Canon 5D Mark III clean HDMI firmware update available

Canon has released one of the most significant firmware updates for the camera thus far.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

First announced in October 2012, version 1.2.1 of the SLR’s firmware will allow users to output a clean HDMI feed. One of the key disadvantages up until now for the Mark III has been the extra information that is output alongside the Live View image when using HDMI out, which made the footage unusable for actual recording purposes.

The update allows users to record uncompressed (YCbCr 4:2:2, 8 bit) video to an external recorder or display it on an external monitor during filming. This puts the Mark III in line with several Nikon SLRs, which are able to output clean HDMI feeds, such as the D800 and D4.

Other updates include a tweak to the AF system, which enables the use of the centre point at f/8. Without the firmware update, this centre point is only available on the Mark III with maximum apertures up to f/5.6. The AF update will be of most use to sports and wildlife photographers who rely on accurate performance when using telephoto lenses and extenders. Canon claims that the new firmware will allow photographers to use the EF 600 f/4 lens and a 2x extender, getting an effective focal length of 1200mm with accurate AF performance.

The firmware is available for free download from Canon’s website.

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Stunning, strange hurricane captured on Saturn

The eye of the storm, dubbed by NASA as “The Rose”.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

The Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn has photographed a mysterious hurricane raging at the planet’s north pole.

Since 1980, when the Voyager 1 probe sent back an image of Saturn depicting a hexagonal cloud formation at the planet’s north pole, astronomers had wondered what lies within. That mystery was finally answered in 2007: a massively turbulent storm, possibly endlessly raging (well, at least for 30 years), captured by Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS).

Now, for the first time, Cassini has snapped close-up, visible light photographs of the monster storm. With an eye 2000 kilometres across — just over half the width of Australia — it is 20 times the size of the average hurricane on Earth, and the clouds around the eye’s outer edge move at a speed of 150 metres per second. The entire storm could fit four Earths within its hexagonal borders.

But it seems, in spite of its size, that there are many similarities between Saturn’s hurricane and the hurricanes on Earth — even though Saturn has only very small amounts of water. Terrestrial hurricanes generally feed off ocean water, so scientists are keen to make a deeper study of the phenomenon to find out exactly how Saturn’s hurricane uses water vapour.

The green colouring represents zones of high storm activity.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

“We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth, But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapour in Saturn’s hydrogen atmosphere,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

Similarities between the two planets’ hurricanes include a central eye with little to no cloud cover; a high cloud “wall” at the edge of the eye; high clouds spiralling the eye; and a counter-clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere. Of the differences, Saturn’s storm is, of course, much bigger and more powerful; and unlike terrestrial hurricanes, which tend to move northwards, the Saturn storm is locked in one place — presumably, the scientists say, because it is already as far north as it can get.

These images, captured on 27 November 2012, at a distance of 419,000 kilometres from Saturn, are among the very first sunlit views of the pole; Cassini arrived in Saturn’s orbit in 2004 during the winter when the north pole is facing away from the sun and, since then, has been unable to line up a detailed view of the poles until now. They have been captured in the near-infrared spectrum and false-coloured: images filtered at 890 nanometres are projected as blue, images filtered at 728 nanometres are projected as green, and images filtered at 752 nanometres are projected as red, where red is low cloud and green is high.


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‘Austerity cuts hurt US health standards’

In a book to be released this week, authors said on Monday that austerity measures have driven up suicide rates, depression and infectious diseases in the United States and Europe over a 10-year period of research during the “Great Recession”.

“The harms we have found include HIV and malaria outbreaks, shortages of essential medicines, lost healthcare access, and an avoidable epidemic of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide,” said David Stuckler, a senior researcher at Oxford University.

Patients also have reduced access to medicines and care, in which 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed, the study showed.

In Europe, HIV epidemics have spread in the course of cutbacks in services to vulnerable people, particularly with the Greeks experiencing a 200 percent rise in HIV rates since 2011 – in part due to increased drug abuse amid a 50 percent youth unemployment rate.

In the United States, over five million people have lost healthcare access during the latest recession. More than 40 percent of US residents went without health insurance or had coverage that didn’t protect them against high medical costs last year.

The authors criticized Western governments for their failed economic and political policies, with politicians failing “to take into account the serious – and in some cases profound – health consequences of economic choices.”

Diminishing health standards amid austerity cuts may have been avoided as “worsening health is not an inevitable consequence of economic recessions – it’s a political choice,” said Sanjay Basu, professor and epidemiologist at Stanford University.


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Iran target of Israel’s claims on Syria

“If the United States intervened in Syria to secure its chemical stockpiles – perhaps organizing the Arab League, the members of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council or NATO to share the job – Israeli officials say it would be a signal that Mr. Obama would most likely back up his warnings to Iran the same way,” The New York Times reports in a Saturday article, citing interviews with current and former officials of the Zionist regime.

Pointing to a vague but seemingly firm threat by US President Barack Obama that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would “change my calculus” in terms of an American military intervention in the key Arab country bordering Israel, the daily adds, “Israel appeared to be egging on Mr. Obama toward taking action” against Damascus when it claimed last Tuesday that the Syrian government “appeared” to have used “sarin gas,” a highly lethal chemical agent, in the country.

Although the highly suspicious and circumstantial “intelligence assessment” by the Tel Aviv regime was extensively discounted by experts and analysts in the US and elsewhere, the Obama administration followed suit and also claimed on Friday that the American ‘intelligence community’ had also assessed “with some degree of varying confidence” that the chemical agent sarin has been used in Syria.

To Israelis, the daily reiterates, how Obama “navigates the next few weeks will be viewed as a gauge for what he might do later regarding the potentially bigger confrontation in the region,” clearly pointing to Iran’s nuclear energy program as the ultimate target of the Zionist regime.

It then quotes Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin as saying, “There is a question here: when a red line is set, can we stick by it? If the Iranians will see that the red lines laid by the international community are flexible, then will they continue to progress?”

The Zionist official was referring to the widely mocked red line drawn by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his September address at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in a purported attempt to warn the world about Iranian advancements in the field of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment.

The Zionist regime has been making huge efforts in the past years to press the US and other Western allies to impose sanctions and even take military action against the Islamic Republic with fabricated claims that it intends to divert from its civilian nuclear energy program.

This is while the Israeli regime has never denied a global belief that it possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads and it persistently refuses inspection of its nuclear facilities by international regulators. Additionally, Tel Aviv has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is not the member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Iranian nuclear energy program, however, operates under close monitoring by IAEA inspectors and the country remains a long-standing signatory of the NPT.

While the Islamic Republic has persistently denied any non-civilian diversion of its nuclear energy program, citing Islam’s rejection of any sort of mass-destructive weapons, in response to US and Israeli threats of military action against its nuclear facilities, it has vowed to retaliate such moves by razing Israel to the ground.


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US deploys ‘medical force’ to Gitmo

Nearly 40 more “US Navy medical forces” have arrived at the notorious military prison camps in efforts to deal with the spreading hunger strike by what the prison authorities report as 100 detainees, over one-fifth of whom are being force-fed to keep them alive, US-based daily The Miami Herald reported Monday, citing the prison’s spokesman.

The “corpsmen, nurses, and other specialists” arrived at the naval base over the weekend “as part of a contingency during the ongoing hunger strike,” the report added, citing a statement by the spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Samuel House.

The figure offered by prison authorities, however, has been contested by a number of attorneys for the inmates who have put the number of Guantanamo hunger strikers at between 130 and all the 166 remaining detainees.

Col. House further pointed out that five of the hunger striking protester at the infamous prison have been transferred to the camp’s hospital but claimed that their conditions are not “life-threatening.”

The arrival of the US Navy medical force reinforcements at the military prison, meanwhile, coincided with a visit by International Red Cross delegates to inspect conditions at the Guantanamo detention camps and a report by the attorney for one of the hunger strikers subjected to force-feeding that the military medical forces at the facility have been using “an unnecessarily large feeding tube” on his Kuwaiti captive client.

Five Red Cross delegates arrived Friday and began work on Saturday on “an ad-hoc assessment visit,” the report adds, citing ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno, who declined to identify the nationalities of any of the team members.

“As always, the ICRC will address its findings confidentially and with US authorities only,” Schorno emphasized.

Meanwhile, the report adds, detainee Fayiz al-Kandari, 35, has been force-fed at the prison camp for a week, said his lawyer, federal public defender Carlos Warner, citing both a telephone conversation with his client and a notice from the Justice Department.

Warner added that Kandari had complained that the military is “using a Size 10 tube instead of Size 8,” which “makes it hard to breathe” because it’s “too big and induces vomiting.”

Col. House, however, insisted that “there is no ‘standard'” size of tube used in a nasogastric feeding at Guantanamo.

The development comes as the American Medical Association sent a letter to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday to point out the organization’s policy that force-feeding mentally competent adults that refuse food is a violation of medical ethics. The letter called on Hagel “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”

Most of the 166 “terror suspects” held captive at Guantanamo military base have been in detention since early 2000s without charge or trial. Back in 2009, newly elected US President Barack Obama promised to shut down the infamous prison but four years on, the controversial facility remains open and reportedly expanding.


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Sioux will protest if Wounded Knee sold

Land owner James Czywczynski has announced that he plans to sell a 40-acre parcel of land, which is close to the massacre site where about 150 of the 300 unarmed Lakota men, women, and children killed by the 7th Cavalry of the US Army in 1890 are buried.

He has given the Oglala Sioux Tribe until May 1 to come up with the $3.9 million asking price. Czywczynski says he has received offers from a number of investment groups, who are likely to capitalize on the land as a tourist resort.

However, most of the Lakota Sioux elders believe the site should be left in peace out of respect for the people who died there.

The Lakota Sioux say they cannot make an offer for the land, given the stated conditions, and describe the move as a greedy act of blackmail for a piece of land worth less than $10,000 on the open market.

“This is our backyard; this is our homeland,” tribal representative Garfield Steele said. “This has historical value for our people, not to any non-Indian. We will fight to keep it, as is, by all means.”

Steele said opposition could include protests to stop the land from being converted into a tourist attraction.

Nathan Blindman, a descendant of one of the survivors of the 1890 massacre, says he wants to fight the sale in court.

He said the Bureau of Indian Affairs made a mistake when it approved the original sale of land from its Lakota owners to a non-Indian couple in 1930. That couple sold the property to Czywczynski in 1968.

Blindman said the federal government should step in to return the land to the Lakota.

The Wounded Knee National Historical Landmark covers 870 acres. The part of the massacre site up for sale is close to the burial grounds and includes the site of a former trading post that was burned down during the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising.

The Wounded Knee uprising began on February 27, 1973, when hundreds of Oglala Lakota protesters and followers of the American Indian Movement took control of the town of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff.

The standoff began after the failure of efforts to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson, who was accused of corruption and abuse of opponents.

The protesters also criticized the US government for not observing the terms of treaties with Indian peoples and demanded the reopening of treaty negotiations.

An FBI agent was paralyzed from a gunshot wound early in the standoff. He later died due to complications. Two tribal members, a Cherokee and an Oglala Lakota, were killed in shootings toward the end of the takeover of Wounded Knee in April 1973.


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Student shoots self in Ohio high school

The incident took place about 8:00 a.m. local time (1600 GMT) on Monday at La Salle High School.

“A student produced a gun inside one of the classrooms and shot himself, and we’re dealing with that now,” a local official with the sheriff’s office told reporters.

The official said the youth apparently was trying to commit suicide, but did not provide further details concerning the incident except that the student was later transported to University Hospital.

The students at the all-male private school were put on lockdown as a precaution after the shooting.

The United States has for many years been engaged in shooting incidents, many of them in schools and universities. The country has been debating gun-control laws following a series of tragic shootings in the past months.

On December 14, 2012, the 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza had shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home.

The incident was the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide.


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‘UN must find Syria chem. arms culprit’

“According to the Syrian government, militants have used chemical weapons and the United Nations should identify the main culprit before the condition gets out of hand,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Tuesday.

This comes while US, Israeli and Britain claim that there is evidence of the Syrian government using chemical weapons in its fight against the foreign-backed militants. However, Syria has dismissed the allegations as false and fabricated.

On April 27, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi described the claims as a “barefaced lie,” stressing that Damascus will never use chemical arms “not only because of its adherence to the international law and rules of leading war, but because of humanitarian and moral issues.”

Salehi further reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s opposition to the use of chemical arms and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by any country.

“We are opposed to any production, stockpiling and use of the weapons of mass destruction, and this stance is the clear message and basic policy of Iran,” the Iranian diplomat said.

The Syrian government had earlier called on the UN to launch an investigation into the issue and condemned foreign-sponsored militants for using such weapons in an effort to prevent the perpetration of more crimes in the crisis-hit country, Salehi added.

On March 19, some 25 people were killed and many others injured when militants fired missiles “containing a chemical substance” into a village near the Syrian city of Aleppo, according to a report by the official Syrian news agency, SANA.


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Insecurity, US plot for Iraq breakup: MP

“The plan for splitting Iraq into three regions of Kurdish, Shia and Sunni [Muslim] majority was first brought up by [US Vice President] Joe Biden,” Mohammad-Reza Rezaei Kouchi said on Tuesday.

Biden’s bill for “decentralizing” Iraq, which was proposed in 2006 and widely viewed as aimed at paving the way for the breakup of the Arab country, was put to vote and approved by the US Senate 75-to-23.

Rezaei Kouchi condemned Western attempts to divide the Iraqi political parties, and blamed Arab regimes opposed to the growing Shia influence in the region for fueling the violence through their critical comments.

“Restoration of calm and stability in Iraq is certainly not to the benefit of those that invaded the country under the pretext of the existence of chemical weapons [in Iraq], but gained nothing except heavy expenses and criticism from the public,” he stated.

The lawmaker said Syria and Iraq, which support the anti-Israel resistance front, have fallen victim to US-engineered “wars of attrition,” aimed at giving “a breathing aperture” to the Israeli regime.

Violence has picked up in Iraq since April 23, when security forces clashed with militants and anti-government protesters in several towns and cities, including Ramadi and Hawija near the northern city of Kirkuk.

So far this month, more than 450 people have been killed and over 1,150 wounded in violence across Iraq, based on tolls from security and medical sources.


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Israeli settlers vandalize mosque in WB

The incident occurred on Tuesday when dozens of settlers attacked Palestinians and their property in city of Nablus and neighboring Tulkarem.

Israelis stopped two school buses near the illegal Yizhar settlement, south of Nablus, and hurled stones at the vehicles, said Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank.

The attack left more than 20 students injured and caused widespread panic, he added.

Masked settlers burned tires at road junctions in Nablus and hurled stones at Palestinian cars.

Meanwhile, settlers set fire to dozens of olive trees in the Nablus villages of Asira al-Qibliya and Urif, and attacked vehicles east of Tulkarem.

Tensions are high in the northern West Bank following a stabbing attack which killed a settler earlier in the day near Zatara checkpoint in Nablus.


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