatric Association includes TMS in its 2010 guidelines for treating major depressive disorders  and the organization says it will be updating those guidelines soon with more recent research.

Winston said that patients can experience some minor pain from the pulse as nerves on the scalp are stimulated, but that it typically goes away, which Pyka said was his experience.

"It feels like somebody thumping on the right side of your head for the amount of seconds" the machine runs, Pyka said. But by the third or fourth treatment, he said, "it gets more simple to do. I’ve honestly nodded off a couple of times in the chair. You get used to it."

In the U.S., Deep TMS is only FDA-approved for use in treating depression, and Winston says that insurance typically won't cover followup maintenance appointments or the treatment itself unless medications have used and failed to treat the depression.

 Off-label treatments being tested using other versions of the technology could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar depression and even smoking addiction by stimulating other parts of the brain.

Winston said that many potential patients and even some doctors and psychiatrists are unaware that the technology exists and is available, particularly for people who aren't responding to medication. 

"It's another treatment to help make (patients) functional again, to make them come out of their depression and withdrawal states," Winston said. "As treatment goes by, they will say they've never felt this well, their thinking is clearer, their cognition is better, than can focus, their mood is better, sleep is better. But there's still people who don't know anything about it."

Pyka, who has completed treatment with Deep TMS, says he's been more productive and is now able to enjoy watching his daughter grow up without taking five or six medications a day (he only takes medication for sleep issues now). 

The crying and worrying, he says, has subsided.

"It's been a life-changing experience."

AT&T spends $550 million to boost Austin network

Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 12:15 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 5:52 PM
By: Gary Dinges

AT&T spends $550 million to boost Austin network
AT&T says it has invested more than $550 million in its Austin network over the past three years. (AT&T)

 Telecommunications giant AT&T said Thursday that it has invested more than $550 million in its Austin network over the past three years. 

The projects have helped improved service for customers using both wired and wireless services, the Dallas-based company said. 

AT&T said upgrades included construction of additional cell towers, increased coverage and capacity for mobile broadband and WiFi services via new distributed antenna systems, and enhancements designed to boost service near the University of Texas campus and at local sports venues. 

"We're committed to providing our Austin customers fast, reliable, highly secure connectivity,” Leslie Ward, AT&T’s vice president of legislative affairs, said in a written statement. “We want them to access the Internet at any moment, from almost any device and from anywhere. Our continued investment in Austin brings a host of new, innovative opportunities for residents and businesses." 

Work will continue in 2016 and beyond, AT&T said, with a particular focus on making super-fast, 1-gigabit Internet available to more residential and business customers. 

"Austin has a strong, vibrant economy and is a recognized leader in tech," said state Sen. Kirk Watson, whose district covers parts of Austin. "Strong investment in our communications infrastructure is key to our continued growth in all areas. I appreciate AT&T's commitment to this community as they continue to invest in a fast, reliable network to ensure our businesses and residents have access to the tools and technologies needed in today's fast-paced world and economy."

Why is it so hard to find smaller 4K television sets?

Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 3:55 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 5:32 PM
By: Omar L. Gallaga - American-Statesman Staff

Why is it so hard to find smaller 4K television sets?
Vizio's P-Series TV offers 4K resolution at an affordable price, according to CNet. 

A very nice 91-year-old reader called in to ask if she should buy a 4K television set for her bedroom. The problem, she said, is that she suffers from macular degeneration and wants a TV with the sharpest, brightest picture possible. But nothing too large.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to find a 4K (also known as Ultra HD) set, one that offers higher resolutions and high dynamic range, but at the size you want in a small bedroom, anywhere from 27 to 35 inches.

The problem was familiar. Back when 1080p television sets were first becoming popular, I struggled to find a 32-inch model and was told at the time that 1080p on a small set was overkill. You might hear similar advice when it comes to 4K in terms of jamming all those pixels into a smaller set.

The smallest 4K model I could find on Amazon is a discontinued 39-inch model from Seika. 40 inches seems to be the typical smallest size for 4K, going up past 100 inches for the big spenders. It may be a matter of serving the people who are actually buying 4K TVs: the sets will typically end up in a living room where larger-sized TVs are the norm.

I told the very kind caller that if it has to be a small set, to get the best 1080p model she can find with the brightest picture available, at least until more modest 4K sizes become available. But if you're willing to leave the label "TV" behind, you can find plenty of computer monitors (which have HDMI inputs and could easily double as a TV) that can display 4K resolutions in those smaller sizes


In this space every week, we’ll define a tech term, offer a timely tip or answer questions about technology from readers. Email ogallaga@statesman.com.