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Facebook to sell portable headset for virtual reality

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By David Ingram

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) – Facebook is launching a new virtual reality headset that does not require a separate computer to operate, allowing more mobile uses than the company’s existing Oculus Rift product, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday.

Zuckerberg, speaking at a conference for virtual reality developers, said the “Oculus Go” device would cost $199 and ship early next year, too late for this year’s holiday shopping season but likely ahead of rivals.

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality hardware in hopes the technology, which offers a 360-degree panoramic view of faraway or imaginary spaces, will move from a niche interest to a widely used platform for gaming, communication and business applications.

In 2014, Facebook paid $3 billion to acquire Oculus and retain its employees.

The Oculus Go is billed as simpler than the Rift, which went on sale last year, or the Vive system made by HTC Corp. Both of those require desktop computers to operate.

“I think you’re going to see these a lot on airplanes, because it’s way better than the back-of-the-seat monitor or my phone,” Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, said in an interview.

Schroepfer said the device is aimed at people who do not have Samsung smartphones. Oculus and Samsung Electronics Co.; already sell a device, named Gear VR, that when paired with certain Samsung phones is similar to Oculus Go.

Alphabet Inc. offers a rival headset, Google Daydream, that works with yet more smartphones.

“The Oculus Go has potential to be a huge driver of growth,” if people like the titles and apps on it, Stephanie Llamas, vice president of research at Super Data, said in an email.

Facebook will permanently cut the price of the Rift system to $399 from $499, the company said.

Facebook is expected to ship 213,000 Rift systems this year, while HTC is expected to ship 305,000 Vive systems, according to Super Data research.

Beyond price cuts and new products, Facebook is trying different ways to attract people to the virtual-reality medium.

The company is developing software known as Facebook Spaces that allows friends to meet in virtual rooms, and it said it will soon integrate live video.

On Wednesday, the company said it was releasing technology to create better, customized facial images, or avatars, and would soon add the ability to use playing cards in Facebook Spaces, in addition to the dice it already has.

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Why veterans are twice as likely to die from overdoses

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REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

One effort to address the issue has stalled in Congress – the proposed Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain. That measure is aimed at researching ways to help Veterans Administration doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain.

“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” McCain, one of the nation’s most visible veterans, said in an e-mail on Thursday. He noted that 20 veterans take their lives each day, a suicide rate 21 percent higher than for other U.S. adults.

The VA system has stepped up its efforts to address the crisis, having treated some 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curtis Cashour.

The department’s Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has also begun testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on the drugs, the VA said.

A delay in naming a Trump administration “drug czar” to head the effort, however, has fueled doubts about immediate action on the opioid crisis. Last month the White House nominee, Representative Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration following a report he spearheaded a bill that hurt the government’s ability to crack down on opioid makers.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Shalane Flanagan: First American woman to win NYC marathon in 40 years

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REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years when she claimed a dominant victory over Kenyan three-times champion Mary Keitany on Sunday.

The men’s title went to Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who held off countryman Wilson Kipsang.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Flanagan, who had never won a major marathon, clocked two hours, 26 minutes 53 seconds for the stunning victory at the age of 36.

Keitany struggled home in 2:27:54 for second with Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska third in 2:28:08.

“This is the moment I have dreamed off since I was a little girl,” Flanagan said after the race, tears streaming down her face.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“It’s been a tough week for New Yorkers and a tough week for our nation and I thought of what a better gift than to make Americans smile today,” she said, referring to Tuesday’s truck-ramming attack that killed eight in what authorities described as a terrorist act.

Thousands of police lined the course as part of heightened security because of the incident.

“So I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt,” said Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000 meters silver medalist.

American women had not won in New York since Miki Gorman claimed her second consecutive title in 1977.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Keitany, winner of this year’s London Marathon and the fastest ever in a women’s only marathon, had been expected to run away with the race but a slow pace allowed Flanagan and others to stay with her early.

When crunch time came it was Flanagan, not Keitany, who dominated, impressively leading the final three miles.

While Flanagan was an overwhelming winner, Kamworor was not assured of his first major victory until the closing meters.

After taking the lead in the 23rd mile, the 24-year-old 2015 New York runner-up had to contend with Kipsang, whose final push brought him ever so close to his countryman.

But in the end it was Kamworor who won by three seconds in 2:10:53 with Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa third in 2:11:32.

“This is fantastic for me for this is my first victory in (a major) marathon,” said Kamworor, who was running his fifth marathon.

Former winner Meb Keflezighi, who was running his final competitive marathon at age 42, finished 11th in 2:15:29.

Swiss athletes swept the wheelchair titles.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Manuela Schaer stunned five-times champion Tatyana McFadden in the women’s race, defeating the American by almost three minutes in 1:48.09.

McFadden clocked 1:51:01 and third went to compatriot Amanda McGrory in 1:53.11.

Repeat winner Marcel Hug gave Switzerland the men’s title in equally dominant fashion, defending his championship in 1:37:21, more than two minutes ahead of British runner-up John Charles Smith. The title was Hug’s third in New York City.

Japan’s Sho Watanabe took third in 1:39:51.

 

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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You can earn a decent living without a four-year degree

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REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Gail MarksJarvis

Despite images of shuttered factories and a chorus of high school voices chanting the virtues of college, you do not have to get a four-year degree to earn a decent living.

While it may be true that on average, people with four-year college degrees earn more than those who have not gone to college, a study this summer by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds there are still 30 million good jobs held by people without bachelor’s degrees. And 28 percent of people with two-year associate degrees make more than bachelor’s degree recipients.

The College Board reported last week that four-year college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 earn $19,497 more per year than people with only high school diplomas – a sum that seems to make it well worth spending the $20,770 that tuition, fees, room and board the average public college is charging this year.

But if you do not think college is for you, it does not necessarily mean you will struggle to put food on the table.

Those in the 30 million good jobs identified by the Georgetown study earn a minimum of $35,000 to start and $45,000 by age 45. Eventually half the jobs pay $55,000 or more.

That compares, according to the Georgetown researchers, to people with bachelor’s degrees who earn a median $61,000 by mid-career and start at about $33,000.

A rule of thumb in borrowing for college has always been not to have loans that total more than a starting salary in your field. Thinking ahead about occupations and pay is crucial before borrowing money for any degree, because many students borrow heavily without realizing their salary will be deficient to cover loans.

“It’s the degree and the occupation that matters,” said Georgetown Center on Education and the Workplace Director Anthony Carnevale.

These days that takes advance planning and research, to find occupations that pay well, said research director Jeff Strohl, who worked on the study.

For example, an elevator technician with a two-year degree earns $95,000 in Florida, but cosmetologists average just $22,700, which is close to the poverty level for a family of three. A nurse with a two-year degree would average $46,000 while a health aid would make $26,000.

Despite the loss of manufacturing jobs over the last few years, 55 percent of the best paying jobs remain in manufacturing, transportation and construction. But these jobs are dwindling. Since the recession manufacturing has lost 1 million of them, and construction employs 1.6 million fewer people than in 2007, according to the research. To hire for a job that typically does not require college, employers often look for some additional education past high school to weed out candidates, said Strohl.

Good jobs have shifted to workers with associate degrees. They have gained more than 3 million of the net new jobs since 1991; a period when jobs for people with only high school diplomas has declined by 1 million. There are currently 123 million workers in the economy, including 75 million without a bachelor’s degree.

While opportunity is growing for people with associate degrees, Strohl warned that these jobs may lead to a dead end. Often people go to community college to get a two-year degree focused on the liberal arts. The intent may be to save money on the less expensive program and then transfer to a four-year college, but few end up transferring, he said. Courses often are not accepted by other colleges and frequently fail to interest employers.

The lowest earning positions for bachelor’s degree recipients are in the liberal arts and humanities – often starting at $29,000, said Strohl. Yet, business graduates on average start at $37,000, healthcare $41,000 and STEM jobs at $43,000.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)

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