Better for a back
Star news services
Using an ergonomic snow shovel, which minimizes bending, reduced the workload on the lower back by 16.5 percent compared with a traditional snow shovel during a simulated snow clearing reported in the March issue of Applied Ergonomics. Lower back injuries from overexertion account for more than a third of the estimated 12,000 snow shoveling injuries a year reported in the U.S., according to the study highlighted in The Wall Street Journal.
Targeting tax refunds
The Internal Revenue Service said there has been a big jump in thieves stealing Social Security numbers to fraudulently claim tax refunds. The agency said it launched 1,492 criminal investigations into identity theft last year, a 66 percent increase from the year before. Prosecutions and indictments more than doubled. The numbers dwarf those from just two years ago.
Sony makes it official
Sony said it will start an Internet-based TV service in the U.S. this year, offering a mix of live TV programming and video on demand. Andrew House, group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, broke the news at the International CES gadget show Tuesday after months of speculation that Sony has such a service in the works. House said the service will have channels personalized to the viewers tastes. He said it will enable viewers to see what their friends are watching. Sony plans to start testing the service in the U.S. this year.
Follow the app trail
Apple said people spent more than $10 billion in its app store last year on apps such as Minecraft, Angry Birds Star Wars and the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. December was the most successful month in the stores history. Customers spent $1 billion that month. Apple said the years total is also a record.
Home video spending
U.S. home video spending rose nearly 1 percent to $18.2 billion in 2013, the second straight year of growth as higher spending on video streaming subscriptions and digital purchases offset the decline in DVDs. The figures were released by the consortium of Hollywood studios and electronics makers, the Digital Entertainment Group. Digital sales of movies and TV shows rose 47 percent to $1.2 billion, and subscription streaming spending rose 32 percent to $3.2 billion. Blu-ray disc sales rose about 5 percent, but overall physical disc sales fell 8 percent to $7.8 billion. Rental revenue fell 5 percent to $6.1 billion.
U.S. home prices barely rose in November from the previous month and year-over-year gains slowed, reflecting declines in sales in the fall. Real estate data provider CoreLogic said prices increased just 0.1 percent in November from October. Thats down slightly from Octobers rate of increase and far below Augusts 0.9 percent gain. The figures arent adjusted for seasonal patterns, such as cold winter weather that typically slows sales. Home prices have risen a healthy 11.8 percent from a year ago, CoreLogic said. But thats the smallest yearly gain since March.