Orangutans at Miami zoo use iPads to communicate
MIAMI — The orangutans at Miami's Jungle Island apparently are just like people when it comes to technology.
The park is one of several zoos experimenting with computers and apes, letting its six orangutans use an iPad to communicate as part of a mental stimulus program. Linda Jacobs, who oversees the program, hopes the device will eventually help bridge the gap between humans and the endangered apes.
Although Jacobs and other trainers have developed strong relationships with the orangutans, the iPad and other touchscreen computers offer an opportunity for them to communicate with people not trained in their sign language.
"It would just be such a wonderful bridge to have," Jacobs said, "so that other people could really appreciate them."
FDA: Children's medical tests need lower doses of radiation
WASHINGTON — The government is taking steps to help ensure that children who need CT scans and other X-ray-based tests don't get an adult-size dose of radiation.
Too much radiation from medical testing is a growing concern, especially for children, because it might increase the risk of cancer later in life.
Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration proposed guidelines urging manufacturers to design new scanners to be safer for the youngest, smallest patients — and put new advice on its website to teach parents what to ask about these increasingly common tests.
"We are trying to ensure that patients get the right dose at the right time and the right exam," FDA physicist Thalia Mills said.
Although there's no generally accepted safe lifetime radiation dose for children, Marta Hernanz-Schulman of Vanderbilt University, a doctor who chairs the American College of Radiology's pediatric imaging commission, tells parents to keep a list of their child's medical scans — and pull it out every time a doctor considers ordering another one.
Support for Afghanistan war at new low, AP-GfK Poll finds
WASHINGTON — Support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort and about half of those who oppose the war saying the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good, according to an AP-GfK poll.
In results released Wednesday, 66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were "strongly" opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in spring 2010, support was at 46 percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll.
The poll found that far fewer people than last year think the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. troops increased the threat of terrorism against Americans. Overall, 27 percent said the al-Qaida leader's death resulted in an increased terror threat, 31 percent said his death decreased the threat of terrorism, and 38 percent said it has had no effect.
Nearly half, 48 percent, said the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is doing more to help Afghanistan become a stable democracy, while 36 percent said the opposite, and 14 percent said they didn't know. Among those opposed to the war, 49 percent said U.S. troops are hurting more than helping. Three-quarters of those who favor the war think they are doing more to help.
President Barack Obama acknowledged the rising frustration during a surprise visit to Afghanistan last week. He signed a 10-year security pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and congratulated U.S. troops on the anniversary of bin Laden's death.
Fannie Mae's finances improve as decline in home prices slows
WASHINGTON — U.S. mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported its first net income gain since it was taken over by the government during the 2008 financial crisis.
Fannie said Wednesday that it earned net income attributable to common stockholders of $2.7 billion in the January-March quarter. Instead of seeking additional aid from taxpayers, the company will pay a dividend of $2.8 billion to the Treasury Department.
That compares with the same quarter one year ago when Fannie reported a net loss of $6.5 billion.
The company was able to report the gain mostly because it had lower expenses for its losses. There are two key reasons for that: Home price declines have slowed, and fewer mortgages are in serious delinquency.
The gain also adds to evidence of slow improvement in the home market five years after the housing bubble burst.
Taxpayers have spent roughly $170 billion to rescue Fannie and Freddie. It could cost roughly $260 billion more to support the companies through 2014 after subtracting dividend payments, according to the government.
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