Innovation of the Week
April 11, 2014

British startup Berg just released Cloudwash, an internet-connected washing machine. Berg's device focuses on simple interfaces that give users one-touch access to frequently used wash cycles, said Kyle VanHemert at Wired. The machine also syncs with an iPhone app, which allows washers to start a load remotely and provides notifications when the cycle is finished. And if you forget to pick up detergent, don't worry: The Cloudwash allows users to purchase soap and other supplies from Amazon. The Week Staff

This doesn't look good
3:50 p.m. ET

Only 63 percent of Americans have saved any money for retirement within the past year, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.

The survey of 5,800 Americans, conducted last fall, found that 31 percent of Americans have no retirement savings or pension plans. And among adults older than 45, almost 25 percent of respondents didn't have retirement savings. Thirty-eight percent of respondents, meanwhile, said they don't plan on retiring and will "keep working as long as possible," USA Today reports.

The results weren't all bad, though: 29 percent of respondents surveyed last year expected their income would be higher in 2015, an increase from 21 percent in 2013. And 65 percent of adults surveyed said their families are "living comfortably" or "doing okay," compared with 62 percent in 2013. Meghan DeMaria

3:10 p.m. ET

A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One describes what was likely a grisly murder — and it happened 430,000 years ago.

A skull found in Spain's "Pit of Bones" in the Atapuerca Mountains is evidence of the world's first murder. It dates to the Middle Pleistocene time period and belonged to a young adult.

The skull is covered in red clay and was shattered into pieces. Forbes explains that the skull also showed two depression fractures, proving the victim was subject to blunt force trauma to the head. The researchers explain that the skull fractures were not accidental, since both fractures were likely caused by the same object and are found on the skull's facial region. They believe the victim's death was "the result of interpersonal violence."

Nohemi Sala of the Complutense University of Madrid, author of the study, explains in the paper that the find is significant because it "represents the earliest clear case of deliberate, lethal interpersonal aggression in the hominin fossil record." According to Sala, the find proves that murder was "an ancient human behavior," rather than a more recent development. Meghan DeMaria

2:00 p.m. ET
Johannes Simon/Getty Images

A proposed U.K. bill, expected to be published later this week, includes a "blanket ban" on legal highs, and the current legislation is worded to make the ban so broad that alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee are included unless specific exemptions are issued.

Queen Elizabeth announced the legislation on Wednesday, and the bill would ban "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect." The legislation would carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence for offenders, The Guardian reports. The bill would first ban all psychoactive substances and then explain which substances are government-permitted.

Ireland and Poland have similar bans, but their legislation stipulates that substances must produce "significant" effects, so the laws don't include caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. The U.K. legislation is designed to prohibit chemically engineered drugs that are legal until explicitly banned. Meghan DeMaria

1:46 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are plenty of things in this world that are undeniably cool — leather jackets, motorcycles, rebellious teens in rock bands, for example. But if you're Scott Walker, you can add mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women seeking abortions to that list.

In an interview that surfaced on Talking Points Memo Tuesday, presumed presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) defended his support of a 2013 bill that required pregnant women seeking abortions to first get ultrasounds. The governor said, "I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound," whether they're pro-life or not. "It's just a cool thing out there."

"We just knew if we signed that law," Walker continued, "more people [...] would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child."

You can listen to audio from the interview here.

Stephanie Talmadge

This just in
1:00 p.m. ET
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Despite the world's population growth, global hunger has declined in the last 25 years, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

In 1990, about one billion people worldwide were declared hungry, compared with 795 million — about one in every nine people — today. The U.N. also found that of the 129 nations it monitored, 72 countries had met the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of halving their percentages of hungry people.

East Asia, Southeast and Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean saw the most progress in hunger elimination, The New York Times reports. The U.N. credits the reduced numbers to economic growth and stable political conditions.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime," Food and Agriculture Organization director general Jose Graziano da Silva told the Times. Meghan DeMaria

Extreme weather
1:00 p.m. ET
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

El Niño may be wreaking havoc in Texas and Oklahoma with deadly floods, but the climate cycle, which brings warmer-than-average temperatures to the Pacific Ocean, will likely suppress the hurricanes that typically hit the coastal areas in the southern and eastern parts of the country. El Niño is already affecting wind and pressure patterns and is expected to last through the season that runs June 1 through November 30.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls it a "below-normal" hurricane season, which means there is only a 70 percent likelihood that six to 11 named storms will develop.

But that "doesn’t mean we're off the hook," a NOAA administrator cautions. As many as six of those storms could become hurricanes and even tropical storms can cause serious destruction. Experts also point out that the "below-normal" 1992 season had only seven storms, but the first was Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida. Lauren Hansen

Faux Paws
12:10 p.m. ET

Have you ever woken up, looked at your pet husky and thought, "Man, you'd look even better with two gold Apple watches on those furry paws"?

Me neither.

But Wang Sicong, the son of China's richest man — Wang Jianlin, who is worth an estimated $34 billion — has a bit more money to blow than the rest of us. Husky Wang Keke, who has her own Weibo account (China's version of Twitter) posted a series of photos in which she's sporting not one but two gold Apple watches.


"I have new watches!" the caption, translated, reads. "I'm supposed to have four watches since I have four long legs. But that seems too tuhao [nouveau riche], so I kept it down to two, which totally fits my status."

The Daily Mail notes that the post prompted heavy backlash from other Weibo users: One gold Apple watch retails for $10,000 to $17,000. Time to step up your social media game, Wang Keke, and here's lesson one: Know your audience. Sarah Eberspacher

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