Astronauts to get ‘ISSpresso’ coffee machine

PARIS (afp): Ristretto or lungo? Not a question astronauts on the International Space Station normally have to contemplate, but that is about to change thanks to a new zero-gravity coffee machine being delivered this weekend. The ISSpresso machine is set to boldly go to the orbital station this weekend, carried there by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.  Astronauts on the station will finally be able to enjoy a decent brew thanks to the 20-kilogramme machine designed by famed Italian coffee makers Lavazza and engineering firm Argotec, which specialises in making space food. Cristoforetti, 37, who is also a captain in the Italian airforce, “will be only the first female astronaut from Italy.”



‘Call of Duty’ blasts past $10b in sales

SAN FRANCISCO (Afp): Blockbuster military shooter video game “Call of Duty” has blasted past $10 billion in lifetime sales, propelled by demand for the latest installment in the 11-year-old franchise. Activision Publishing on Thursday said that the launch of “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” outshined debuts of other games as well as films, books or albums released this year. Since Activision introduced the first “Call of Duty” in 2003, the series of games has brought in more than $10 billion in revenue, exceeding box office receipts for smash film franchises such as “Hunger Games” and “Transformers,” according to parent company Activision Blizzard’s chief Bobby Kotick. “Advanced Warfare is the biggest entertainment launch of 2014 in terms of revenue, surpassing all movie, music and book launches this year,” Kotick said in a release.

Activision Publishing chief Eric Hirshberg predicted that “Advanced Warfare” will be the top selling video game this year but did not disclose how many copies of the game have been sold. The newest installment of “Call of Duty” hit the streets early this month, pitting soldiers of the future against a Machiavellian villain played by actor Kevin Spacey. Activision set out to reload the franchise, bringing in studio Sledgehammer Games to put its spin on the title and taking advantage of advanced capabilities in new-generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. The story woven into the game features “an iconic new character” played by Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey. Special gear was used to capture Spacey’s movements, expressions and more to create a realistic virtual version of him playing the part of a private military contractor intent on ruling the world. The game is set in the year 2054, when a private military corporation run by Spacey’s character is the dominant power. Players take on the roles of soldiers with advance combat abilities due to exoskeleton suits and other equipment. Versions of “Advanced Warfare” are priced at $60 each. Copies of the game have been tailored for the latest Sony and Microsoft consoles as well as for personal computers powered by Windows software. Stories in the blockbuster “Call of Duty” military shooter franchise are inspired by historical events, according to Activision. A California judge recently shot down a lawsuit filed by former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega after his likeness appeared in a “Call of Duty” video game. Other versions of the game have featured Fidel Castro, John F. Kennedy, and Noriega.



HIV drugs could help stop vision loss

WASHINGTON (AFP): Drugs used to treat the HIV virus and AIDS could be used to fight against vision loss, a US university study said Thursday. Research conducted on mice shows that a widely-used class of antiretroviral drugs (NRTI) used against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are also effective against macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease. The University of Kentucky researchers found that the NRTI drugs neutralize a protein pathway called the “inflammasome,” helping prevent macular degeneration. In the study published in the journal Science, the researchers said the drugs may also be able to prevent liver inflammation and stop complications from tissue transplant.

“Repurposing of NRTIs could be advantageous, for one, because they are very inexpensive. Moreover, through decades of clinical experience, we know that some of the drugs we tested are incredibly safe,” said lead author Benjamin Fowler.



Video of Thai leader ‘petting’ reporter goes viral

TAIPEI (AFP): Booming shipments of smartphones including Apple’s iPhone 6 pushed Taiwan’s export orders to a new record high in October, the ninth straight month of gains, the government and media said Thursday. Orders, a key indicator for the island’s export-reliant economy, jumped 13.4 percent year-on-year to $44.91 billion, according to the economic affairs ministry. Orders for information and mobile devices surged 21 percent from a year ago to a record $12.9 billion, thanks to brisk sales of new mobile devices, the ministry said. The ministry did not identify the brands but the state-funded Central News Agency said strong demand for the iPhone 6 continued to boost export orders. Apple said last month it sold 39.3 million iPhones in the three months ending September 27, up 16 percent from the same period a year earlier.