Monthly Archives: June 2012

Nasa calls off Southeast Asia weather research project


Publication Date : 29-06-2012

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has called off its weather-research project after a delay in the granting of permission to use Thailand’s U-tapao airbase.

Nasa announced on its website on Tuesday that the Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study (SEAC4RS) mission had to be cancelled because of the absence of necessary approvals by regional authorities in the time frame necessary to support the mission’s planned deployment and scientific observation window.

Nasa’s Twitter site also announced the cancellation, saying: “We have, unfortunately, had to call off this airborne science mission planned for Southeast Asia this year.”

Nasa had planned to launch the project for two months in August and September but stiff opposition in the Kingdom over the issue barred the Thai government from granting a quick approval for the project.

Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party accused the government of having a hidden agenda of allowing Nasa to conduct the research for military purposes to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region in exchange for a US visa for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Democrats, together with some senators, demanded that the government bring the Nasa proposal before Parliament for approval in accordance with Article 190 of the Constitution.

The Cabinet decided on Tuesday that it would put the project for debate in Parliament, which will not pass any resolution after the debate.

The decision consequently delayed the project, as Parliament will open for the next session only on August 1.

Parliament President Somsak Kiartsuranon said the planned debate on Nasa’s request would also be cancelled, as the US space agency was no longer seeking use of U-tapao. It was regrettable that it had cancelled the project, he said.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said earlier that he would file a lawsuit against the Democrat Party for its failure to bring the project for consideration by Parliament when it was in power in 2010.

Nasa had signed a joint statement with the Thai science, technology and environment ministry’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) in September 2010 to show their intention to conduct the research.

Opposition Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime minister of the previous government, said yesterday that his Cabinet had nothing to do with the project, as GISTDA is a public organisation with full authority to undertake scientific cooperation with another agency.

The joint statement signed by Nasa and GISTDA when he was in the power was not linked to the current project proposed by Nasa, he said.

The SEAC4RS was initially planned to be Nasa’s most complex and ambitious airborne science campaign of the year.

The project was to be led by Brian Toon, chairman of the University of Colorado’s department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.

Dr Toon is a veteran of Nasa airborne campaigns, including flights to study the Antarctic ozone hole and the atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions.

Abhisit said the opposition did not oppose the project but wanted the government to conduct it with transparency, as he had learned that Chinese media had raised concerns about military confrontation in the region.


THANK YOU;@Reuters

By Julien Toyer and Luke Baker

MADRID/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Spain formally requested euro zone rescue loans to recapitalise its debt-laden banks on Monday as the euro and shares fell on investor scepticism about this week’s EU summit.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos asked for up to 100 billion euros (80.34 billion pounds) in a letter to Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, saying the final amount of financial assistance would be set at a later stage.

He confirmed his intention to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the package by July 9 and said the amount should be enough to cover all banks’ needs, plus an additional security buffer.

The rescue, agreed on June 9, is intended to help Spanish lenders recover from the effects of a burst real estate bubble and a recession, which have piled up bad loans and sinking property portfolios.

Two independent audits last week put the Spanish banks’ capital needs in a stressed scenario at up to 62 billion euros, and a full audit will be delivered in September.

Some market economists believe it is merely a prelude to a full bailout for the Spanish state, which saw its borrowing costs to soar to euro era record levels above 7 percent early last week, although they have eased to below 6.50 percent.

Spanish and Italian bond yields started to rise again on Monday as markets digested the outcome of a meeting of leaders from the euro zone’s four biggest economies in Rome last Friday at which German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected any new financial commitments to underpin the single currency.

A working document prepared by top European Union officials calls for the gradual introduction of a banking union, starting with supervisory power for the European Central Bank and developing a deposit guarantee scheme based on pooling national systems, with a levy-funded bank resolution fund.


Berlin has so far rejected any joint deposit guarantee or resolution fund, as well as any mutualisation of the euro zone’s debt stock or future borrowing.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble hammered home this message in weekend interviews, saying that throwing more money at the crisis would not solve the problems, and telling Greece it must try harder rather than seeking to soften bailout terms.

“We have to fight the causes,” Schaeuble told German TV network ZDF. “Anyone who believes that money alone or bailouts or any other solutions, or monetary policy at the ECB – that will never resolve the problem. The causes have to be resolved.”

He cited Ireland and Portugal as countries that were succeeding in their EU/IMF adjustment programmes and said Greece had not made a sufficient effort.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, whose position is close to that of the top four EU officials, will have one more try at narrowing their differences before the crucial summit on Thursday and Friday.

But the German leader has shown no sign of relenting in her refusal to take on new liabilities for German taxpayers until other euro zone states agree to hand more sovereignty over national budgets and economic policies to EU institutions.

Hollande took the opposite position on Friday, saying there could be no more transfer of sovereignty until there was greater “solidarity” in the EU.

The two-day EU summit will be the 20th time leaders have met to try to find ways to resolve a crisis that has spread across the continent since it began in Greece in early 2010.

Over those 2-1/2 years, Greece, Ireland and Portugal have required sovereign bailouts and the crisis now threatens Spain and Italy. Cyprus, one of the euro zone’s two smallest economies, is also on the brink of needing a bailout.

The euro zone has set up two rescue funds to try to contain the crisis, the temporary EFSF and the permanent ESM, due to come into force next month, but markets have so far judged that they contain too little money and their governance is too inflexibly to be effective.

(Writing by Paul Taylor; editing by David Stamp

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Poll: Romney Opens 10-Point Lead Among Key Independent Voters – Cornhusker4Palin (Source: NewsMax) New poll results are delivering positive news for Republicans, including one survey showing that presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has opened up a double-digit lead over President Barack Obama among independent voters.A Politico/George Washington University pol …

THANK YOU; NEWSVINE.COM( Absolutely No Boundaries)

CEO Frank L. VanderSloot to Obama: Why are business people the enemy?
American entrepreneur Frank L. VanderSloot, CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., knew right away what questions he would ask President Barack Obama if given the opportunity.

“Why are business people the enemy?” VanderSloot said. “Why have you deemed business leaders as bad guys? Where are we going to get the jobs from to put Americans back to work, if we keep trying to crucify the business person?”

VanderSloot, who sits on the board of directors for the United States Chamber of Commerce, added that the president had falsely accused the Chamber of Commerce of taking money from foreign countries and using it to influence elections in the United States.

The national finance co-chair for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign then wondered why the president refuses to let business leaders into his administration and instead relies on the advice of people who have “never done anything.”

“Why don’t you let the people who have led successful organizations — or the successful anythings — to help you lead this country?”

VanderSloot’s full interview with Ginni Thomas will be available tomorrow, exclusively at The Daily Caller.

Mrs. Thomas does not necessarily support or endorse the products, services or positions promoted in any advertisement contained herein, and does not have control over or receive compensation from any advertiser.

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Balloon filled with ground coffee makes ideal robotic gripper

Oct. 25, 2010

Balloon filled with ground coffee makes ideal robotic gripper

Cornell robot

Robert Barker/University Photography
Graduate student John Amend, left, and associate professor Hod Lipson with the universal robotic gripper. Watch the gripper in action.

Cornell robot

John Amend
The robotic gripper conforms to the shape of the item it is lifting.
See more things it can pick up in a University of Chicago video.The human hand is an amazing machine that can pick up, move and place objects easily, but for a robot, this “gripping” mechanism is a vexing challenge. Opting for simple elegance, researchers from Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot Corp. have created a versatile gripper using everyday ground coffee and a latex party balloon, bypassing traditional designs based on the human hand and fingers.

They call it a universal gripper, as it conforms to the object it’s grabbing, rather than being designed for particular objects, said Hod Lipson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and computer science. The research is a collaboration between the groups of Lipson, Heinrich Jaeger at the University of Chicago, and Chris Jones at iRobot. It is published online Oct. 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is one of the closest things we’ve ever done that could be on the market tomorrow,” Lipson said. He noted that the universality of the gripper makes future applications seemingly limitless, from the military using it to dismantle explosive devises or to move potentially dangerous objects, robotic arms in factories, on the feet of a robot that could walk on walls, or on prosthetic limbs.

Here’s how it works: An everyday party balloon filled with ground coffee — any variety will do — is attached to a robotic arm. The coffee-filled balloon presses down and deforms around the desired object, and then a vacuum sucks the air out of the balloon, solidifying its grip. When the vacuum is released, the balloon becomes soft again, and the gripper lets go.

Coffee, Jaeger said, is an example of a particulate material, which is characterized by large aggregates of individually solid particles. Particulate materials have a so-called “jamming transition,” which turns their behavior from fluidlike to solidlike when the particles can no longer slide past each other.

This phenomenon is familiar to coffee drinkers who have ever bought vacuum-packed coffee — hard as a brick until the package is unsealed.

“The ground coffee grains are like lots of small gears,” Lipson said. “When they are not pressed together they can roll over each other and flow. When they are pressed together just a little bit, the teeth interlock, and they become solid.”

Jaeger explained that the concept of a jamming transition provides a unified framework for understanding and predicting behavior in a wide range of disordered, amorphous materials. All of these materials can be driven into a “glassy” state where they respond like a solid yet structurally resemble a liquid, and this includes many liquids, colloids, emulsions or foams, as well as particulate matter consisting of macroscopic grains.

“What is particularly neat with the gripper is that here we have a case where a new concept in basic science provided a fresh perspective in a very different area — robotics — and then opened the door to applications none of us had originally thought about,” Jaeger said.

Eric Brown, a postdoctoral researcher, and Nick Rodenberg, a physics undergraduate, worked with Jaeger on characterizing the basic mechanisms that enable the gripping action. Prototypes of the gripper were built and tested by Lipson and Cornell graduate student John Amend, as well as at iRobot.

As for the right particulate material, anything that can jam will do in principle, and early prototypes involved rice, couscous and even ground-up tires, Amend said. They settled on coffee because it’s light but also jams well, Sand did better on jamming but was prohibitively heavy. What sets the jamming-based gripper apart is its good performance with almost any object, including a raw egg or a coin — both notoriously difficult for traditional robotic grippers.

The project was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.



THANK YOU ; Reuters

Climate change will boost number of West’s wildfires

A huge plume of smoke rises from Colorado's High Park Fire, with dozens of homes visible in the foreground about 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins June 11, 2012. REUTERS-Rick Wilking

Trees are engulfed in flames in Colorado's High Park Fire, about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Fort Collins June 11, 2012. REUTERS-Rick Wilking

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON | Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:03pm EDT

(Reuters) – Climate change will make wildfires in the West, like those now raging in parts of Colorado and New Mexico, more frequent over the next 30 years, researchers reported on Tuesday.

More broadly, almost all of North America and most of Europe will see an increase in wildfires by the year 2100, the scientists wrote in the journal Ecosphere, a publication of the Ecological Society of America.

The U.S. Southwest – Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – is the fastest-warming region of the United States, and this warming trend will worsen droughts, alter growing seasons and increase wildfire risk, the non-profit research organization Climate Central reported.

On Tuesday, 20 large wildfires were burning in eight Western states, from Idaho and Wyoming to California and Arizona, according to the U.S. Forest Service. A map of active fires is online at .

Using satellite-based fire records and 16 different climate-change models, an international team of researchers found that while wildfires will increase in many temperate zones due to rising temperatures, fire risk may actually decrease around the equator, especially in tropical rainforests, because of increased rainfall.

“In the long run, we found what most fear – increasing fire activity across large areas of the planet,” said lead author Max Moritz of the University of California-Berkeley.

“But the speed and extent to which some of these changes may happen is surprising. These abrupt changes in fire patterns not only affects people’s livelihoods, but also they add stress to native plants and animals that are already struggling to adapt to habitat loss,” Moritz said in a statement.

Co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University said this study gives a unique global perspective on recent fire patterns and their relationship to climate.

Climate scientists, including those affiliated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have projected that more frequent wildfires would be likely in a warming world. Other effects of global warming include more severe storms, floods and droughts, these scientists have said.


In a separate study, researchers approved of the intentional setting of controlled fires, a wildfire-fighting technique that has sometimes raised questions about its impact on wildlife.

Writing in the June issue of the journal BioScience, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley reviewed two decades of research on the ecological impact of cutting forest wildfire risk, especially in the southern Sierra Mountains, where precipitation was at half of normal levels.

The idea behind so-called controlled burns is to reduce the amount of fuel that would feed a wildfire. The new study found that these fuel-reducing fires do not cause substantial harm.

“The few effects we did see were usually transient,” Berkeley’s Scott Stephens said in a statement. “Based upon what we’ve found, forest managers can increase the scale and pace of necessary fuels treatments without worrying about unintended ecological consequences.”

A warming climate makes the carbon dioxide stored in forest soils decompose faster, sending more climate-warming carbon into the atmosphere, researchers at the University of California-Irvine and elsewhere reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Eric Beech)


Spain’s banks Just don’t call it a bail-out Jun 10th 2012


19:30 by F.M.-B. and G.T. | MADRID 

WHATEVER the €100 billion ($126 billion) made available by euro-zone countries to recapitalise Spain’s banks looks like, the Spanish government would really rather not call it that. “In no way is this a rescue,” said Luis de Guindos, Spain’s economy minister, while announcing that a deal to rescue Spain’s banks had been done in a two-and-a-half-hour conference call with the 17 euro-zone finance ministers on June 9th. “It’s a loan with very favourable conditions.” The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy (pictured above), who left his underling to front the bail-out, was meanwhile busy giving the impression that all was proceeding as normal. When he eventually appeared before the press the following day, Mr Rajoy made repeated reference to “what happened yesterday”, as if the rescue were an embarrassing incident that, out of politeness, ought not to be mentioned by name. Then he flew to Poland to watch some football.

This was understandable, given the importance of confidence to banking, if slightly comical. Yet it was also emblematic of Spain’s approach to its banking crisis, characterised by a mixture of bluster and denial that has ultimately proved to be self-defeating. The good news is that this loan signals that the country is at last facing up to the problems in its banking sector. A hundred billion euros is at the high end of what most analysts estimate is required and should be enough to protect Spanish banks against further shocks.

The government said it would specify how much money the banks needed after it received an assessment from two independent consultancies, Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger, due by June 21st. The loan amount is more than double the €40 billion capital hole identified late on June 8th by a report from the International Monetary Fund, though the IMF had warned Spain would need an additional buffer on top of this amount. Last week Fitch, a rating agency, said Spanish banks might require €50 to €60 billion in fresh capital, or up to €100 billion if things became really bad. The government needs to request enough money to persuade markets that it will not underestimate needs for a third time—as it did with provisioning orders totalling over €80 billion in February and May, which have proved insufficient.

The bail-out will be channelled through the state-backed bank bail-out fund, the FROB (Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring), and so will count as sovereign debt. If used in total, it would add about 10% of GDP to Spain’s debt burden. Even then, the debt to GDP would probably peak at below 100% in 2015. This is still less than other highly indebted countries in the euro zone.

Yet several details of the bail-out are still fuzzy. First, it is not clear exactly what conditions would be attached to the aid. The government claimed there were no conditions for the rest of the economy. Other European ministers might disagree. The Eurogroup praised Spanish reforms but said it would also be monitoring deficit procedure and structural reform carefully. “Progress in these areas will be closely and regularly reviewed also in parallel with the financial assistance,” in their words. The Eurogroup also mentioned “horizontal structural reforms of the domestic financial sector”, which could mean something.

Second, the Eurogroup did not specify whether Spain would be borrowing from the existing rescue fund (the European Financial Stability Facility or EFSF) or from the new European Stability Mechanism which is due to start in July. This matters because loans from the EFSF are not senior to other bondholders, whereas the ESM loans do have priority over privately held debt. A loan from the latter could spook investors in Spanish sovereign bonds. 

How will the bail-out affect Spain’s ability to borrow in the markets? Cleaning up the banking system would be a positive step but it is not enough on its own. The country’s economy is expected to shrink this year and the next. The bank bail-out is unlikely to reverse the downward momentum, even if it eases the country’s credit crunch. If Greece leaves the euro, it is possible that Spain will find itself shut out of the markets.

(Photo credit: AFP)


Nokia to cut 10,000 jobs after weaker second quarter

Nokia to cut 10,000 jobs after weaker second quarter


PARIS | Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:09am EDT

The Nokia Research and Development Centre is seen in Helsinki April 11, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong

(Reuters) – Loss-making Finnish cellphone maker Nokia plans to cut another 10,000 jobs globally and warned the second-quarter loss from its cellphone business would be larger than expected.

The cuts bring total planned job cuts at the group since Stephen Elop took over as chief executive in September 2010 to more than 40,000.

Nokia said it would book additional restructuring charges of around 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) by the end of 2013.

Nokia stock has crashed more than 70 percent since it announced in February 2011 it was dropping its own Symbian smartphone operating software and switching to Microsoft’s largely untried Windows Phone system.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by David Holmes)


Pygmy Sea Horse

Pygmy Sea Horse

Pygmy Sea HorseOne of the world’s smallest seahorses, the Pygmy Seahorse(Hippocampus bargibanti), is no bigger than your pinky finger. These tiny animals are masters of disguise, using a strategy of blending into their surrounding environment to survive.(via: Smithsonian Ocean Portal)     (photo: Coral Reef Alliance/Scubazoo)
  • Posted at 1:48 PM

Apple signs global agreement with TomTom for mapping data


June 12, 2012, 2:30 a.m. EDT

Apple to License TomTom’s Content



AMSTERDAM, Jun 12, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — TomTom (aex:TOM2) has signed a global agreement with Apple(R) for maps and related information.

No further details of the agreement will be provided.

About TomTom Maps

TomTom delivers the world’s most up-to-date digital maps. Covering over 200 countries and territories, our maps encompass more than 35 million kilometres globally. Our maps propose a solution for every market in every corner of the world.

For further information please visit:

For the world’s most up-to-date route planner, including live traffic information, go to

About TomTom

Founded in 1991, TomTom (aex:TOM2) is the world’s leading supplier of in-car location and navigation products and services focused on providing all drivers with the world’s best navigation experience. Headquartered in Amsterdam, TomTom has over 3000 employees and sells its products in over 40 countries.

Our products include portable navigation devices, in-dash infotainment systems, fleet management solutions, maps and real-time services, including the award winning TomTom HD Traffic.

For further information, please visit